Boasting numerous iconic projects spread throughout the Company’s history, KBSA Kimbe has emerged on top as a family run specialist covering the full spectrum of PNG’s logistics, retail, building supplies and agribusiness industry
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Tom Cullum
Kimbe Bay Shipping Agencies Ltd (KBSA) has set itself apart from the rest in the industry by providing services to the people through a flexible approach to problem solving. Never more so have they provided such a vital service as when founder Ivan O’Hanlon, sailed on many voyages on one of the companies vessels in which he stopped in some of the most remote places on earth which were predominately lacking in the most basic of services.
The KBSA vessels would be filled with upto 200 tonnes of rice, noodles, sugar, flour and go about the villages trading goods, subsequently returning to Kimbe full of copra and cocoa from remote communities buying their produce and leaving behind very thankful villagers.
“The Company was originally set up by our father Ivan O’Hanlon in the late 60’s, which happened to be around the time that Kimbe Town - capital of the West New Britain Province - was developing as an agricultural centre for palm oil,” explains Len O’Hanlon, Business Development Manager at KBSA Kimbe.
Kimbe town began to develop at a rapid rate - with palm oil growth skyrocketing - KBSA’s founder quickly realised the potential as a support service to supply the agriculture boom, and also the large population that it was attracting.
“We began in the Port of Kimbe, focusing our energies on stevedoring, port services, pilot services, customs and clearance, supporting the palm oil industry in its infancy.”
The business was eventually diversified through the acquisition of copra and cocoa plantations, while also building the town’s first hardware store - making way for KBSA to branch into the wholesale & retail trade in the 70’s, opening the biggest supermarket in Kimbe.
“This enabled us to secure lucrative agency lines, which proved vital in the development of the Company that would go on to become a trusted name associated with providing vital, quality services to the people of West New Britain,” affirms O’Hanlon. “Our Company has since grown outwards into construction, property development, automotive, costal shipping, agribusiness, transport and logistics.”
Fast forward 40 years, the late 2000’s saw one of KBSA ‘s subsidiaries - Kimbe Shipping & Transport Ltd - merge with Steamships Trading Co., forming the joint venture Company - New Britain Shipping Ltd - which currently handles port services, transport and logistics.
Despite big developments within the Company, such as the aforementioned merger, KBSA remains a 100 percent Papua New Guinea (PNG) owned, family-run company. With the retirement of Ivan and Selepa O’Hanlon from their position as Managing Directors, their three sons Ian, Ben and Len now run the Company in PNG, while their son and daughter Tim and Ada run the operations in Brisbane, Australia - including agency, procurement and property management - with all five children working for the close-knit family business.
“We have always chosen to focus on the positive developments occurring in the province, with KBSA giving generously, including grants for educational training and churches; all of which I believe has earned us respect within the public, business community and government agencies.”
Of course alongside all of the Company’s extra activities, it is important to note KBSA’s constant improvements to the quality of its products, building materials and brand agencies. Aiding this is the recent influx of traders and increased competition with cheaper and lower quality imports. Throughout the Company’s long history it has found that brand loyalty is a major player in West New Britain, with the majority of clients repeatedly returning to KBSA due to its demand for quality products and service delivery that it is able to provide.
Pushing the boundaries
In terms of moving the Company forwards, KBSA has many projects both in process and in the pipe line which are pushing the boundaries of its work up to this point.
“We are beginning to push out to remote communities with our agribusiness, and our major plans involve providing copra suppliers with copra drying mills, with hopes to increase the quality and supply of the copra produced,” O’Hanlon describes. “In support of this, investment into road and sea transport to enable the collection of agricultural produce is underway to develop an extensive delivery network.”
Another exciting project currently being undertaken is hoped to address a major challenge currently posed to companies doing business in PNG, of inconsistent supply of electricity; it had become one of the largest expenses for the Company with the constant upkeep and usage of a generator supply.
O’Hanlon affirms: “In order to solve this issue, we have recently completed a feasibility study to go green, utilising a significant investment into producing solar electricity for our newly built Hardware and Homecentre, with the exciting potential to roll-out solar energy across other commercial and residential sites.”
Alongside the exciting infrastructural developments, KBSA is entering phase two of building an industrial complex, with plans underway to develop a modern state-of-the-art commercial office block; all new developments are being constructed in order to cater for Kimbe’s growing rental market, adding to KBSA’s property portfolio.
“As well as our larger scale projects, the expansion and renovations of the existing Hardware and newly built Homecentre was completed in 2016,” O’Hanlon expands. “Excitingly we also have further expansions and refurbishments planned in other areas of the business, including the automotive sales and service centre and our supermarket and department store in the heart of Kimbe Town.”
The company’s investments are not only confined to West New Britain – with exciting ventures currently taking place in Australia and China - being strategic locations, in close proximity to agents and suppliers in a move to expand into further markets.
Excelling in facility development
In a family-run company such as KBSA, it is important to hire long-term and experienced staff, with a large proportion of the current employee base having been with the Company for many years - adding both experience and enhancing knowledge within the team.
“We pride ourselves on providing on-the-job training for students from our local technical colleges, in the fields of carpentry, electrical, auto-mechanic and auto-electrical,” affirms O’Hanlon. “Currently the Company is very lucky to have particularly experienced staff from PNG, Australia, South Africa and the Philippines, and are currently in the process of hiring more managers in order to expand various areas of the business.”
It has to be said that PNG can prove to be a difficult workplace, with security concerns being paramount and the work-life balance proving to be an ever-increasingly important aspect to aid the Company in attracting and retaining key staff.
O’Hanlon adds: “As we are fortunate to live in the tropics we have an abundance of opportunities to strike this work-life balance, with access to excellent diving, fishing, golf and social clubs, we have found this encourages our employees in participation of local sport clubs and social events that are held by the community.”
Similarly, the Company’s approach to procurement is very much sticking with the basis of ‘doing it themselves’, having developed excellent facilities in order to procure and consolidate containers in Australia and China - KBSA’s two largest import markets.
“Our Operational efficiencies stem from our in-house ordering team, we have long-term strong relationships with our suppliers with that have set up lucrative national agency lines within the automotive, hardware, and retail industries,” O’Hanlon elaborates.” For our local procurement we also work with major suppliers in Lae and Port Moresby, with efficient weekly shipping schedules to Kimbe and other ports in PNG allowing us to supply ‘pick & pack’ containers for major projects across the country.”
Looking forward, with such an array of exciting new projects either in action or on the horizon, it looks to be an incredibly exciting time for KBSA Kimbe; particularly with its hopes to increase its agribusiness, providing better services to remote communities - a mission that Ivan O’Hanlon began in the 1960’s.
“We are optimistic and excited for the future, new business development is always an exciting area and we are always looking for new opportunities to venture into,” concludes O’Hanlon. “We’re diversified enough as a company to adapt to the ever changing environment that is PNG, and I am particularly looking forward to seeing how we develop and adapt in the years to come.”