The Australian Pipeliner recently met with AJ Lucas executive director Andy Lukas to discuss his term as president of IPLOCA. In this interview Andy talks about the challenges IPLOCA faces for the future, how the Australian pipeline industry is viewed on the world stage and future trends of the international pipeline industry.
Andy Lukas has been a director of AJ Lucas for 12 years, after first joining his father in the Lucas business in 1975 as a project manager, and becoming general manager in 1977. Andy is currently an executive committee member and past president of APIA and in 2006 was elected president of IPLOCA.
In talking about his time as IPLOCA president, Andy says it has been a very interesting experience because it has enabled him to mix with the contractors who lead the world in significant and complex onshore and offshore pipelines. “The scale of their operations in terms of cash flow, resource requirements, and people is boggling. One contractor has 200,000 people on one LNG site in the Middle East – the size of the LNG plant is daunting.”
Andy notes the significant appetite within IPLOCA for the association to have more stature and produce more real deliverables for its members. A challenge to this goal has been the lack of continuity of board members and influence of those who have much to give the committee. However, Andy sees IPLOCA as making good progress in giving more continuity to the board by introducing more directors-at-large and by populating committees with representatives of interested companies rather than populating the committees only with board members.
In the future Andy says that IPLOCA may have to re-establish the core leadership that existed with the founding members. He sees this leadership as being diluted by the board representation rotating through the associations membership. While this inclusive nature is beneficial in some respects, the core leadership “needs to be resurrected in some form for IPLOCA to deliver improved value. IPLOCA is looking at various models, including the interesting IMCA model, for ideas,” says Andy.
He points to APIA as having that valuable central core leadership, saying that IPLOCA can learn from that. “Communication with the membership and others is very well managed and promoted at APIA and IPLOCA can learn from that also. IPLOCA can also learn from APIAs well managed and well supported committee system as well as the unique success that APIA has achieved in bringing together the owners, contractors, engineers, and suppliers.”
Andy says “It has been very satisfying to be able to take some of APIA’s approach to IPLOCA and realize that Australia leads the world in so much, even though we may not have the size of projects happening elsewhere.”
In saying that IPLOCA can learn from APIA, Andy also comments that APIA could do well to take note of IPLOCAs exposure on the world stage and convention flair.
Under Andy’s presidency, the IPLOCA convention was held in Australia for the first time and Andy says it was the best IPLOCA convention he had ever attended in terms of organisation, presentations and bonhomie. He says many of the IPLOCA delegates who had not been to Australia before were amazed at the diversity of Sydney and its physical beauty.
Aside from Australia’s beauty being acknowledged by IPLOCA delegates, Andy says “The Australian pipeline industry is seen as together, technically competent, and well organised but in world terms, we are laying only spaghetti pipelines.
“The global pipeline industry is very diverse. There are centres of excellence and also mediocrity. I think that we are generally well organised and lead the world in many technical issues and are ready to embrace change including contracting strategies. However, as I said earlier, we are building only “˜spaghetti’ pipelines and are not challenged compared to some of the “˜big inch’ projects in very hostile environments (physical and political).”
Andy says that many Australian companies have been very successful internationally and there are many opportunities for specialist suppliers and subcontractors. He warns that contracts tend to be less fair for subcontractors and great care is needed.
“The pipeline industry is growing everywhere and the opportunities on smaller projects is reducing. The large projects are very demanding in terms of money and also organisational depth, making these difficult targets for Australian companies. The bottom line is that there are opportunities everywhere and we have something special to offer.”
On the key trends developing internationally and in Australia, Andy outlines the acute shortage of skills including engineers, managers, and field personnel at all levels.
“There is also a world wide concern amongst the major pipeline owners of the need for suitable project delivery strategies – owners of major projects need their projects delivered on time and within budget and at the end of the day, that is all that matters.”
Andy sees this concern as leading a trend towards healthier and more flexible relationships amongst contracting parties with some contractors questioning whether the governance issues with which they are saddled are producing any real value. He says “this trend is a big opportunity for IPLOCA to be helpful.”
When asked what advice Andy had for incoming IPLOCA president, Heerema managing director John Reed, Andy was all praise. “He has been Vice President during my term and we have worked closely together developing ideas for the future. So, there was not really any advice to give. John is a fantastically competent chief executive running one of the world’s major offshore contractors and his interest in IPLOCA is a big prize for the association.”