SMIT on a winning streak in India
A good track record has spurred SMIT to increase their focus on India
“We are here to attend to any kind of emergency,” is Peeks stanch reply when asked about the company’s business approach. “In India there is a lot of scope,” he says. “In the last six years we executed 17 salvage operations successfully which itself speaks about our expertise and performance. We want to invest in India. There is no doubt that we will combine our cooperation out of our Porbunder base where we have an arrangement with Vishwakarma, who has been for us a good partner.”
Starting off with a working arrangement out in Porbunder in 2005, SMIT later became the first among leading global salvors to set up office in India at Mumbai in 2007, which has been headed by Shrikant Kejriwal, General Manager. Having a base in India, Peek feels is a good step forward, as they have been able to position much of their critical salvage equipment here. He points out that this provides a competitive edge as having one’s own equipment in India greatly helps in an emergency as one does not need to wait to fly down equipment from abroad which involves lots of procedures and having to put up with time-consuming tasks of obtaining permissions.
“Ideally one would want to have bases all over the world,” he says. “But one needs to have the experience and discretion to know where to position the right equipment. What can give advantage in salvaging is how quickly one can respond and react to a particular situation and reach the site of the incident. Our people in India or be it our agent in Bangladesh or elsewhere in the world, we are always alert, swift and responsive from 650 places of the world. We operate through our own offices or local agents’ network. Our people are quick to understand the situation get necessary details including the name of the ship, the ship-owner, underwriters, the P & I Club, and other details.”
SMIT has 200 salvage experts based in Rotterdam, Singapore, Houston, etc. In Singapore they employ 75 salvage experts including divers, salvage masters, coordinators, contract managers and other specialists. Peek agrees that there is a challenge for salvage employers to find the right people and retain them. But SMIT provides a good environment for their employees both for those on contract and full time workers and give them tasks which interest them. Being a big organisation and like any organisation they concentrate on training and motivating our people. This, itself helps to attract right professionals to their company. During the selection process the company ensures that applicants are motivated and have a passion to expose themselves to risks.
The track record of SMIT Salvage is without parallel. On the whole the company maintains specialized equipment and expert personnel in a state of round-the-clock readiness to respond to incidents anywhere in the world. The expert personnel consist of a selected group of advisors, consultants, salvage masters and salvage teams (naval architects, supervisors, divers and technicians), who, together with the specialized equipment, guarantee the necessary experience.
Speaking about the intricacies of the bidding process that make them successful bidders in most salvage operation Peek points out that often the salvager does not have much to go with when he bids. He does not know how long it will take to complete the job or what equipment will be needed, how many persons or what services will be required or what cost the whole operation will involve to complete the job successfully.
“Initially we go in with just five to ten persons to the site,” he said. “If we need more we call for them. We come to know all this when we reach the site and examine the situation. There is no reference to the cost of the salvaging operation in our quotation. The lawyers draw up the contract which is on the “no-cure-no-pay basis”.
Another way we get contracts is through the ship-owners who come to know of the accident involving their ship and go to the market. First they approach the brokers who in turn contact the salvagers and inform what has happened, what the owners require and they request the salvagers for quotation within six hours. In a very short time the decision is made.
“Salvaging is a risky business so in order to ensure there is no financial loss we ensure the financial standing of the vessel owner, if the ship has a good insurance cover both on the property and liability side,” says Peek. “We need to be well aware of the risks. But at the end of the day it is the ship-owner and the insurer who pay.”
Salvaging not necessarily follows a standard format. There are times the strategies required may look paradoxical. If a ship is grounded it may sometime be necessary to pump in more ballast water to stabilize the ship. We know there is bunker at the bottom of the tanks or some situation has developed for which we need to prevent the matters from getting worse or there is need to mitigate the risk and avoid deterioration of the situation.