GCC access market: Latest advances & challenges
Delving into the GCC’s access market, fmME touches base with some of the industry’s top companies to share their latest advances, achievements and challenges
With over 20 years of experience operating in the UAE, Megarme was founded as a professional inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) provider. Though the bulk of its work is focused within the construction and petrochemical sectors, the company also supplies support services to a number of the region’s FM providers. Furthermore, its portfolio includes such notable projects as the Princess Tower and Gate Towers in Abu Dhabi.
“From rope access services to hybrid access systems, Megarme has the manpower and equipment to reach the most difficult locations and execute turnkey solutions quickly, safely and cost effectively,” explains Daniel Gill, head of business development, Megarme.
A member of the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), Megarme has long spearheaded the introduction of global industry standards to the region. The company was also instrumental in the establishment of the first Middle East IRATA Regional Advisory Committee (RAC).
The RAC acts as forum that brings together members countries from across the region to communicate new ideas and practices.
In 2014, Megarme entered into a partnership with Palfinger AG, a global manufacturer of cranes and hydraulic lift systems, with operations across 130 countries and annual revenues in excess of $1.2bn.
“This partnership has created tremendous opportunities within several industries to provide the most complete range of access solutions though a single source contractor and meet the unique engineering and access demands of projects in the region,” explains Gill.
Furthermore, the partnership introduced Palfinger AG’s specialised hydraulic access systems to Megarme’s stores. These include inspection platforms, Jack-Up Maintenance Platform (JUMP) system and Ariel platforms.
One of its latest additions to the company’s line up is the Tension Net & Deck System. Boasting stability and safety, the system was first applied within the oil & gas field, but has also proven effective for construction and FM.
“It allows access to areas especially where overhead activities are involved but more importantly it allows third party (non-Rope Access personnel) entry and egress into the work zone,” comments Gill.
Outside of implementing the latest technologies, Megarme also maintains its own training facility. In addition to being a full IRATA member company as an operator, the firm is also fully certified to provide IRATA training.
With safety a key component of its training regimen, Megarme offers programmes for equipment use, rescue and roper access refreshers.
A strong proponent for regulation and continuous improvement of laws and legislation in rope access, Megarme’s head of business development points out that one of the main challenges of the sector is curbing the number of unregulated companies in operation.
“Despite continual improvement in regulations, it is still not adequately policed. This allows companies to conduct rope access activities without the necessary certification or standards in place,” warns Gill.
As a result there is a constant concern amongst the top players that a serious incident involving in an unregulated company could negatively impact the industry. However, as understanding of rope access grows, clients are beginning to implement stricter prequalification procedures to benchmark the various requirements. This in turn helps to ensure that only the most qualified and regulated companies will be considered for projects.
Established in 2004, GRAKO was one of the first companies in the region to introduce specialised cleaning services for assets faced with constant weather challenges and architectural restrictions. GRAKO’s technically certified expertise offers an alternative cleaning method to the more traditionally costly and time-consuming methods.
“We use a combination of access techniques, such as building maintenance units, cradle access, rope access, access machines, scaffolding access and water-fed pole access, to guarantee complete reach and cleanliness of any surface,” explains Alain S. El Tawil, director of sales & marketing and managing partner, GRAKO.
“Our company has grown to approximately 350-400 work forces and our company is growing 15-20% every year,” adds Tawil.
A member of the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), the FM company is specialised in high-level access cleaning services.
Under this description, GRAKO covers a variety of internal areas, which include walls and ceilings, atriums, entrances, accessories and patterned surfaces. In terms of external surfaces, the company oversees the cleaning of façades, roof and car parks.
GRAKO’s portfolio comprises of a number of prestigious projects, which includes the likes of The Dubai Mall, Nation Tower (AUH), Dubai Airports and Ferrari World. Its most recent contract win was the maintenance of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest man-made structure.
“Winning the contract of Burj Khalifa is one of the major highlights of our company. As the tallest and highest building in the world, it requires a first class standard of cleaning, difficult situations and challenges that are being dealt with and we are proud to be able to accomplish that with our trained IRATA supervisors and technicians,” explains Tawil.
Furthermore, the FM company has created an entirely separate division to tackle oil & gas and technical civil markets. Under the name Gecko Middle East (NDT), the division offers industrial rope access services that assist focused on hard to reach areas, regardless of height or magnitude of the asset.
Operating at such heights, the topic of safety becomes paramount. In addition to ensuring its staff is IRATA certified, GRAKO goes the extra mile by adhering to the standards set by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF).
“We have our own experienced staffs that undergo series of training s from our training centre assisted by IRATA certified supervisors. Nothing is outsourced therefore we have full control over our operations,” explains Tawil.
“Safety has always been the main concern in this field of work and it comes along with effectiveness and efficiency of work done.”
A member company of the Lavendon Group, a UK PLC specialised in powered access, Rapid Access serves as the group’s Middle East arm.
Supplying the region with powered access platform rental services, the company maintains operations across the GCC, India and Iraq.
In addition to its rental services, Rapid Access additional verticals include powered access training, as well an extensive research and development component.
“We invest a great deal of our research and development and what we have is a unique range of health and safety attachments and accessories that allow people to work more safely on our machines,” comments Alexis Potter, sales and marketing director for Middle East and International, Rapid Access.
The 2014 fiscal year proved to be a lucrative one for the Lavendon Group with a reported $382mn turnover of which Rapid Access contributed roughly $77.8mn.
The group also invested $93.4mn in expanding its fleets, which now number 19,700 machines, globally. Rapid Access holds 3,000 variants of powered access machinery.
Committed to health and safety, the powered access rental company has also invested in developing its training facility in Dubai Investment Park. With a large training yard and a number of mock-up areas, Rapid Access’ training facility is run by Gurparpap Singh, who won IPAF Training Instructure of the Year in 2011. Furthermore, the facility is credited for issuing 45% of all total IPAF licenses in the region in 2014.
Possibly its most successful project to date, Rapid Access landed the contract to supply over 200 powered access machines to the $20bn Sedara project located in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia.
In addition to supply the equipment on the joint venture project between Aramco and Dhow Chemicals, the company also delivers onsite engineering services and customer support.
Commenting on the firm’s success over the past year, Potter shared: “Businesses benefitted last year from a very buoyant economy in the Middle East.
“There was good signs of growth in the UAE and Saudi Arabia … There were some large projects awarded in Kuwait for the first time in some time.”
The last year also saw the launch of the Rapid Access’ BluSky product line, a range of accessories used in conjunction with powered access machinery.
One product in this line is a system aptly called Sky Sentry, which is essentially a keypad system that locks machines and restricts usage to authorised users only.
The range also includes Material Hurling Attachments (MHA), which are handling attachments that can be fitted to powered access machinery to hold equipment like pipes and duct work. However, the product line’s most impressive addition is an anti-entrapment device called Sky Siren.
Comprising of a touch sensitive strip that is mounted on a machine’s control panel, the system works to avoid accidents where employees become entrapped over their controls and suffer a risk of crushing. The sensor strip can detect if an individual is being pressed against the controls, and immediately shuts off the machine and initiates a klaxon alarm.
“It is a development that came out of Europe in 2009 and slowly they are becoming more popular over here. We’ve had them mandated on projects in Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
It’s really the first line of defence,” explains Potter.
Commenting on the future, the sales and marketing director expects to see continued demand for low-level access products. These typically comprise of small units that are manoeuvre manually and that cover heights between 3.5 – 5.5 metres. He believes will become all the more critical within the FM market.
Additionally, there will likely be a greater deployment of electrical machinery, over the traditional gas-powered machines. The rising importance of ‘going green’ and reducing carbon emissions will also likely see increased use of start/stop technologies across the GCC market.