Interview with Piedroba: Offering More Business-Driven Solutions

Piedroba’s Jelle Prins and Luis Prieto y Munoz

Piedroba Consulting Group (PCG), a Miami-based marine infrastructure consultancy firm specializing in project risk management, has continued to grow in 2018.

Dredging Today recently caught up with Piedroba partners, Jelle Prins and Luis Prieto y Munoz, to review their 2018 and discuss Piedroba’s projections for 2019.

DT: What notable changes did you experience in 2018?

PCG (J. Prins): We have seen the emergence of an extremely competitive dredging market with most of the international dredging contractors showing over-capacity. This has changed the way contractors approach their business development and the breadth of solutions, and by extension value they offer our clients.

We have found contractors far more interested in participating and committing to a project’s regulatory approval process and concept development through offering their expertise and resources. Furthermore, they are mindful of our client’s financial needs, and have shown a willingness to offer financial resources, which has in turn lead to more buildable projects.

This shift has afforded us the opportunity to offer more business-driven solutions to our clients and move away from the more traditional models. Return on investment and cash flow are driving the schedule and design, rather than the other way around.

We see more lean construction in dredging: competition of ideas, life-cycle and financing cost versus competing on pure dredging costs, parallel design and construction processes versus sequential.

DT: How has this changed approach impacted regulatory issues?

PCG (L. Prieto y Munoz): Having the contractors participate in a more active way through the regulatory process has added a new dimension to the pursuit of those approvals.

The historic project process, client driven concept, engineer driven design, and contractor driven execution, has been supplanted by a more partner-driven conceptual phase. Having this approach allows for the project concept to incorporate further technical variables, ultimately streamlining the regulatory approval.

This transition is most felt on the environmental side of regulatory issues. Having access to the contractor’s resources in pursuing approvals has been hugely helpful, and their participation has allowed us to alter concepts and approaches mindful of the potential cost impact of different project iterations.

This approach has the further benefit of permitting greater risk apportionment to the contractor through this early involvement. Historically, we have seen regulatory risk as a major, difficult to mitigate burden on project owners and this approach has had a significant impact in its abatement.

DT: How will these new developments impact PCG in 2019?

PCG (L. Prieto y Munoz): Our general corporate approach has shifted heavily toward longer-term engagements. From our founding, we have sought to actively participate in all the critical project phases, most relevantly in the early, conceptual ones as that is where we can most effectively impact a project, and more and more we are entering projects at this stage.

Indeed, one of our major initiatives has been advocating for the development of detailed maintenance dredging protocols for those clients that have long-term dredge needs.

The idea of the protocol is to treat a dredge need in the same manner as any other preventative maintenance and prepare for the project event well in advance of its need. We are in the process of completing the first of these protocols and expect to produce several more over the next year.

We have also become far more involved in the ancillary components of marine infrastructure.

The integrated project approach we discussed earlier has necessitated the combination of project elements and the treatment of these larger infrastructure projects in a more multi-disciplinary manner. We see this, and the greater contractor participation in the business elements of the project development, like taking debt or equity positions in the project, driving many of the mid-sized project toward turn-key approaches.

As the industry becomes more comfortable and familiar with this project approach, we expect to use our familiarity and comfort with these formats on many other projects.

DT: We see a lot of activity in the cruise market. What’s PCG’s role here?

PCG (J. Prins): The cruise market is as active as ever for us. The cruise lines are doing well, and they’re expanding their fleets enormously.

Those new ships will need berthing and as a result we have seen many cruise-oriented port developments either by the cruise lines themselves, through expanding existing facilities, or new developments initiated by external parties. We have been fortunate are thankful to be involved in all three aspects cruise destination development, either working for cruise lines themselves or for their partners.

We have learned that cruise lines are driven by their ability to offer great experiences for their passengers, and how the individual destinations rate is of great importance to them. Our project risk management services are geared towards creating such favorable experiences through the successful project delivery of destination developments.

Dredging is often a predominant element of the overall construction, and as consultants this has allowed us to take the lead where the project fit makes sense and offer selected support on others.

DT: PCG is known for the educational services they offer in addition to their consultancy services. What can you tell us about your dredging classes?

PCG (J. Prins): Our dredging classes are key for us. We couldn’t be more pleased with our partnership with the Inter-American Committee of Ports (CIP) of the Organization of American States (OAS). CIP’s Secretary Jorge Duran is doing a great job of offering opportunities in countries where the need for dredging expertise is high.

Our courses have focused on affording high level government officials, port authorities, private terminal operators, and legal professionals a better understanding of dredging projects and project management.

With little to no dredging education available throughout the Americas and limited access to dredging know-how, government officials, port authorities, private terminal operators, and others welcome the training we’ve offered.

We typically offer an executive seminar that spans a day and a half, but this year the Autoridad Maritima de Panama (AMP) requested a weeklong bespoke seminar, which we delivered in April. This format allowed us to cover all the necessary topics. Participants received credit and a diploma for completing a 36-hour training course.

More recently, we were invited by Argentina’s Transportation Secretary to host our next seminar this upcoming April in Buenos Aires.