A Titan in the Maritime Industry
Engr. (Dr.) Allen Oparaocha, the Managing Director of Rohan Marine Limited, is one of Nigeria’s most recognizable Dredging, Marine and Oil & Gas Consultant as he has carved an enviable niche for himself in his chosen profession globally. Allen studied Marine Engineering as an NNPC scholar and spent over a decade in Britain mastering the intricacies and complexities of the marine industry. He left the NNPC and worked in senior managerial levels for some high net-worth corporations in the UK and later became the Managing Director/CEO of Rohan Group-Nigeria. The recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Corporate Administration from the Institute of Model Management and Administration of Nigeria spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.
WHAT informed your choice of career? As a young guy, I had wanted to study either Mechanical or Civil Engineering but the scholarship by NNPC to study Marine Engineering changed all that. Upon graduation, I was seconded by the NNPC to high networth corporations abroad.
At the dawn of the new millennium, I left NNPC to join Rohan Overseas Ltd and I had to return to Nigeria to establish the Nigerian arm of the global operation of Rohan Group. Rohan Overseas Ltd was at the time a member of Boustead Plc which is registered in the London Stock Exchange and just recently WXZ Nigeria Limited became a partner of Rohan Group. Rohan West Africa Ltd is the sole representative to various European companies that deals in Manufacturing & Sales, Crewing & Staffing, Installation & Commissioning and Maintenance of Oil & Gas industrial equipment.
Rohan Marine Limited is the sole representative of IHC Merwede, Holland, the world leading maritime technology group with unbeatable records in the manufacture, sales, and crewing of Dredgers & dredging equipment, Marine & Oil and Gas vessels for well over 600 years. The biggest challenge of setting up the organization in Nigeria was the difficulty of incorporating a Nigerian company in the dredging industry because of the dominance of multinationals in the sector. The big four multinationals at the time dominated the industry that penetrating the industry was quite difficult, but when I arrived the scene, my only aim was to help local operators to establish their presence in the industry. Funding was equally a challenge because the marine & dredging equipment are pretty expensive and it was difficult for Nigeria banks to fund the interested companies at the time. It was Diamond bank, Platinium bank, and Oceanic back then that showed interest and supported the few entrepreneurs that were interested at the time.
On getting the right human capital:
The right human capital has always been there because dredging is as old as crude oil drilling in Nigeria. As soon as you start drilling for oil, the need for dredging also arises and the International Oil companies have a pool of local capacities that has been trained to take care of the needs of the dredging industry. It is important to note that IHC that we represent has a training school overseas called Institute of Dredging. What we have done is to replicate the training school in Nigeria to develop more capacities in the industry. We assisted and aided such indigenous major dredging companies like Intels Oil & Gas dredging Company operated by a subsidiary called Prodeco; Nestoil subsidiary called B&Q Dredging, Foby Engineering Limited, Epenal Dredging, Temile & Sons, and Fungtai Engineering Limited on dredger equipment supply, Crew training & Staffing, Maintenance & Repairs, etc.
Unique Selling Point:
IHC Merwede B.V. of Holland and Rohan Marine Ltd, the sole Nigerian representative of IHC Merwede, Holland in Nigeria are the backbone of several International & Local Dredging and Marine Service Companies and Entrepreneurs such Westminster Dredging, Dredging International, Van Oord, BosKalis, Jon de Nul, CCECC, etc. We assisted to set-up New Marine & Dredging companies operating in Nigeria, such as Techspring Limited based in Port Harcourt that carried out Notore Channel Dredging in Onne Port, in Port Harcourt and all works carried out under my company’s supervision and management. We set-up Destiny Dredging International (DDI) with Eight (8) brand new dredgers & accessories of various sizes from scratch to operating capability. IHC built the Hopper Dredger (River Congo) that undertook the biggest major dredging operation in Nigeria and Africa – EKO-ATLANTIC massive land reclamation project in Bar-beach, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.
In five years:
We are developing other areas of interest and I believe that in the next five years, we would’ve built an organizational brand that will bestride the dredging and oil and gas industry like a colossus. I used the first ten years to support and develop local participation in the industry and the next five years will be used to consolidate on the gains recorded. For example, WXZ Nigeria Ltd is the operating base for International Strategic Partners world-wide operations in Civil Engineering construction in Marine, Oil & Gas, Power & Steel Plant, Petro-Chem Plant, Airport & Seaport, Mass Housing, Infrastructures like Rail, Roads & Bridges, etc. We work with our South Korean Strategic Partner as Project Integration & Management Company (PIM) and also Project Development & Solution Company (PDS). We can represent or act as Local Agent to our Partners to seek, assist, lobby & influence competitive Bid Tender Contracts (EPC or Single Source). Assist on Local Content Issues, Taxation, Legal, Staffing & Employment (Contract Recruitment Services) and Community Issues. We have capabilities to reach or approach top government official for matters of importance to our clients and foreign investors.
What can government do differently?
I think government has done well in terms of the cabotage and the Nigerian content act. The only thing left for the government is to create special banks for entrepreneurship, agriculture and manufacturing because no matter how good a policy is, funding can stall its full implementation. These banks mentioned should be able to develop opportunities in their various sectors like the Bank of Industry is doing. I’ll also want to advise government to patronize indigenous operators in the industry as the Asians are not more competent than Nigerians. For example, if you go to most sites, you’ll discover that majority of the professionals there are Nigerians. It is corruption on the parts of technocrats that make them prefer foreigners to local operators.
Advice for young Nigerians:
I really pity young Nigerians because at a young age the country stood by me and sponsored my education whereas today, young people with potentials are left to fend for themselves. This is the end product of mismanagement of funds at all levels of government. I’ve seen a lot of people blame the Federal Government whereas the State and Local governments have their own share of the blame. Passion is vital to the success of any enterprise. You also need to have an in-depth knowledge of the type of business you want to go into. You can equally attend seminars and conferences to brush up your knowledge about the global business environment.
I love and believe in Nigeria because the country paid so much for me to become who I am today. The driving force is that what Nigeria trained me for is what I’m bringing back in terms of developing local companies to participate in dredging that used to be dominated by multinationals. In Nigeria today, my name is written in the dredging industry, due to my massive contribution. The driving force is that I’m contributing my quota to national development even when National award is not tied to it.