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Salmah Brown | 17 April 2024

African Marine Solutions (AMSOL) CEO Dan Ngakane is committed to putting his people first. BBQ caught up with this empowering leader who took us through the entity’s sustainable solutions for stakeholders, their transformation imperative, and what the year 2024 holds.

African Marine Solutions (AMSOL) is a specialist solutions provider and partner to clients who operate in marine environments.

AMSOL is able to provide a tailored and flexible portfolio of specialist marine services to clients in the Energy, Ports, Mining, and Maritime sectors in multiple markets across Africa. With a value proposition that is underpinned by its ability to meet international standards in health and safety, environmental protection, and quality in high-risk marine environments and operations, AMSOL employ an experienced team of marine specialists–both seagoing and shore based–who manage and operate their fleet of specialist vessels that include bunker barges, tankers, tugs, supply launches, and other specialist vessels. Dan Ngakane, who took on the role of AMSOL CEO in July 2023, explains: “We are able to ensure continuity in the value chain for our clients, which I think is such an important element of our business.

“Often, it is because of what we do that there is continuity in fuel supply, in offshore activities, and in shipping operations, and these activities keep our economy moving forward.

“Our company purpose is to empower people, be it employees, clients, suppliers, or communities, through sustainable solutions. This is the purpose that drives AMSOL.”

An entity that cares

As the only marine solutions provider in the region that is employee and management owned, AMSOL is able to provide a much deeper experience for clients, as everyone within the entity is pulling in the same direction. The AMSOL Employee Trust offers benefits to permanent employees who currently own 12% of the company. The trust has transformed into a driving force for promoting economic empowerment and fostering shared value within the maritime industry, with 89% of the beneficiaries being black South Africans. This undertaking serves as a pivotal element of the company’s employee value proposition, ensuring that both permanent employees at sea and on-shore, who are all integral to the company’s foundation, equally share in its success, irrespective of their position or background.

“There is a high level of ownership and accountability in the business because we’re invested in it,” shares Ngakane, who has extensive experience within the Energy, Transport, and Mining sectors during his career. “AMSOL drives transformation in the maritime industry and has a long track record of empowering people. In fact, a core part of our mission is to be a catalyst for the transformation of the maritime economy.”

“We’re a Level 2 contributor to Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) with majority ownership by black South Africans, including employees and management who together own 34% of the business.”

“In a niche, specialist industry and with black South Africans representing 90% of the workforce at sea and ashore, we’ve also increased the representation of women in the business from 8% to 18% since AMSOL was formed in 2016. We’re a diverse company, optimising the skills and talents of a diverse workforce.” By investing in the development of specialist marine and maritime skills, AMSOL is not only ensuring that they create a sustainably qualified, competent, and experienced workforce for their business, but, at a broader level, they are unlocking the potential of the Ocean’s Economy.

“To support this, we’ve invested R400 million in acquiring five vessels in the last four years. The local flagging of four of these vessels on the South African Ships’ Register means that jobs for South African seafarers are created and sustained,” the Lehurutshe-born Ngakane explains. “Critical to our ability to meet the needs of clients is a robust and diverse supply chain. Aligned to the vision of inclusive economic growth and AMSOL’s commitment to working closely with supply partners as an extension of our business, we embrace the growth of small, medium, and micro enterprises.”

Operationally speaking

AMSOL, without a second thought, have always prioritised safety in all that they do. This is because they operate in an intrinsically high-risk environment where the highest level of care for the safety of their teams is demanded for every operation and on every day. As a result, a number of initiatives are run to ensure that the safety element is paid the attention it requires from an operational standpoint.

“Top of mind for me is always the safety of people. In light of the high-risk nature of our operations and the fact that protecting our people and the environment is our licence to operate, the long-term goal, ‘Zero Harm’, to our people and the environment guides regular interventions concerning equipment, processes, and people,” Ngakane, who is also a qualified Electrical Engineer, says.

“Our recent AMSOL SHEQ ‘Safety Reset’ campaign to support the company’s approach to continuously improving was an opportunity for AMSOL stakeholders to refocus on their commitment to safety.” As the maritime industry progresses towards a more interconnected and technology-driven approach to fleet management, companies need to embrace digitalisation whilst ensuring that data integrity remains in place. This is also a priority for AMSOL and entails implementing new technology onboard their ships, modernising data collection methods, and ensuring crew members receive adequate training to utilise these new technologies.

Ngakane explains: “AMSOL has been able to invest in new assets in recent years which provide our seafarers with opportunities to work with newer technology across the fleet.

“It is definitely a key strategic focus area for the business as we look into the future.

“We utilise an effective International Code Compliant Ship Management system developed in house and implement modern systems that utilise artificial intelligence to alert us to potential cyber threats and autonomously respond to and prevent cyber-attacks.” The challenge of navigating a volatile economic environment is impacted significantly by geo-political developments, trade wars, and currency valuation. The impact on operations and supply chain disruption, as well as in markets of operation and on clients, is often immediate and far reaching. To combat this as best as possible, Ngakane says that “AMSOL conducts regular reviews of economic indicators in order to inform client contracting, escalations, supply chain management, as well as foreign currency management”.

As has become evident, the people of AMSOL come first for Ngakane. That’s why Ngakane’s top priority for 2024 is to ensure that the business “continues to improve their safety performance, supporting talent, and taking the next steps in further developing the culture of continuous improvement in our current operations”.

AMSOL is also focused on expanding the business’ footprint in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Ghana, all while growing their Fuel Logistics and Transportation business–specifically tanker operations–to meet client demand.Ngakane, who has remained committed to continuous learning during his career and has achieved Master’s Degrees in Engineering and Business Administration, as well as a Bachelor of Laws, says: “Tanker operations require effective risk management to efficiently execute the scope of work to international oil industry standards, ensuring no impact on the environment and the health and safety of all personnel.

“A key focus of the company’s growth strategy has been the expansion of its marine services portfolio into the operation and management of seagoing product tankers and developing the skills and competence over time.”

Leveraging data and systems to better optimise business operations is another goal for 2024, with Ngakane concluding that “this will lead to increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved client satisfaction, and ultimately, greater competitiveness in the maritime sector”.

And we look forward to charting your maritime journey in the years to come.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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