03/03/2011 - 00:00

TMT keeps offshore work local

03/03/2011 - 00:00


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TOM Pado and Paul Collie have been friends and business associates for more than 25 years, and they bring diverse experience to a local manufacturer that has recently won a major contract against international competition.

TOM Pado and Paul Collie have been friends and business associates for more than 25 years, and they bring diverse experience to a local manufacturer that has recently won a major contract against international competition.

In 1999, the pair formed Total Marine Technology, a Perth-based company specialising in producing work class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for the offshore oil and gas industry.

American-born Mr Pado built rockets as a child, before joining the navy in the 1970s and turning his design and construction efforts to larger projects – he built a submarine from spare parts at the naval base.

After attending diving and electronic school, and obtaining a degree in oceanographic technology, Mr Pado went on to pilot submarines and assist in laying the deepest under-sea pipeline in the world.

He moved to Perth in 1981, where he made and patented ROVs.

“An ROV replaces a man underwater, it’s an underwater labourer. Divers went down there but we couldn’t go to deep depths, and then came submersibles. But as camera and manipulator technology started coming in, we realised people don’t need to be down there,” Mr Pado told WA Business News.

Mr Pado met business partner Mr Collie in the mid 1980s while working at Underwater Systems Australia, a company run by (the late) Kevin Parry.

Coming from a trade and electrical background, Mr Collie completed an apprenticeship and obtained an electrical licence, before moving to the US for six months to repair small ROVs.

In 1989, the pair started Drill Support International.

“Our big break was in 1990. Shell had a contract in Vietnam and had an American ROV company involved. But with an embargo in place, the American company was forced to pull out. While searching for an Australian ROV company, Shell contacted Tom. We got a two-year contract and the cash flow to give us a kick start, so we built TMT from very humble beginnings,” Mr Collie said.

To date, TMT has secured other notable clients including Chevron, Gazprom, Santos and BHP Billiton.

TMT recently signed a deal worth up to $60 million to provide ROVs and staff to Chevron’s Gorgon gas project, which is set to be the largest single resource natural gas project in Australia’s history.

“It’s a contract with a lot of prestige and a lot of risk associated with it. If the ROV can’t do its job everything else is placed on hold. Chevron has identified us as one of the top five key contracts awarded for the offshore Gorgon project,” Mr Collie said.

TMT is the only company in Australia to design and manufacture ROVs locally.

“The majority of our ROVs are made in our Bibra Lake workshop. We make a couple of them a year and we have around 20 now. They are 90 per cent built in the workshop and most of the parts are bought from local WA suppliers,” Mr Pado said.

Mr Collie said the company’s local manufacturing policy was a point of difference between TMT and its international competitors.

“We offered value to Chevron that our competitors couldn’t, because they have their headquarters somewhere else. We said that we could provide a better service because we operate the ROVs, design the ROVs and build the ROVs right here,” he said.

Starting with three employees, TMT has now expanded to more than 70 staff in the workshop and almost 100 staff offshore.

TMT is an advocate for manufacturing its technology locally and prides itself on employing young people from WA and training them from scratch.

“We are the only company that designs and builds work class ROVs and that employs apprentices. We have young, enthusiastic, clever people and we give them training in underwater technology,” Mr Collie said.

He said local manufacturers should be promoting themselves better to the major project companies.

“Local companies should be saying that ‘we know we’re not necessarily the cheapest but by doing it here we offer advantages in service, in skill and in technology’. If you’re a local company and all you’re going to do is benchmark yourself where every other company is at globally, then you are going to fail,” Mr Collie said.

As to the future of the business, Mr Pado has plans to retire shortly, leaving Mr Collie to run and manage the company.

“It’s very hard for me to let go, I still have the mind of a 20 year old. I was lucky to pick the right business partner. Paul is brilliant and will do great things with the company,” Mr Pado said.

In carrying the business forward, Mr Collie said he would like to expand the technology of the business into areas other than the resource sector.

“I want to take a company that uses oil and gas as a major core business, but not to be limited by that core business,” he said.

“I want to build technology for water supply infrastructure and technology for the mining industry, so we will start to spin out into other non-traditional areas where the technology makes sense.”



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