By DAMARIS MINIKULA
Two brothers, one opportunity.
An opportunity they seized to venture into an area of business that is crucial to the growing energy sector market but one that very few Papua New Guineans have ever attempted.
Their story has an air of improbability – the sons of a humble gardener from Ialibu, Southern Highlands.
Their father kept the flower gardens of Brian Hagney, a former Australian patrol officer-turned businessman neat and tidy in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands. He later trained to roast and pack tea and ground coffee in Brian’s small scale coffee mill so that his sons could get the education he never had.
Fast forward to the next generation, older brother Francis Kunuma is a civil engineer and his brother Patrick is a mechanical engineer.
Together, they own Nares Engineering Limited – a business that specialises in equipment inspection and non-destructive testing (NDT) services.
‘Nare’ is their grandfather’s name and means ‘sun’ in their Kewabi language of Ialibu.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants are large, complex and technically sophisticated. And NLG plant is an environment where safety, environmental sustainability and regulatory compliance are prioritised along with security and operating efficiently.
Keeping equipment downtime to a minimum is a priority and so ExxonMobil PNG counts on non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies and equipment for regular testing of components and systems, routine mechanical checks and preventative maintenance that help prevent unscheduled downtime.
Nares Engineering made its debut in 2008 with Francis as managing director and Patrick as non-destructive evaluation (NDE) manager.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of any economy but risks are inherent, budgets can be tight and challenges abound. Like any SME, and being a relative newbie in the inspection and non-destructive testing world, Nares Engineering is not immune to challenges.
“Our business is fairly young and meeting our clients’ expectations while competing with major inspection and NDT service providers from overseas, who have been in the industry for decades and have established their setup in PNG, is a huge challenge.
“Our biggest challenge is the training and up-skilling of our staff to keep up with changes in inspection and NDT technology. We have to send them overseas because training in this field is not provided locally,” said Francis.
Nares Engineering currently employs 13 staff who are all Papua New Guinean.
From 2012, Nares Engineering has provided inspection and NDT services to PNG LNG.
In the beginning it was as sub-contractor during construction of the LNG plant and the drilling stage at Hides and now as a primary contractor, providing NDT services at the LNG plant.
Another team from Nares Engineering will begin work in Hides soon.
An important attribute of the partnership between Nares Engineering and ExxonMobil PNG has been the strong collaboration between engineers from both organisations to help Nares Engineering enhance its existing inspection practices towards world-class standards that ExxonMobil applies across its global production operations.
Recently, Nares Engineering won the 2017 overall Best Performing SME at the bi-annual SME Leadership Awards, hosted by the Institute of Banking and Business Management (IBBM) Enterprise Centre.
The firm also won the category award for Business Management.
“It is the first time Nares Engineering has received recognition awards and that was a great feeling after years of sacrifice and hard work. With guidance from the IBBM Enterprise Centre, we also developed a business management system that meets the required international standard which enables us to provide services to large international companies,” said Francis.
Established in 2010 in partnership with ExxonMobil PNG, the role of IBBM Enterprise Centre is to help build the capacity of local businesses in Papua New Guinea.
“Our continued support for the PNG Institute of Banking and Business Management Enterprise Centre (IBBM) continues to provide training opportunities for a large range of local businesses,” said ExxonMobil PNG Managing Director Andrew Barry.
“The enterprise centre has been instrumental in helping Papua New Guinean businesses and landowner companies build long-term sustainable businesses supporting PNG LNG.”
Primary functions of the enterprise centre include business training, business advisory, mentoring and coaching, SME leadership awards, PNG employment and supplier database and project information centre.
- Damaris Minikula is Media and Communications Advisor at ExxonMobil PNG Ltd.