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Plasser South Africa and Gulfstream Energy: Keeping South Africa’s railway infrastructure in motion

01 October 2014

Gulfstream’s ability to ensure security of supply and deliver quality fuel products to the most remote locations imaginable, enables Plasser South Africa to ensure the smooth and seamless operation of South Africa’s railway transport system.

Plasser South Africa, local partner and agent for Plasser & Theurer (recognised world leader in the design and manufacture of heavy on-track maintenance machinery), is in the business of taking care of South Africa's railway infrastructure. From the manufacture or supply of new machines and spare parts, technical support, major component overhaul and machine refurbishment through to regular maintenance, Plasser South Africa ensures the smooth and seamless operation of our country's railway transport system.

"An essential part of our service business is the maintenance of railway lines across the country," says Deon Hellberg, Financial Director, Plasser South Africa. Operating on three main railway lines; Saldanha – Sishen (OREX), Coallink (Middelburg to Richards Bay) and the main line (freight line) running between Johannesburg and Durban, the team at Plasser South Africa often find themselves in some of South Africa's remotest areas.

"It's a challenging business and one which demands operational efficiencies across all stakeholders and preferred suppliers," says Hellberg. Key to Plasser South Africa's ability to deliver uninterrupted service and maintenance anywhere they are required, is the guaranteed supply and delivery of quality fuel products. "We use on average about 40,000 litres of fuel per month, with each delivery requiring anything from 10,000 – 20,000 litres," continues Hellberg. "In addition, with no fixed depot of our own, the supply of fuel 'on the move' to whatever location we require is critical." But the supply of fuel is a volume based business, with larger players not always able to deliver smaller quantities due to the lack of economic viability.

Plasser South Africa found itself in the position with its previous supplier (an oil major) not able to supply the volumes required (smaller than large industry) to the remote areas in which Plasser South Africa operates. "The consequences of this are huge," continues Hellberg. "Reliable access to fuel is critical to our service delivery, without which we are incapable of meeting service agreements." Delayed deliveries result in problematic downtime, leading to both a loss of productivity and unnecessary costs due to machines and maintenance personnel left idle for days in remote locations. Consequently, Plasser South Africa began researching alternative fuel suppliers.

Gulfstream Energy, supplier of quality and innovative petroleum solutions to a wide range of customers within all market sectors of the South African economy, has been in existence for almost five years. With over 100+ years' experience across the entire petroleum value chain, Gulfstream is known for its excellent supply reliability, fast, flexible and efficient service and a willingness to go the extra mile.

"After discussions with Gulfstream in 2010, we embarked on an initial test run of a few shipments after which it was appointed as our preferred fuel supplier," continues Hellberg. With a diverse supplier network nationwide consisting of 26 depots and refiners, Gulfstream's offering is geared to ensuring security of supply – on time, in full and at the best price possible, which is critical to the smooth running of Plasser South Africa. "In addition, its excellent B-BBEE rating assists us with our own procurement and B-BBEE scorecard, another essential element," says Hellberg.

"We believe in 'making business easy'," says Shane Jegels, Chairman and CEO, Gulfstream Energy. In addition to guaranteed delivery and competitive pricing, Gulfstream is committed to working with each customer in the manner they require. "In the case of Plasser South Africa, we understand that reliable access to fuel is essential to the smooth running of daily operations. To this end, we are committed to doing everything possible to ensure timeous delivery of fuel, thereby avoiding unnecessary downtime and break in productivity."

"We have been with Gulfstream for approximately four years," continues Hellberg. "To date, we have experienced no issues whatsoever coupled with complete transparency across daily operations." Currently delivering approximately 40,000 – 50,000 litres of fuel per month, orders are placed electronically with Gulfstream. "It's seamless and smooth," continues Hellberg. "Prior to delivery, Gulfstream requests GPS co-ordinates to confirm exactly where we require supply, arriving each time on time."

Gulfstream, one of nine companies collectively awarded the R 15.5bn Transnet contract at the end of 2013, is one of the country's larger independent fuel wholesalers. "It's an exciting time for South Africa's fuel industry, with increased opportunities for smaller players able to complement larger oil companies," continues Jegels. "But as an independent wholesaler we are able to engage with each customer on a one-on-one basis, tailoring our offering to suit its individual requirements."

In the case of end user customers, such as Plasser South Africa, in addition to security of supply, competitive pricing, compliance with all HSSE regulations and B-BBEE procurement, Gulfstream provides an all-inclusive service offering specific to the requirements of each customer. This ranges from assistance with infrastructure, equipment and fuel management solutions through to flexibility in terms of logistical requirements and innovative payment options.

"There are definite advantages to dealing with an independent wholesaler, such as the likes of Gulfstream," continues Hellberg. "Unlike bigger corporates, there is very little hierarchy with management involved in daily operational issues. We have a direct line to any member of the team, irrespective of seniority, whenever needed."

"It's a win-win relationship," adds Jegels. "We look forward to working with Plasser South Africa as they service our country's railway infrastructure for many years to come."

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