Helideck Certification Agency Cleared for Take-Off on UAE Expansion

Helideck Certification Agency Cleared for Take-Off on UAE Expansion


If there’s one thing that any successful entrepreneur displays as a personality trait, it’s tenacity; the ability to remain focused and show determination even when obstacles are placed in their way.

But even the most successful of business people can have their resolve pushed to the limit when faced with endless red tape and bureaucratic brick walls.

Helideck Certification Agency (HCA) discovered just how protracted the process of expanding into the Middle East can be when setting up a new joint venture in the United Arab Emirates.

“I can honestly say that we would not be where we are today without the help of the HFI team,” said HCA chief executive officer Alex Knight.

“More than a year on from signing the contracts to establish a new venture in the UAE and we are still on the learning curve of understanding regional nuances. We continue to lean on Hugh Fraser and his colleagues – we’d be lost without them.”

From a base in Aberdeen, HCA had over many years developed a unique business proposition, being responsible for the inspection and certification of offshore helidecks in UK waters.

Just like many other firms in the oil and gas sector, HCA had to go back to the drawing board with its business plan when offshore production slumped in 2013.

Alex knew that the answer was relatively simple: if the oil rigs were not in the North Sea, HCA would have to find where the structures were and set up a new international base.

The firm held discussions with Abu Dhabi national oil company ADNOC about emerging opportunities in the region – but Alex admits they had no idea where to begin in a territory known to be challenging for international start-ups.

One of the first steps that Alex took was to appoint HFI to support the legal process and to advise on business development. Almost immediately, HFI used their local connections to identify a suitable local partner – Al Yaseah Group.

Alex said: “From the word go, the message we got from Hugh was that selecting the right local partner would be critical to our success. He stressed to us the importance of local knowledge, along with the partner’s market connectivity, support with legal compliance and so on.

“We’d previously been introduced to potential partners, but always came away from them feeling cold. It wasn’t like that at all with Al Yaseah Group: Hugh got the match just right and it was down to his local knowledge and network.

“Once the agreements were signed, we thought it would be plain sailing, but we continued to come up against one roadblock after another. Who would have thought, for example, that setting up a bank account would take over a year?

“As our company lawyer is listed as our company secretary, the bank wanted to have copies of passports and utility bills for all of the legal firm’s partners as part of its due diligence. We were really taken aback by that, but as ever, HFI assured us that it was normal and dealt with it for us.

“During the registration of the company name, the registry office felt that our name didn’t adequately reflect our scope of work and wanted to change it; fortunately Hugh’s team were on hand to help explain, in legal terms, that most of our clients refer to us by our initials and any change in name may give the impression they were dealing with a different company. This is just another example of how HFI were able to help and guide us through the local customs and practices.

“Having someone like Hugh in our corner has made such a difference. Without HFI, we would have gone nowhere fast and there’s every chance we would have reached a point where we may have thought the best thing to do was to simply walk away.

“As it happens, we are now tentatively considering further expansion into Asia. We know that HFI also has expert knowledge of this region so should a move ever happen, HFI will be a trusted partner to see it through.”