For many Gulf Coast businesses, a contract with a multi-national, energy company is the ultimate goal. That’s because it affords them opportunity to showcase the capacity and capabilities that set them apart from the rest of the “small business pack.”
That was certainly true for Lee Jackson, owner of Jackson Marine, a lifelong mariner, who purchased his own boat in 2005. By working for small, independent oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico, Jackson quickly demonstrated that he had the capabilities to work for an International Oil Company (IOC). Within two years, Jackson landed his first major contract with Royal Dutch Shell in Louisiana, working in the Gulf of Mexico. Jackson still marvels at the opportunities that getting that first contract with Shell opened up for him.
“The lasting effect, other than getting a chance to show what a great team I had built, was to live Shell’s safety culture,” Jackson said, continuing, “Safety is the top priority and its importance comes from the very top of the company and is cascaded and practiced throughout this multi-national organization. Having safety as Goal One is key to anyone’s success with Shell.”
But in 2014, the oil price plummeted, hitting the IOCs hard — and their contractors even harder. Work slowed down significantly, and contracts were terminated or not renewed, including Jackson’s.
Despite the economic downturn, Jackson managed to keep his ships sailing, servicing other oil and gas companies during this time, but he always kept his eyes and ears opened for an opportunity to work with Shell again. In constant communication with Shell’s Supplier Diversity team and other Shell contacts, Jackson bided his time. He understood the challenges facing large oil and gas companies as they have tried to make good business decisions, while also making sure minority contractors had a fair shot at working with Shell.
James Harrap, Business Advisor to the Executive Vice President of Deepwater, clarified those challenges: “Awarding a contract to a smaller, minority contractor is difficult in the Marine space. Not because the contractors are not capable of doing the work, but because the larger contractors competing for the same opportunities often have an advantage that comes with size; they can work on economies of scale. Sometimes we advise smaller companies to work as second tier to one of our primary contractors in order to get the experience and the recognition for their capabilities. From an operational standpoint, Jackson Offshore has proven itself to be capable, competent, safe and a reliable business partner. Plus, they are willing to be transparent about what their pricing challenges were and willing to be creative and trust Shell.”
In 2017, after years of patience, Lee Jackson’s was given another opportunity to work for Shell. According to Patrick English, Shell General Manager, Planning and Logistics, “We had worked with Jackson in the past with small boats. The contract we were looking to let was for a large, high-capacity vessel. Lee saw the opportunity to work for Shell again, and then he went about getting the right financing in place to build the size boat we needed. Shell helped Lee with this quest by working with him while he secured funding and built a boat with the size and capabilities specified in the bid contract. We helped Lee in his efforts…but we didn’t give him that contract; he earned it.” English continued, “Shell is committed to supporting diverse and women-owned businesses but, more important is that we brought on a good company with a very strong team. Working with a smaller, minority owned business and helping develop them is a good thing for Shell, the contractor and the entire community. We live here with our families and we want these contractors and these communities to thrive.”
Donovan Casanave, Shell Supplier Diversity/Diversity Outreach, is proud that companies such as Jackson’s are working with Shell. “As a part of our inclusive culture, Shell has made huge strides to ensure that unique suppliers are visible and exposed to our internal supply chain. Lee Jackson of Jackson Offshore was always visible in the marketplace and ready to show how his company was evolving, creating value and primed for the right opportunity. His perseverance and solution-focused approach resonated with our business leaders,” he said.
Jackson is equally proud of his company’s association with Shell as well as other energy companies: “We have come to the place where – for these supermajors – employee and contractor safety is more important than getting the oil out of the ground. That is a huge shift in attitude,” Jackson said. “And I’m proud to be a part of that delivery team that is focusing on a zero-incident culture as I provide a service that Shell needs.”
Richard Tallant, Shell Vice President Production, Gulf of Mexico said, “We are extremely happy with Jackson Offshore’s performance. Lee Jackson showed the kind of resilience a small company needs when they are up against giant competitors who have the resources to build their own boats to our specifications. They have to be competitive. The figures have to add up. They may need a little support in the beginning, but in the long run it is good for the community, good for the industry and good for Shell to work with minority contractors to help them build capacity and become competitive.”
For more information about diverse suppliers ready to do business with Shell, please visit www.shell.us/getconnected.