A Conversation with Tony Trapp

Thursday, May 08, 2008
Dr Tony Trapp, Managing Director

The Engineering Business (EB), a specialist design, engineering and construction company based in the , has thrived with the recent expansion in offshore oil & gas projects globally, dubbed one of the fasted growing companies in northeast . It was recently announced that the company was acquired by IHC Merwede. MarineNews recently caught up with Dr. Tony Trapp, EB’s Managing Director.

EB was founded in April 1997 by a four-man team of engineers led by managing director, Dr. Tony Trapp. Today EB is a team of 150 people (predominantly graduate professional engineers) and has a current order book approaching $120 million to be delivered to the offshore industry over the course of the next three years. EB specializes in designing, building and supplying, engineering solutions for the offshore oil and gas, submarine telecom, defense and offshore renewables industries, while IHC Merwede is a leader in the construction of specialist dredging equipment and complex custom-built offshore vessels.

MN         Has Offshore O&G always been the specialty of EB?

Trapp     When we started 11 years ago, the subsea telecom business was bustling, and we moved into that business with over-exuberance, going from a standing start to nearly $15.8m in turnover. Approximately 92% of our business was here. When the telecom industry collapsed, so too almost did EB – going from £8 to £6 to £4 million in turnover over the next three years. The lesson learned was the need to diversify in three different markets, ours being offshore oil and gas, marine renewables and defense.

MN         How did you turn it around?

Trapp     In 2004 we had $7.9m in turnover, and it was then that we instituted a five year plan to diversify and build the business. The target turnover for 2008 is $72.4m.

MN         Much of the marine industry is short-staffed. What’s the situation at EB?

Trapp     We increased staff by one-third last year, and we need to increase staff by another third this year. There’s no doubt that we can bring in more work; the key challenge is taking on more high quality engineers.

MN         You were recently bought by IHC Merwede. Can you share some insights on that?

Trapp     EB can continue its rapid growth, providing long term security for the dynamic staff team with significant benefits for the north east of , home to a highly talented supply chain.

Under the IHC Merwede banner, EB is assured of an exciting, creative and rewarding future.  Our team will be strengthened with IHC Merwede board members and we are looking forward to working within the IHC Merwede Group in the coming months and years. We are delighted that thanks to an internal share option scheme set up some time ago, 70 of our team – the people who have been loyal to EB over a number of years – will also gain financially from this deal, sharing 20% of the proceeds. We could not have achieved what we have done without their input, and it is a real pleasure that they gain substantial benefit from the sale of the company.

MN         Can you tell us about the recent deal you signed with Technip?

Trapp     EB recently was awarded a contract to provide a fully integrated pipelay system for Technip’s newbuild 194m pipelay vessel (NPV). This multi-million pound contract is amongst our most extensive ever and is a huge boost for the EB team and our supply chain in North East England. From design, incorporation of Technip equipment, through build, installation on the NPV, commissioning and sea trials we are providing an integrated solution. EB will develop the Technip concept to provide an innovative pipelay system which, married with other vessel characteristics, will give Technip a competitive advantage. We are looking forward to delivering the system in 2010. (The vessel will be built by STX Heavy Industries () and will transit to to be fitted with the specialist pipelay equipment. The vessel is designed to carry 5600 tons of reeled pipe and to lay it in 3000m water depth, with 450 tons top tension.)

MN         What challenges lie ahead?

Trapp     We are searching for oil and gas in increasingly difficult places: deeper waters and under the ice cap. To get it (safety and cost-effectively) depends on engineered solutions. That’s our strength.

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