Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 24th 2014 Contents BG6 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 2014 • WEEK FOUR
After five years of operating in
the T&T market, Australian-
based Austal is confident this
country has produced skilled
labour sufficient to meet its
standards. Austal is a global contractor and
provider of ships, systems and support.
"We are very keen on training, we do invest
in our people. They come well-educated, but
we train them also in other aspects of our
work. And also develop their behaviours in
terms of our Austal values, which we are very
proud of," said Graham Backhouse, president
and general manager of Austal.
Backhouse spoke to the Business Guardian
last Thursday at the heliport, Western Main
He said Austal is an attractive employer in
the industry because it is strong on reward
and recognition and has the capability to retain
"We put an advertisement in the paper for
espousing our services and we get hundreds
of applications for jobs, even though we are
not advertising for jobs," he said.
Local content is important to Austal and
its projects, Backhouse said.
Asked whether the price of labour in T&T
is too high, he said: "I think the market deter-
mines the price and we believe that we are
extremely competitive in the market, but not
only from a price perspective. What differ-
entiates Austal from the pack is the quality
and responsiveness of the 24/7 service offering
we provide," he said.
Though the company has managed to attract
the right human resources, there is more to
do when it comes to building T&T s economy.
"You have seen from the infrastructure that
we ve helped provide. The frontline (ships) in
Maritime national security are Austal designed
and built, assets (which) we provided the Coast
Guard. The frontline of the transport infra-
structure, the Water Taxis are also Austal
assets. Yes, we have done a great deal, but
there is more we can do in partnership with
defence or even with our commercial cus-
Shipbuilding and repair are considered as
a mean of diversifying a country s .economy.
In early July, the International Monetary Fund
suggested that T&T should take further steps
to diversify this economy.
"In ship design, build and sustainment, not
only does it attract significant numbers of
people to those tasks which increases the tech-
nical capabilities of people within a country,
it also demands a large technical supplier net-
work, which also generates jobs. My experience
from a number of countries is that there is a
virtuous outcome from having a national ship-
Growing its offshore business is one of
Austal s targets for the next 12 months.
"We moved our focus in the last six months
to defence, transport and into offshore. We
believe our challenge in the next 12 months
is to grow our regional business five-fold in
the offshore space."
Backhouse is predicting growth in Austal s
T&T business to be as much as 500 per cent
in the next year. He said expanding means the
company has to increase its employees. He
said Austal has met with many private sector
companies to explore its options of expanding
its T&T operations.
On the subject of whether its worth choosing
offshore work as a means of expansion, "I
wouldn t suggest it s a lucrative one. It s a
natural extension to our portfolio as all our
high end capabilities are easily transferrable
into that market sector. We believe whether
it s lucrative or not, there is a market there to
work in that space because of our capabilities
and service responsiveness that we provide.
Along with price competitiveness, this differ-
entiates us from the rest of the market."
The company designed and built six fast
patrol crafts for the T&T Coast Guard and
designed and built the four water taxis.
"We have approximately 18 of our ships we
designed and built in the region, and 11 of
those actually operate within T&T. It s a key
market for us both in terms of supporting a
defence -- the Coast Guard and, indeed, the
transport ministry in terms of the water taxis."
He said the company supports vessels in
the offshore industry.
"We have two business streams within T&T,
one which is focused on defence, supporting
the Coast Guard and one which is focused on
commercial supporting water taxis and the
Entering the T&T market, Austal had the
challenge of sourcing reliable suppliers.
"In the early years, it was having those sup-
pliers that we could depend on. Some of the
challenges which we are really trying to under-
stand across the local supply base is who we
could actually depend on.
"For some years now, we have had a reliable,
supply base which, combined with our highly
skilled local employees, differentiates Austal
to ensure we can continue to provide that
responsive service 24/7 to all our current and
Australian ship builder
targets offshore work
president and general manager
PHOTO: MARYANNE AUGUSTE
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