For nearly a quarter of a century, Roma Transport Services has been providing a range of logistics services to the oil and gas industry in South West Queensland.
Established in 1992 by Ian Forbes and Charlie Burke with a couple of trucks and trailers, they carted equipment for the onshore gas industry in and around Roma, the Cooper Basin and across the country.
Ian's son, Danny Forbes joined the business in 2002 and today as Business Manager is part of the management team who is overseeing a challenging period following the onshore gas construction boom and current low global oil prices.
Danny says from 2002 to 2008, there was a steady growth with RTS employing around 25 staff, but that number more than doubled during the rapid construction phase of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in the Surat Basin.
"It was a very intense period keeping up with the demand and the competition.
"However, we didn't overstretch ourselves as much as we were encouraged to do from some of our customers – rather we purchased progressively and also hung on to and maintained to a high standard our existing equipment and that has helped us through the current phase as the industry has transitioned from construction to production.
"We built our business on service, safety and our relationships, but these days reputation alone is not enough and we must continue to build and maintain those relationships.
"We've still got very good relationships but it's getting harder because the people have changed – there's a lot of new people in the industry and they may not remember the history of their long time suppliers.
"In addition, these key procurement people are now based in Brisbane and sometimes forget about smaller companies such as ourselves. We need to focus more on selling our brand and not just rely on our good name and reputation, otherwise you will get left behind.
Danny says RTS are looking to invest more time and money to travel , build and maintain those relationships and are also looking at opportunities where they can diversify.
Finding cost efficiencies
Given the historically low global energy prices at present, the onshore gas operators are requiring greater cost efficiencies from across their supply chains.
Danny says the level of paperwork and administration has grown significantly over recent years but acknowledges that this is part of doing business with the onshore gas industry.
He says, one significant cost factor faced by local suppliers like RTS is in relation to prequalification and regular auditing that is required by each of the major gas operators.
"The onshore gas companies often raise the cost of government regulation on their business, but what about the cost of company regulation on its own suppliers?
"We get audited at least once a month in relation to one company or another and there are even sometimes different requirements from different divisions within an individual gas company.
"These prequalification, audits and inductions cost local suppliers thousands of dollars each year when you take into account the direct and indirect costs including having drivers off the road for up to a week at a time to attend courses.
"We know safety is paramount and that there must be site specific inductions (which are paid for by the companies) but it would help reduce overall compliance costs if they could implement a standard gas industry prequalification and auditing regime," he says.
Looking to the future
Danny says RTS plans to be around for a very long time, continuing to service the onshore gas industry in the Surat Basin.
"It's a case of adapting and changing with the times, the market and the needs of our customer.
"A lot of Roma businesses have made a lot of money over recent years and while the level of industry activity has wound back, there are still long term opportunities for local firms like us.
"A lot of blokes my age got into drilling rigs, engineering and the like and if the oil and gas industry wasn't here they wouldn't have got these jobs and probably would have had to leave town.
"I think Roma is better for the experience and we intend to be around to service this (gas) industry in the years to come," Danny says.
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