Pentagon Freight Services is a complete logistics provider for the oil and gas and energy sector. The global company has 68 offices in over 30 countries, and through their placement, it has been careful to ensure itself a presence in all the key regions for the industry. This strategy can be seen in the locations it has chosen for its main operational hubs: Scotland, the USA (Texas), Canada, Norway, Singapore, Dubai and Australia.
We spoke with Gordon Shand, the Regional Director for Pentagon Middle East. It goes without saying that this region is particularly significant for the oil and gas segment, so we were keen to hear about Pentagon’s Dubai location, which is based in the port town of Jebel Ali, in the Jebel Ali Free Zone:
“Our core business in our Jebel Ali facility is OCTG storage and distribution where we handle over 30,000 tonnes of pipe. As well as handling multi modal shipments, our key strengths lie in Project and Charter shipments, where we have handled many movements for several key customers. Notable achievements include more than 50 land rig movements in the last 10 years.”
It is the company’s goal to, unsurprisingly, become known as the “best-in-class freight forwarding and logistics service provider to the energy & resource industries.” In a region where oil and gas still play a heavy role in the economy, the industries that support this enterprise are set to flourish, but that means that competition is high. The company aims to set itself apart through its wide offering of services, as well as its wide-reaching presence in every region of note for the industry (a reach that the company is still growing). However, within the Middle East itself, it also aims to compete with, as the company describes it, “a depth of capability that takes our work beyond the conventional: encompassing training, guidance, consultancy services and complementary support for extra added value.”
So, what services does the company offer? The company identifies its core areas of expertise as global forwarding, project logistics, material management, consultancy services and technology, the latter referring to its global IT system that allows for easy communication between its hubs and the clear, accurate management of logistics that is essential in any shipping company. Between these services, Pentagon describes itself as the “full package”. As Gordon told us, “Pentagon is the largest privately-owned freight forwarder for the oil and gas industry. We consistently try to set ourselves apart from our competitors, and in our efforts to do so, we continuously work on improving our services and raising our standards.”
Despite the competition, though, Gordon and Pentagon are confident about the future. “Each industry has its own challenges, but despite the current headwinds and associated risks there are also huge opportunities. The world’s dependence on oil and gas is increasing as global economies and infrastructure continue to rely heavily on petroleum-based products, so industry forecasts do predict a positive longer-term outlook for the sector. Regionally, billion dollars of projects are planned across the Middle East. The UAE recently made significant discoveries of gas in Dubai and Sharjah. The natural gas discoveries itself will stimulate various projects; this sector will see a huge investment drive over the coming years.”
Gordon speaks about these opportunities with passion. The company’s intended growth within the sector is his responsibility to oversee and bring to pass, but his optimism is strong. In part, that is his faith in the continuing strength of the industry, but it is also a reflection of his faith in Pentagon. He has been the company’s Regional Director for the Middle East since April 2017. He has been with the company since 2000, having joined in the same year as the birth of his first child. “That year was a defining year for me, from a personal and professional perspective.” Originally based in Aberdeen, in 2004, Gordon was given the opportunity to move to Dubai: “That was the start of an incredible journey for me and my family. I was promoted to the position of General Manager in 2010, and in 2017 our founder in Dubai, Paul Hayward, retired, and I was given the chance to carry on his legacy and the responsibility of ensuring continued growth for Pentagon in the region.”
“I am now in my 20th year with Pentagon and still have the same passion and drive I had on that first day back in October 2000.”
Loving your job is a key ingredient for success, and it is a passion that the company seeks to inspire in all its workforce, which currently totals over 1000 members of staff globally. “Investing in talent is vital to sustainable business growth, as well as building a healthy and happy workplace. We pride ourselves on our strong supportive family atmosphere in our workplace culture.” As a logistics company, Pentagon make sure to have a close relationship with its customers and to listen closely to their needs, responding to them to make sure it always offers the very best service it can. “Our customers are our main partners; they influence every aspect of our business and are the foundation of our organisation’s success.” However, it tries to be just as respectful of and to pay just as much attention to its employees. Internal training programmes and promotion opportunities are geared towards elevating staff, to reach the best of their potential and to reward their work ethic with progression within the company. Like any wise company, it knows to offer these opportunities so that talent within its team is nurtured, utilised and, importantly, kept, rather than losing good team members to pastures new:
“Regarding succession plans, we prioritise internal mobility to build talent and increase retention, as we want people to come to our company and build their careers within the organisation. We have a lot of leaders, including myself, that started in junior positions and scaled up through the ranks, and this can be inspirational for other employees to develop their skills and map out their own career.”
Of course, the company does bring in external personnel when it is needed, and this can be beneficial too by shaking up the current perspective, but it doesn’t rely on this for fresh ideas. Instead, it attempts to foster the passion and drive in its teams needed to keep fresh ideas coming. As Gordon put it, “I envision a vibrant future for what tomorrow should look like for the team and the organisation and enlist the vision of my staff to shape the dream together.” This opportunity to feel involved, and to have one’s ideas truly listened to, inspires staff to think creatively and give 100% – they care because they know their bosses care about them. “I empower my staff and trust their decision making to work towards our vision, making sure to equip them with the right tools, technology, trainings and coaching to allow them to succeed. I also continue to work on developing the leader within me as I believe my staff can grow as much as I can.”
Gordon’s attitude is energising just to hear about, and his drive is certainly taking the company places: Pentagon has recently made a large investment in its Dubai branch through which it aims to bring more business to the region: based within the current Jebel Ali facility, it has opened an entirely new entity called Pentagon Oilfield Services. Pentagon aims to bring more business to the area through this entity by using it to act as a trading partner on behalf of companies that don’t have a legal entity in the UAE, thus allowing them to stock and distribute oilfield equipment in the region without the vast upfront expense and legal complications of setting up a presence there themselves. Pentagon Oilfield Services will also offer a range of value-added services for the oil and gas industry, including receiving, rack in/rack out handling, storage, inspection, coating and distribution of OCTG.
Whilst this new investment gets itself moving, the rest of Pentagon isn’t standing still. On the contrary, it is pushing to expand – an expansion that was entrusted to Gordon on Pentagon Dubai founder Paul Hayward’s retirement. He is taking the continuation of this legacy seriously, with plans in motion to open a Pentagon presence in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2020, as well as plans to expand the company’s existing services in areas like Oman. Between these expansions, the new company, and the UAE’s recent gas discoveries, the future looks fruitful for Pentagon, and the team has the energy and attitude needed to honour – and perhaps exceed – its patrimony.