GUYANA: Foreign companies dominate the International Energy Conference and Expo

– Ram says high costs per booth chase away local businesses

The inaugural International Energy Conference and Expo wrapped up last week with the international firms taking centre stage and the few local companies that participated saying that they were encouraged by the exposure and links created during the four-day event.

Guyana’s First Lady, Arya Ali and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley cut the ceremonial ribbon to declare the International Energy Expo open, in the presence of President Irfaan Ali, President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Suriname Head-of-State, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, Guyana’s Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Anthony Phillips and other high level officials.

The expo was meant to showcase Guyana to the world, but majority of the firms that participated are foreign-based and were instead exhibiting their products and services to Guyanese. The expo, which came shortly after Guyana passed its ambitious Local Content Policy Legislation, did little to promote local content, although Guyanese leaders at the conference stressed that whatever investments are derived from the oil and gas sector, local content must be catered to’

Reporters were told at the launch of the event that 150 businesses would be part of the Expo. Unfortunately, only 40 of the spots were occupied by local businesses. Weighing in on the unfortunate manner in which the expo was executed was Attorney-at-Law and founding member of civil society organization Article 13, Mr. Christopher Ram who told this newspaper that it was regrettable that locals did not play a greater role in the Expo, held in Guyana. He was keen to distinguish between the hosting of the event and venue of the event, as he explained that while the International Energy Conference and Expo was hosted in Guyana, it is still unclear as to who exactly the host or organisers were.

Ram clarified, “To say that Guyana hosted it begs the question of who in Guyana actually hosted it (and) no one is quite sure. Clearly, the government had a big hand in it, but it’s not sure whether the prohibitively high cost to participate to exhibit one’s goods and wares… It is unclear who set those figures and I would hope it’s not the government because it was clearly prohibitive… Many (many) people could not afford it and I don’t think there was a lack of interest (by locals), it’s just that it was very high priced.”

As a delegate of the event, the Attorney said the cost per booth was approximately $650,000. The activist further explained that he believes the event was not properly marketed by the government to the Guyanese people, as many patrons viewed the Conference and Expo as a mere “talk shop”. “People could have felt like this is worth attending (but) that didn’t happen.”
In this regard, Ram said, “It is regrettable that we didn’t have higher level of (local) participation”.

Held at the Marriott Hotel between February 15 and 18, Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat hailed the event a success. Bharrat, during a panel discussion on the final day of the public sessions, told the conference that over 800 delegates participated from more than 25 different countries, while more than 120 businesses, both local and foreign, seized the opportunity to market their products and services on the international stage. This newspaper spoke to a few of the foreign companies seeking to showcase their products and expertise to help Guyana reach its developmental goals in not only the oil industry, but even its agriculture sector. Guyanese were not shy to display their skills and products either as the exhibition saw the inclusion of local arts and craft as well as services on display.

Hyundai E&C
A notable foreign company, Hyundai Engineering and Construction (E&C), which as the name suggests forms part of the Hyundai Motor Group, had its Vice President Ms. Mun Jeong Choi visit Guyana for the very first time to attend the inaugural event. The Korean company has vast experience in massive construction projects such as bridges, buildings and even natural gas plants. In fact, Hyundai E&C first advanced into a foreign country in 1965 and has since completed more than 850 projects in 62 countries worldwide.
Besides completing highways, railways and subways in countries such as Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait among others, the company also boasts as one of the very few in the world with expertise in constructing gas processing, oil refinery, petrochemical plants and industrial plants.
To this end, the company’s Vice President told Kaieteur News that Hyundai E&C will be participating in the competitive bidding process to hopefully construct the Wales Power Plant in Guyana.

Another foreign company that is seeking to introduce its product to Guyana’s oil and gas industry is Bio-Solv, a Malaysian firm that is offering a ‘clean’ solution to oil spills. The solution is a biodegradable water based degreaser (oil dispersant) that disperses and removes all types of oil on surfaces irrespective of the environment. This means that Bio-Solv is suitable for cleaning up oil spills on seas, seashores, land, floors, factories, drains, rock gravels, mangroves and others.

The product was researched and formulated by a lecturer from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (U.T.M) and blended and manufactured in Johor, Malaysia. It utilises non-hazardous material and water as it’s the main ingredient, thus it’s an environmentally friendly product.
A representative of the company told Kaieteur News that since the product is environmentally friendly, it does not cause further harm to fish or other marine species or resources such as sand when used in a cleanup.

Volatus Aerospace
When it comes to agriculture, one firm based in Canada has brought its drone technology to Guyana, which it says has the capability of meeting the needs of rice farmers in particular. Andy Buck, Vice President of Sales, Industrial and Defense at the North American company, Volatus Aerospace said the company sells and manufactures drones for different applications ranging from cargo, surveillance and agriculture.
He said, “We have a group in our company that focuses on agriculture and we are working with our technology partners to put together options that we would be able to bring to markets like Guyana. We are looking at drones that primarily will be able to do one of two things; one would be spraying for pesticides or fertilizers and the other would be able to look at mapping agricultural lands to determine spots that require attention to reduce the amount of spraying required on those crops”.
Along with the foreign businesses, scores of local companies also brought their products and services to the International Expo during the four-day event.

Vitality Accounting and Consultancy
Badesh Thakur a Director of Vitality Accounting and Consultancy said the company was established just over two years in Guyana and has been able to launch out beyond its exceptional accountancy services to supplies, consultancy and even civil engineering. Thakur said he believes his company could play a great role in Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector, especially since it offers “world class accounting” through its strategic partners.

Banks DIH
A Sales and Marketing Executive, Carlton Joao of Banks BIH, one of the more recognized local firms in Guyana said, “We are here at the energy Expo to put our local content on show along with a lot of other exciting things. We are everything for food and beverage in Guyana and we believe we can play a meaningful part in this area of growth as we go forward”.
A few of the products displayed by Banks during the event were the company’s wines and flagship Banks Beer, as well as the famous Johnnie Walker, Ciroc, Smirnoff by Diageo.

Genesis Marine
The Country Manager of Genesis Marine, Dameon Sears explained that the local shipping company has been operating in Guyana for the past six months but was founded since 2006 in Panama.
“Our main portfolio is liquid bulk; this would be for crude, diesel or anything like that but we do project cargo. If persons are coming to set up in Guyana, we do logistics and everything for them…everything that involves getting vessels and cargo into Guyana and out of Guyana we handle that,” he said. Sears said the Expo was an excellent opportunity for a startup business such as Genesis Marine to expand its reach.

Gulf Engineering
Gulf Engineering, a company with roots from Trinidad that has become essential to Guyana’s oil sector, was also present at the Energy Expo. Business Development and Customer Relations Officer, Dwayne Scott explained what those essential service includes. “We are a major supporter for the oil field drillers and supply company operators in the market. We work closely with companies like the drilling companies Stenna Drilling, Noble Drilling and the cementing companies to provide them with equipment and services which includes equipment maintenance, recertification and testing and calibration of the different equipment,” Scott noted.

Caricom Insurance
Operations Manager of Caricom Insurance, Jose Persaud also spoke with this newspaper to highlight the important services offered by the company. According to him, Caricom presently offers insurance for motor vehicles, homes, contractors, machinery and public liability. “In terms of let’s say you are working on a project and you need insurance to cover those employees, we can do that, if you are bidding a project, we can also provide bid security,” he clarified.

Cyril’s Transportation Services
The transportation sector also got a golden representation through Cyril’s Transportation Services. The company’s Contract Service Manager, Nastassaja Pickett said Cyril’s was first founded some 20 years ago. She was happy to report that the business has grown and diversified over these years, shifting from only occasional cab services to permanent contracts to transport workers now for the oil and gas industry.
The Manager boasted, “We have also been engaged in crude changing activities for those customers and we are at this point, the premiere transportation service for this Expo. Our largest client at this point is ExxonMobil. We have been working with them for the last seven years”.
She was keen to note that even though Cyril’s is committed to its service to Exxon, it was also seeking other clients to expand, thus its participation.

Ansa Motors
One of the more exciting booths at the Expo for vehicle lovers was Ansa Motors, a Trinidadian firm, which has since extended its products to Guyana and Barbados. Ansa’s General Manager for Guyana, Sudesh Mahase had on exhibition the new Suzuki Jimny, an off-road sensation that has been taking the Guyanese market by storm.
The Jimny was not only on exhibition for patrons to see and touch but visitors of the booth also had the opportunity to enter a competition that would give them an unforgettable weekend with the double-seater that was made to weather any rugged road ahead.
Mahase said, “Ansa Motors Guyana is part of the wider group that has been in the country since 2017 and we are a total transport solutions company. We have from new vehicle sales, passenger and commercial equipment. We also have mobility options for like short-term rentals, we are also setting up for chauffeur services and moving goods and equipment”.

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