CONSULTING engineer Stephen Inouye’s career took a change of direction in 2006 when he took the opportunity to start Veritas Engineering on the back of new maritime security laws.
The new laws meant those who operated within maritime security zones at ports, ships or at offshore oil and gas facilities had to undergo a background check and be issued with a Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC).
Mr Inouye decided to apply to the Commonwealth to become a MSIC issuing body; his application was approved in January 2006.
“We were ultimately trying to look at what was needed by industry and we knew there was going to be a demand for these cards, but there was no supply,” Mr Inouye told WA Business News.
Veritas has become one of 20 MSIC-issuing bodies nationally and processes and issues cards for more than 200 companies, and with steady growth in turnover of about 15 per cent each year.
Mr Inouye said while it was mainly Australia’s major ports that were becoming MSIC-issuing bodies, little attention was paid to the offshore oil and gas industry.
“The offshore industry was very different to the maritime industry from the standpoint that a lot of people working in the offshore industry have offices in the Perth CBD, so that was a whole niche area that nobody was really catering to,” he said.
“And because it was a service offered by the ports, you had to actually go to one of the ports to apply for a card and pick it up, so it was just an extra trip for people.”
Mr Inouye set up a website where anyone from Australia or overseas could apply for a card, and fostered a relationship with Australia Post, which enabled people to apply at any of that service’s 4,000 outlets.
“I just went to the local Australia Post business shop and asked who was the local business development manger was,” Mr Inouye said.
“Australia Post was doing a few different checks like this, like working with children, so there was a natural fit there and they were happy to do the checks for these cards.”
Mr Inouye said the company experienced significant growth in 2006 after the legislation was rolled out, which was the same year Veritas Engineering won a contract with Woodside to provide MSICs to its employees for a three-year period.
However, after experiencing a drop in the number of MSIC applications during the GFC, Mr Inouye decided to invest in web advertising to alert a larger demographic about the company’s services.
“Because there was an industry roll-out in 2006 and the cards last for five years, we had this massive peak, but in 2007 and 2008 the numbers dropped,” Mr Inouye said.
“We knew we had to do something so we started using Google Adwords, which was tremendous for us and we saw a 30 per cent growth.”
Competition from the ports has also been a significant challenge for Veritas, but Mr Inouye believes the company provides a more efficient service than its competitors.
“We do have stiff competition between the ports and the other major companies we are competing against,” he said.
“There are providers out there that do provide a cheaper card than us … but for a process that can take six to eight weeks, we can do it in around three weeks and we will bend over backwards to ensure our clients get their cards on time.”
In December of last year, Mr Inouye decided to diversify his business and return to his engineering consultancy roots.
“I’m an engineer by trade and that’s what I enjoy doing, the cards were really an opportunity and I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity,” he said.
“What do Maritime Security Cards have to do with engineering? Not a whole lot, but we approached it with our engineering hats on and used that opportunity to generate revenue, to build the infrastructure and establish the credibility to go on and do other things.”
Veritas, which has 10 staff split between the two divisions, is currently providing engineering support to Worsley Alumina and Western Power.
Mr Inouye wants to continue developing the consultancy side of the business, to allow the company to be seen as more than just an issuer of MSICs.