Sean Bester, General Manager, Giant Transport

MACIG Connect Series

Sean-Bester-BLOGCan you provide a brief overview of the history of Giant Transport in Botswana and highlight a few milestones from the past year?

Sean Bester (SB): Giant Transport was registered in the country in 1999, but the company officially opened in 2003 and has been operating for 11 years. Giant Transport started with one transport load builder (TLB) and one truck, but the company has grown significantly and currently we have over 62 machines. The past year has challenging due to the recession, but fortunately Giant Transport has established a solid reputation as a reliable transport and plant-hire company in Botswana and this has kept us moving forward. There are new coal projects in the country and we are confident that 2015 will be a stronger year for the company. There is a prediction that one of the coalmines opening up has a 200-year life span and will bring a significant amount of work for Giant Transport. The company has a strong relationship with the contracts that it currently holds with the diamond and gold mines in the country.

How fair does Giant Transport’s service reach in Botswana and the region?

SB: Giant Transport has the capacity to service the whole of Botswana. We are currently busy with a pipeline in Palapye and Francistown with some of the gold mines. Giant Transport also works up North towards Pandamatenga, with a sewerage and water drain project. In Maun, the company is working on DML and we have been at Letlhakane, on the diamond mine. Additional projects in Botswana include operations in Jwaneng and Orapa. Giant Transport is registered in Zambia and we are actively seeking projects there for 2015. Giant has ambitious growth targets possibly including the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Can you mention one of the flagship projects that Giant Transport has worked on?

SB: One of Giant Transport’s flagship projects is one of the diamond mines in Letlhakane called Karowe mine. The company has been there for three years now and our machines run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Giant Transport has a robust line of machines and has maintained a strong relationship with our client. Letlhakane is one of the company’s proudest mines and the project has a long life. At the gold mines in Francistown, the company has about 13 machines, 14 machines in Pandamatenga, and 13 machines in Palapye. Giant Transport also has local machines in Gaborone, which service the agricultural industry.

What is the importance of the mining industry for Giant Transport, as opposed to other industries such as construction and agriculture?

SB: The mining industry is our strongest focus given that it is a large contributor to Botswana’s GDP, with diamonds being the main commodity. There is a lot of potential for coal production in Botswana, and Giant Transport is prepared to handle the magnitude of the projects that are coming online. The agricultural sector is also important, and we have heard of big projects coming up in 2015, but at the moment the mining sector is the primary source of revenue for Giant Transport.

Where does Giant Transport source its equipment and how does it select its partners?

SB: Giant Transport’s JCB line ranges from TLB and loadalls to loaders and excavators. Giant Transport is probably JCB’s strongest customer in the country, and we have committed to this product given their high quality and fast lead times. The company has recently stretched out to Caterpillar and Komatsu, the reason being that the JCB range does not cover all the options that we needed. Our star piece of equipment is the company’s 467-loader which is a unique JCB product and it is the only one in Botswana. The machine is fuel efficient, which reduces costs for the customer, and its agility is unrivaled.

Have you found that there is an increase in competition amongst service providers as Botswana’s mining industry continues to grow and what differentiates Giant Transport form its competition?

SB: There is definitely an increase in pressure as a significant amount of competition, especially from the local community, is emerging due to increased market demand. Giant Transport’s differential advantage is our commitment to high-quality service. The company is open seven days a week and is always available for its clients. Client service is the most important aspect of this business, but also one that a significant amount of plant hire companies lack in Botswana. Giant Transport also focuses on having optimal delivery times and ensures that the required equipment reaches our clients in the shortest possible time.

What type of training program does Giant Transport provide for its employees?

SB: Most of the mines in the country will not accept operators who do not have proper qualifications. Our employees often begin with training in Gaborone but when Giant Transport hires them they are expected to learn and improve their skills to get them to the company standard. We have had challenges in terms of companies trying to hire away our operators, because our training program is so thorough. Currently Giant Transport has close to 200 employees, out of which only seven are expatriates.

What is the greatest logistical challenge for Giant Transport operations in the country?

SB: The company transports most of its own equipment to sites across the country and infrastructure is definitely the greatest challenge that Giant Transport faces in Botswana. There are challenges like power lines that run too low and roads that are not wide enough to carry the loads of the equipment being transported. Giant Transport is focused on growth and will find a way to navigate any challenges.

This interview was part of research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2015. To participate in this report, please contact Sharon Saylor at ssaylor@gbreports.com.

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