Aberdeen-based Helideck Certification Agency (HCA) has signed contracts to establish a new venture in the United Arab Emirates.
HCA, which is responsible for the inspection and certification of offshore helidecks in UK waters, will base the new operation in Abu Dhabi. The new venture will be conducted in collaboration with local partners, the Al Yaseah Group.
Full registration is expected to be completed within a matter of weeks, allowing HCA to commence operations at the start of next year. General manager Andy Tulloch will now be based full-time in Abu Dhabi.
HCA is responsible for the inspection and certification of helidecks on all forms of offshore vessels and installations in UK waters. It also provides consultancy services to oil companies, helicopter operators, platform constructors and aviation authorities worldwide.
Chief executive officer Alex Knight says that HCA had a long-term strategy to create new international bases due to staff currently servicing all clients from the Aberdeen headquarters. However, the downturn and associated cost-savings in energy sector brought the plans to fruition earlier than had been anticipated.
Alex said: “We decided that if the rigs and ships were no longer present in the North Sea, then we needed to find out where in the world they were present.
“Everything pointed towards the UAE, where the market is even bigger than the North Sea. There are currently 300 helidecks in that region, compared to 218 in UK waters so we believe there is a huge amount of potential there for HCA.”
Alex said HCA will approach its expansion into the Middle East on a slow and steady basis, scaling up with staff as and when required. Initially it will focus its work on writing manuals for new aluminum helidecks which have been introduced in the region and conducting site visits.
Legal and business development consultancy services are being provided by HFI Consulting, which specialises in supporting North Sea-focused companies as they break into new markets across the Middle East and North Africa.
HFI identified potential joint venture partners for HCA and prepared, in conjunction with its local legal partners, all legal and registration documents to allow the firm to operate from its new base.
Managing partner of HFI Hugh Fraser said: “HCA is an excellent example of an ambitious North Sea company identifying and acting on an opportunity to grow in the Middle East. Although a relatively small operation in terms of its physical size, HCA offers a unique proposition which will fill a gap in the market in the UAE.
“In addition to helping clients take advantage of expansion opportunities in the Middle East – particularly in Saudi Arabia where there has been unprecedented investment and opening up of joint venture opportunities – we focus on international local partner agreements.”