Overseas AST – Shaping the Country

For over six decades, Overseas AST has built a solid track record in delivering successful complex projects in the United Arab Emirates.

Overseas AST specialises in the delivery of near-shore marine infrastructure and top-side mechanical installations in the oil and gas, petrochemical, power, desalination, leisure and residential sectors.

Drawing on a long history of the company’s predecessor, a major European construction company headquartered in Austria, AST established operations in Dubai in 1959 and has been at the forefront of construction in the UAE ever since.

In 1983, two prominent UAE businessmen, H.E. Khalifa Juma Al Nabooda of Dubai and H.E. Abdulla Mohammed Al Mazrouei of Abu Dhabi, jointly acquired a 51% share in the business, completing the full acquisition in 2003, making Overseas AST a 100% UAE-owned company.

Overseas-AST’s flexible approach to the servicing of changing market demands has afforded it the opportunity to maintain a strong presence in the construction sector for many years and most importantly, to develop a successful delivery model specific to the region.

Progressive development

Company CEO Amin Nalouti, who took up his role a year ago in the middle of the pandemic, describes the company’s milestones:

“The very first project back in 1958, the Dubai Creek, accomplished for a very special client, the Ruler of Dubai – H.H. Sheikh Rashid Bin Said Al Maktoum, was of specific economic significance, as any hindrance in the area was affecting the Emirate’s business trade progress.  Accordingly, AST undertook the land reclamation and sheet piling works to improve the harbour and create a new 200-foot-wide entrance channel to ensure ease of traffic movements.”

Another prestigious project came in 1962, the construction of the Al Maktoum Bridge connecting Dubai and Deira, which has drastically helped reduce travel time and enabled goods to move swiftly from the custom’s wharves on the Dubai side to the Deira dhow wharves, from where they were traded and shipped to India, East Africa, and other Gulf Countries, thus greatly facilitating trade.

“Back then, water was still being transported from the oasis at Al Awir and distributed around Dubai in tins. To bring water to Dubai, Overseas AST installed a 50 km mains water supply line from the Main Reservoir in Al Awir to overhead water tanks in strategic locations in Deira and Karama.”

Over the years, the company has always been present as an important participant in the country’s development. When oil was first discovered in Dubai’s offshore waters in the late 1960s, attention turned to how it could be loaded onto tankers without the need to build onshore berths.

The solution was to build three “khazzans” (the Arabic word for reservoirs). Overseas AST was awarded the contract to build the bases of the khazzans as well as a temporary dry dock where the work would be carried out on a remote beach, far from the city.

Expert crisis management

“Overseas AST has helped in shaping the infrastructure of the country in multiple ways, allowing it to excel in international trade, and has successfully kept contributing to the building of the nation and meeting its  envisioned business expansion plans,” affirms Mr Nalouti.

He himself has played a crucial role in the business at times that many would describe as unprecedented – the global pandemic. Having a long career in the UAE and GCC construction sectors, with responsibility for delivering several complex projects while leading businesses in the region, he was ready to take up the challenge.

“With the advent of Covid-19 and the international financial challenges impacting world economies, project risks have drastically increased due to price escalations, disruptions across the full supply chain and immense competition on a handful of current live projects,” he says.

He explained that to ensure continuity during such difficult times, the company has launched several operational efficiency measures as part of its research and development, alongside specialist partners.

The aim was to engineer and implement solutions across the organisation to operate in a more lean and agile manner using artificial intelligence and to adapt technologies to reduce operational costs while increasing productivity without straining or requiring additional resources.

“We are very confident that what we have produced during the past year alone would allow us to operate at optimally efficient capacity,” he affirms.

Sharing the expertise

Human resources are the key factor behind the company’s expansion. “The profile and history of Overseas AST attract candidates who are looking for opportunities to work on challenging and technically unique projects. The assurance of career growth remains a key factor, among others, for retaining our talent,” says Mr Nalouti.

He explains that within the annual performance evaluation system, personal and professional objectives are set with clear KPIs to measure progress over different time intervals. During the evaluation process, key areas where room for improvement is required are highlighted and proposed for development through the global training programme.

“To summarise, personal development programmes, the opportunity for career growth, bringing employees on board and engaging them in the accomplishment of our main goals and objectives, is our greatest investment in our staff.”

But investment is also directed outward – Overseas AST strives to give back to the community by assisting the development of the local workforce and implementing eco-friendly solutions to ensure the sustainability of the nation, affirms Mr Nalouti. In this context, he highlights initiatives that include the use of biological enzymes to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, to help UAE meet its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Additionally, to reduce negative effects on the environment, the company led an E-waste recycling initiative and received an E-waste Destruction and Recycling Certificate, among many other company-led initiatives.”

Speaking about the future, Mr Nalouti affirms that the company is set to continue on its growth journey: “With the current R&D endeavours and the use of advanced technologies to enhance operational efficiencies, along with our decades of expertise, we are forging new partnerships and exploring opportunities in the GCC & Africa in order to share our knowledge and help other nations meet their development needs, to replicate our success story and build new legacies.”

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