Featured Company – Emirates Sembcorp Water & Power Company

Located in Qidfa in the Emirate of Fujairah is the massive Fujairah F1 Independent Water and Power Plant (F1IWPP). With a power capacity of 893 megawatts and a seawater desalination capacity of 130 million imperial gallons per day, the F1IWPP is one of the world’s largest operating hybrid desalination plants in the world. The hybrid seawater desalination plant employs a combination of Multi-stage Flash and Reverse Osmosis (RO) technologies.

Owned and operated by Emirates Sembcorp Water & Power Company, a joint venture that is 60% owned by The Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA), and 40% by Sembcorp, the F1IWPP holds a strong track record of high plant reliability and performance. The Operation and Maintenance of the plant is carried out by Sembcorp Gulf O&M company which is 100% owned by Sembcorp Industries

Helming the plant is Bernard Hon, Executive Managing Director for Emirates Sembcorp Water and Power Company and General Manager of the Sembcorp Gulf O&M Company. We speak with him in an interview to discover the presence and history of Sembcorp in UAE, the opportunities he sees in the region and the challenges that were overcome to operate the plant in the UAE.

Bernard, could you provide us with a short history of Sembcorp’s business in UAE?  

BH: Sembcorp took over the F1IWPP in September 2006 through a competitive bidding by ADWEA that began in July 2005 which involved other global utilities players companies. The F1IWPP was the sixth power and water project in the UAE to be privatised by ADWEA. At that point of acquisition, the F1IWWP had a net generation capacity of 535 megawatts and desalination capacity of 100 MIGD, equivalent to roughly a third of Singapore’s water demand a day.

The acquisition was a major milestone for Sembcorp. It was our first power and water investment in the Middle East as well as our largest utilities investment overseas at that point. It also gained us entry into the booming economies in the UAE and enabled us to start a base from which to grow our integrated utilities business in Abu Dhabi and the Gulf region

After acquiring the plant, Emirates Sembcorp has successfully increased the power capacity of the plant by more than 60%, from the initial 535 MW to the current 893 MW. RO expansion was also completed increasing the water capacity by 30%, from 100 MIGD to 130 MIGD.

What is the core business for Sembcorp in UAE?

BH: Our core business is in the production of power and desalinated potable water for sale to our sole customer, Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Company (ADWEC), and to meet the utilities demands of the UAE. We keep the power and water units fully available and operate them as per the load requirement by ADWEC / Transco.

What is the range of Sembcorp’s portfolio and services in the MENA region?

BH: Sembcorp owns power and water plants in Fujairah, UAE and also in Salalah, Oman. In Fujairah, the F1IWPP produces power and water for the Abu Dhabi Emirate and also the Northern Emirates in UAE. In Dhofar, Sembcorp owns the Salalah IWPP which also produce water and power for the region and is also the exclusive commercialised large scale potable water production facility in this region.

What are the challenges for Sembcorp in establishing its base and how did Sembcorp overcome them to remain competitive and relevant in this region?

BH: Sembcorp has lot of experience operating the utility plants and has plants located in many countries and that gave us a good stead in managing the challenges that came our way. Our initial challenges were to establish a good team and to manage cost. To overcome these challenges, key staff who had vast experience in plant operation and maintenance were seconded from Singapore. Currently, we are recruiting and training the Emiratis to take over the technical positions in operation and maintenance. We have been quite successful in this aspect as we now have almost 33% Emirati staffs and have a target to increase it to 60% in next 9-10 years.

What are the operational / business goals in the next 5 years?

BH: We have a long term contract with ADWEA till 2029 and that will likely get extended till 2035. The key objective is to ensure high plant availability and reliability which is also the revenue driver. Hence, our long term goal to maintain high plant availability, reliability and performance.

What are the challenges Sembcorp faces in the UAE in the next 5 years? What is your strategy to overcome them?

BH: The key challenge is to train up a pool of Emiratis staff to handle day-to-day operation and maintenance of the plant. Our strategy is to recruit them straight from the universities and develop a comprehensive career development plan to nurture and groom them to take over key positions within the plant.

What is the scale of the operation, in terms of staff, scale of facility, scale of investment, scale of output and etc.?

BH: The investment is approximately USD1.7 billion. The power and water generation account for around 5% and 11% of total Abu Dhabi production. We have seven power generating units exporting 760MW. The water units include 5 MSF units & 2 SWRO plants with total capacity of 130 MiGD. We have a total of 140 staff of different nationalities.

What are F1’s CSR activities in the region?

We have participated in charity events organised by the Fujairah Municipality. We also organise the cleaning and reconstruction of nearby villages.

How do you unwind in Fujairah?

I try to exercise regularly during my free time and visit surrounding tourist attractions. We regularly drive to Dubai during the weekend for meals and window shopping.

What do you miss most about Singapore?

The greenery and local food.

Featured Company – Certis Group

Beginning in 1958 as the Guard and Escort Unit under the Singapore Police Force, the Certis Group today is Singapore’s most well established and leading security organisation which offers a comprehensive range of services from Auxiliary Police Force, to a “one-stop solution” for a full range of physical, IT & data security services.  It maintains a strong presence in the aviation security service having been given a renewed Master Security Service Contract for another 5 years with effect from 2018 with the Changi Airport Group.  Certis CISCO Aviation Security was named CAG’s Service Partner of the Year at the Annual Airport Celebrations in 2014 and 2015.

Globally, the group has operations across many countries employing over 34,000 people including 22,000 in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Certis Group: Middle East Operations

The Certis Group’s security operations in the Middle East are built on a solid foundation of tested and proven experience in the security guarding business as well as the design, implementation and maintenance of security systems.

With a security staff strength of  close to 4,200 security personnel representing Certis Dubai, Certis Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; and Group Security System – Certis International in Qatar, the Certis Group has been delivering top-notch security services in key industries such as hotels, international schools, hospitals, airports and many commercial, residential and retail developments.

The Certis Group’s first venture in Middle East began in 2006 when it set up Certis Guarding Services LLC followed by Group Security System Certis International (GSS Certis International) in 2013 in Qatar to cater to the growing demand for security services in the Middle East. Both companies have achieved stellar track records since then.

United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi)

Incorporated in 2006, our UAE operations were established in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  Guard strength grew from 40 security officers to the current 1,500.

Key assignments include guarding services for Transco for their power generation installations in Abu Dhabi and Northern Emirates, Al Futtaim Group for their chain of Carrefour supermarkets and hypermarkets, and Landmark Group in UAE.  On technology services, we were awarded the system design, implementation and maintenance by Al Shaya Group in UAE in 2016. Certis Guarding Services LLC has also been the key security provider for the Annual New Year Eve Countdown at Burj Khalifa since 2012, deploying up to 350 security officers.


GSS Certis International started operations in 2013, growing from 300 to 2,650 security officers in a span of 5 years. GSS Certis International was engaged by then Doha International Airport to provide over 500 security staff for Aviation Security, Fire Warden and Taxi & Passengers Queue Coordination Services at Hamad International Airport (HIA) for 5 years.

Key Projects include Legtafiya Lagoon, Lusail City Development and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Doha Metro.

Commitment to Consistent Service Delivery

Having established a substantial foothold in the Middle East, Certis will continue its presence and expand its services through its holistic approach towards security which synergises well-trained personnel (Man), best-fit technology (Machine) and streamlined work processes (Method) to deliver security more efficiently and effectively to its customers.

Certis will deliver consistent operational and service standards through its framework of Service Delivery System which systemises end-to-end processes, enforced through regular on-site assessments to ensure that security, service and speed are delivered to its performance standards.

Featured Person – Dr Rashid Alleem

Dr Rashid Alleem, who has been the Chairman of Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) since 2014, is a multifaceted leader with a breadth of experience and interests. On the business front, his portfolio speaks for itself. As the Director General of what he fondly calls ‘The Four Big Sisters’ – The Sharjah Seaports Department, The Sharjah Customs Department, The Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone) and The Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) – he was the driving force in transforming them into a strategic commerce hub and empowering thousands of businesses in the region, contributing to the development of the UAE economy. They were the best performers among all Sharjah Departments for ten consecutive years witnessing an annual growth rate of 25-30 per cent. Even during the meltdown of 2008-2009, the growth didn’t go below 20 per cent.

However, soon a new challenge presented itself. On Wednesday 22nd April, 2014, which Dr Alleem describes “as a historical day in my life” and a “transformational moment”, he received a call from the executive office of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, a member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and the Ruler of Sharjah, stating that His Highness had chosen him to chair Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA). At that point SEWA was teetering close to bankruptcy, but Dr Alleem was ready for the challenge. “I felt I was given a mighty challenge to bring alive an organization which had only a one per cent (or less) chance of survival,” he says. “It was a tough call, my innermost belief and timeless principles echoed within me, a voice came from within, ‘Rashid, it is just another tough/challenging assignment. Nothing you should worry about. You can do it. Mr Achiever. Go ahead. God bless you’.” That was not misplaced confidence, as by this point he had already been recognised for creating ‘built to last’ organisations and society and people around him had bestowed the title of ‘The Change Leader’ on him.

In his latest book The Sewa Way, which is due to be published soon, Dr Alleem freely shares his knowledge and outlines 15 principles based on his 15 years of personal experience that a good leader should have. “The book tells a story of transformation, commitment, and determination,” explains Dr Alleem. “It’s about conscious leadership that inspires, fosters transformation and brings out the best in those around them.”

Out of the 15 principles, two have to do with knowledge. Principle #2: Teaching and Learning, and Principle #3: Learn from Experience reflect Dr Alleem’s belief that we continuously have to improve ourselves, especially in today’s competitive and rapidly-evolving world. “The best leaders are insatiable learners. Don’t be satisfied with what you already know,” he advises. “In my opinion, both teaching and learning go hand in hand, one has to be a learner to be a teacher. There is no end to learning in life and teaching is never restricted to the classroom. This quote by John F Kennedy sums up my feelings: ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other’.”

When it comes to learning, reading is invaluable. “Read all that comes your way or interests you. In fact, if you read one hour per day in your field (or outside your field), that will translate into about one book per week and eventually to about 50 books per year,” says Dr Alleem. “In fact, expand your horizon of knowledge, don’t restrict it only to books: Listen to relevant podcasts while driving and seek out mentors vigorously.” The Chairman himself admits to having a penchant for Harvard Business Review’s audiobooks and being is a voracious devourer of weekly newsletters, journals, articles, white papers, and all the other newest releases.

Another excellent way of learning advocated by Dr Alleem is to connect with knowledgeable people, regardless of whether they are friends, colleagues, mentors or industry specialists. “Good advice is good advice – regardless of the source,” he explains.

Another powerful source of knowledge is learning from experience. “Given the fast pace of change confronting managers, employees and employers today, it is critical that they develop capacities to learn from current work situations and adapt this learning to new situations,” says Dr Alleem. “Achieving success will cause you to fail, there is practically no way to avoid it. As author Kristi Loucks wrote: ‘The road to success is littered by failures, but the lessons learned are crucial in plotting your course to success’. The more mistakes we experience in life, the more opportunities we see and the more new lessons we learn. These days it’s not only about learning from our own mistakes but it’s also about learning from others’ mistakes, and that’s a great time-saver.”

The problem with failure is that everybody hates it, something Dr Alleem admits to experiencing on a personal level. “Why? Because we will face embarrassment or loss of stature! In this competitive business world a mistake can mean losing a bonus, a promotion, or even a job. So it’s no wonder that people are petrified to fail or commit mistakes! However, I have a different viewpoint: If you see danger/failure/dead-end ahead, just modify your goals. Realise that there is more than only one way to reach your destination. Live by your own definition of success, even if it seems failure to others.” In this regard, Dr Alleem says a leader who is tolerant of the right kind of failure plays an important role. Furthermore, great leaders know that innovation and breakthroughs are impossible without failure.

In order to achieve outstanding and breakthrough thinking, Dr Alleem has come up with a philosophy that rests on his self-coined term of thinking called ‘ thinking. “It’s a unique blend of ‘critical and lateral’ thinking,” explains Dr Alleem. “The human mind is burgeoning with ideas all the time. Critical thinkers analyse the nitty-gritty of any issue on the basis of facts and figures. On the other hand, the lateral thinkers or creative thinkers look beyond the face value and delve deep into the subliminal layers of any particular thing and come out with solutions that are not mundane. The big question is what happens when you put the right-brain thinkers together with the left-brain thinkers? Collisions. That in turn results in outstanding and breakthrough thinking. From the perspective of innovation this is critically important to understand, and will help you get the best from yourself, your colleagues, and your boss.”

Another central tenet of Dr Alleem’s principles is knowledge management. “The words knowledge and management are two very broad concepts when separated, but when the two words come together, it speaks of a concept of creating, acquiring, and communicating knowledge and improving the reutilization of knowledge towards the success of an organisation,” says Dr Alleem. “In my words, it is about making the right knowledge available to the right person at the right time with the right tools. That is knowledge put to action. I have always been passionate about acquiring knowledge and feel it’s my duty to pass on that knowledge to my subordinates or people around me. In fact, it is every individual’s prime responsibility to give back to society what he gains from it. That’s what I call a knowledge cycle. To me, knowledge is a fluid asset and it saddens me to see it go to waste. I personally feel that knowledge, just like money, can go to waste and be listed as a big non-recoverable loss if not managed intelligently.”

When it comes to sharing his knowledge, Dr Alleem practices what he preaches. In 2001, he founded the Alleem Knowledge Center, a not-for- profit organisation that has been promoting the concept and value of lifelong learning. The Alleem Knowledge Center, in turn, set up six Strategy Clubs to enhance skills acquisition, improve overall industry knowledge, create awareness of key management issues, deliver operational excellence, and leverage technologies amongst other key benefits. In 2009, the first Alleem Business Congress took place and it has witnessed phenomenal growth in the last seven years with over 2,000 delegates from every aspect of business now attending annually.

He is also a prolific author both in English and Arabic, and he has shared his knowledge and experience in seven books so far with the eighth, The SEWA Way, being published soon. He is also often invited to guest lecture at both local and international universities addressing almost 15,000 people a year.

There has been no shortage of recognition for Dr Alleem’s contributions. Among the many awards he has received are the Achievement Award by League of Arab States 2007, he was conferred with the Middle East Business Leaders Awards 2012, and was recognised as one among the 100 UAE nationals who contributed immensely to the ‘happiness’ of the UAE, on the eve of the United Nations’ ‘International Day of Happiness’ 2013.

However, the award that has personally honoured him the most was being recognised as “The Knowledge Ambassador Of UAE 2015” by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.