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How Ambrose Ovbiebo has transformed a one-vessel company to an emerging marine logistic force

After years of neglect and policy inconsistency that has stagnated the logistic sector, Ambrose Ovbiebo, the CEO of Tamrose Ventures Limited is creating a name and setting the pace from a one vessel company to a leading offshore marine logistics service provider in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.

Nigeria’s oil and gas sector accounts for almost 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings. The country primarily exports crude oil and imports refined petroleum products. However, the transportation processes of both the exported crude oil and the importation of the refined products are largely dominated by major international shipping and maritime companies, a narration Tamrose Ventures Limited under the leadership of Ambrose Ovbiebo is changing.

For more than three decades, Nigerian shipping companies have met a lot of brick walls in their efforts to participate in the nation’s crude oil lifting. In a bid to encourage local ship owners, the Federal Government in 2003 introduced a protectionist legislation aimed at preserving the exclusive right to vessels that are locally built, registered, owned and manned by Nigerians for cabotage trade.

In 2003, Nigeria’s Cabotage Act was passed to summarily make coastal trade the exclusive preserve of indigenous companies. Eventually, the National Content Development Act was also enacted. These were part of deliberate attempts by the government to facilitate the deepening of indigenous participation in the marine logistics in particular and the country’s oil and gas industry in general.

Tamrose Ventures Limited (TVL) was incorporated incidentally in the same year the Cabotage Act was passed, initially to operate as a procurement and engineering services provider to the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry. The company entered the market with a strategy based on three pillars; tonnage age, service delivery culture and organizational structure.

For, Ovbiebo the main reason for setting up Tamrose was to change the indigenous service narrative in the oil and gas industry. Today, Tamrose and a few other indigenous companies are ranked among the top percentile of high performers within the marine spread of various IOCs, an exclusive preserve of multi-nationals like Bourbon and Tide Waters in time past.

Tamrose Ventures Limited under the leadership of Ambrose Ovbiebo looked at the age of the indigenous tonnage, which was averaging above 20 years, and decided to buy a brand-new vessel.   From just one relatively small vessel in 2010, Tamrose has grown organically to a fleet of 12 vessels (including 2 Platform Supply Vessels) in 2019.

“Of our 12 vessels, eight were added in 2019 alone and all are gainfully employed adding value to our customers’ operations. With these new additions, we also had to strengthen our human resources to sustain and even improve on the quality of our services,” Ovbiebo said in an interview with the business year.

Tamrose Ventures Limited looked at the management structure of some of the existing companies and realized that most business owners were actually running lifestyle-oriented businesses with attendant consequences thereafter decided to set up a business with proper structures built to last.

“We looked at the calibre of people in the marine space and how they approached service delivery and decided to do things differently. From day one, we decided to be a customer-centric company that puts customers’ interest and expectations above all else, and we walked our talk,” Ovbiebo said.

There is a funding challenge in Nigeria no doubt. However, Tamrose is leveraging on a recent CBN policy on deposit lending ratio. Recall, the Central Bank of Nigeria raised the Loan to Deposit Ratio of banks to 65 percent, after the September 30 deadline given to the banks to meet its 60 percent directive.

In 2019, with the purchase of eight vessels, Tamrose spent a significant amount of money on assets acquisition. This was made possible by the robust financial support received from its financial partners including Union Bank of Nigeria Plc and the Bank of Industry via the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) intervention fund focused on enhancing indigenous capacity by granting them, single-digit USD-denominated loans.

For Ovbiebo the vision is clear, Tamrose aspires to be the dominant marine logistics service provider in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. With a vision like that, expansion is second nature to the company.

Over the last four to five years, Tamrose have been extremely cautious about how the company grew, primarily because of the slump in oil prices. In the absence of any political crisis as a result of the 2019 elections, Tamrose projected there would be an upswing in industry activities, which is why it undertook an aggressive fleet expansion drive.

“We have been receiving overtures from foreign-based entities, such as private equity firms and fund managers looking to partner with us. The world believes the opportunities and prospects in Nigeria and Africa are fantastic, we are the new frontiers. The funding challenge can be tackled if indigenous players can get their act together; it is only a matter of time,” Ovbiebo said.

Ambrose Ovbiebo’s career spans over 22 years started in the Nigerian Banking sector where he was closely associated with the Oil & Gas industry having played various roles in the energy portfolio of some of the foremost names in the Nigerian banking sector; rising to become the pioneer bank manager in Port Harcourt for one of these banks.

His stint in the Remedial Department also gave him a deep insight into the industry’s pitfalls and participant’s shortcoming all of which have placed him in a vantage position in steering the affairs of Tamrose Ventures Limited.

Ovbiebo’s priority in 2020 is to set the framework and structures to make Tamrose an institution in the oil and gas sector.

“I have taken a look at our industry historically and cannot find any indigenous company that existed 20 years ago in this space. Therefore, 2020 is about laying the foundation to ensure that in 20, 50, or 100 years from now, Tamrose will not only be here but will dominate this space,” Ovbiebo said.

 “In 2020, we also want to take a step back, look at the environment, and decide what to do next. This industry has great potentials and consequences; a single move can impact a company tremendously one way or the other,” Ovbiebo concluded.

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