DISCOVER Magazine #6

Damen supports Bhagwan Marine in its ambitions to become international service provider

Published in category: Countries
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Bhagwan Marine, which now operates nearly 70 vessels, is one of Damen’s Australian customers that is expanding fast as it nurtures ambitions to become an international service provider.

Originally established by Loui Kannikoski and his wife Kerren, with the unquestioned support of his father and mother, Bhagwan is based in Geraldton, Western Australia and serves the dredging, mining and oil & gas industries.

Co-founder Loui reflects on the company’s development since the late nineties and his change in career. Loui’s father originally came from Finland but moved to Australia in the fifties, where he established a successful cray fishing business. Loui followed his father into the business in 1975 and then stayed in the fishing industry for the next 22 years. But he spotted an opportunity in the growing oil & gas industry and decided to make a change in his career path.

The fishing business was leased out and they took the step into the oil & gas industry.

Dedicated vessels

Initially, he laughs, the company, where his wife, daughter Chloe and sister Dianne also work, started off in a home office with several people jammed into a bedroom and lounge. “My son was kicked out of his bedroom and that was turned into the Administration office.” And now 14 years on, the company employs 400 people and has nearly 70 vessels ranging from water taxis and Multi Cats to 50 m landing barges. “And my son has his own bedroom again!” Recently, Bhagwan won “Business of the Year Award 2012” from the Midwest Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Loui comments: “At the time when we entered the oil & gas sector there was a desperate need for purpose built boats in the industry, most vessels were either old cray boats or very old vessels from the North Sea.” In 1999, the company decided to build its first dedicated vessel, a 25 m catamaran, which was completed in October 2000. Interestingly, Bhagwan Marine actually has one of the first ever Damen vessels that came to Australia in the seventies, which it acquired through a take over.

“We had always been interested in Damen vessels but we really started to buy them a couple of years ago and in the last 24 months we have bought eight Damen vessels!” This has included two Shoalbuster 3009, three Multi Cats (2×1908 and 1×2611) and Bhagwan has ordered a second Fast Crew Supplier 2610 and Shoalbusters 2709 and the company is considering another order very soon. Additionally, Bhagwan has exclusive rights to two FCS 2610 and a Shoalbuster 2709.

Commenting on why he prefers Damen vessels, Loui says: “The main thing is undoubtedly the quality of the build. Damen has a long history in shipbuilding, it has been the designer and developer of these vessels, they are based on proven concepts. There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Great reputation

And crucially, Damen has a great reputation all over the world, he stresses. “Many of our clients are involved in dredging and offshore for instance, and Damen vessels tick all the boxes with our clients, giving them peace of mind.”

He also highlights the relationship that has been built up with Damen. “Perhaps because we are also a family firm, we feel comfortable with Damen. It is very straightforward to deal with. I have met Kommer Damen and regularly see Roland Briene and we have a great relationship. We always prefer face-to-face negotiations. For us it is also pleasing to see that a family company can grow to the size of Damen.”

Currently, Bhagwan Marine has vessels working throughout Australia on both the east and west coast, with a presence in 10 ports. But it has ambitious plans to become an international service provider, particularly serving Asia and Africa.

“Australia itself is also very busy, we see a positive future and see ourselves expanding with Damen vessels as we go further afield.”

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