Alternative choices

Chiefmar is a company with a very singular objective: supplying the highest quality Alfa Laval alternatives on the market. It was born in 1982 from the idea of former spare parts manager for L De Martini, at the time Italy’s only authorised Alfa Laval marine service agent, and the desire to provide the market with cheaper alternatives to expensive Alfa Laval originals. Using an extensive knowledge of both Alfa Laval products and the marine spares market, a comprehensive business plan was drawn up and Chiefmar was brought to the market offering a limited selection of high quality alternatives with notably lower price points.

The goal of Chiefmar, as iterated the last time the company was featured in Shipping & Marine last year is to be able to provide its clients with a complete range of alternatives. Given the wide number of products that Alfa Laval manufactures this is an ongoing process that is not yet complete but, as managing director Captain Niclo Calloni highlights, this is because of Chiefmar’s desire to achieve the best quality possible: “A project like this requires time and investments but above all the awareness to be committed with an exercise that will never end. Various are the elements that play significant roles in the manufacturing of centrifugal separators spare parts, that we can’t forget are highspeed machines. To Chiefmar, all these elements can be summarised into one single word: precision.

“Chiefmar, to supply a product equivalent to the original one, has to concentrate all its effort on efficiency and on quality with a primary objective of safety of users and equipment, and to respect the same operational performance given by genuine spare parts. However, we are satisfied with having achieved the confidence of customers. We are well aware, though, that the company must continue investing time and money because the updates to the range of spares for Alfa Laval separators will never end, because of both the modifications brought to existing parts and also the introduction on the market of new models.”

As an unofficial retailer of alternative spares, Chiefmar will always be catching up to what is available from the official range, This is not only due to the time required for retro-engineering components but also because of the size of the company. Whereas Alfa Laval is an international organisation with thousands of staff, Chiefmar has a single site in Genova, Italy, where it employs 18 staff. Considering the discrepancy of manpower and the relatively low capital investment available to Chiefmar makes the high quality of its products all the more impressive.

When first starting out 30 years ago, Chiefmar was the first company in the world to offer alternatives for Alfa Laval purifiers. It faced numerous challenges including getting the technical specifications correct, achieving reliable and durable parts, and most crucially market scepticism. Through its determination to overcome the first two problems – by manufacturing parts of similar specification, both technically and in quality, to OEM spares – it has also tackled the third problem. Today the company can claim a wide variety of customers from across the world interested in its warehouse of nearly 5000 items, ready to supply on demand.

When last featured, Niclo stated his desire to tap into the Far East market. During the last year, moves have been made toward this goal. “The effort lavished during 2011 on the Asiatic Far East markets was aimed, above all, at the consolidation of the relationships with the great ship owning and management groups in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan,” he says. “Yet this was done without neglecting the exploration of new areas like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Satisfactory results have been achieved with regards to the consolidation of relationships with them, whilst new markets are at the level of ‘works in progress’. Therefore a lot of work is still necessary ukbefore being able to define concrete results.”

The Far East is quickly reinforcing itself as the pre-eminent shipbuilding region and Chiefmar’s entrance here is a result of the strengths it has already established in Europe. It is, for example, respected for its high levels of efficiency, reliability and competency in delivering its products. Its knowledge of its own products, Alfa Laval, and separators means that customers always receive a quick answer to their issues. Such values are universal and will be crucial in the company’s Far Eastern venture.

Meanwhile, business for Chiefmar has been progressing well. After a difficult period during the recession and a subsequent upswing in 2010 that saw many new names attracted to its alternatives, the last 12 months have seen both good performances and new names on Chiefmar’s books. “The most meaningful result during 2011, one that has made us very proud, is the registration in the official vendor list of Carnival Cruises,” Niclo says. “After long onboard tests were carried out, we have undertaken the regular supply of spare parts for their separators. Overall, 2011 was positively closed showing an increase of nine per cent on the 2010 turnover. The figures for the first quarter of 2012, if they continue, predict a 13 per cent increase in sales compared to 2011.”

Driven by good sales and a growing reputation, Chiefmar’s future looks strong both in its home European market and its new East Asian region too. It already has plans in place for some fundamental developments of the company, though these remain unannounced for the moment, whilst it continues to keep pace with Alfa Laval’s output. For Niclo himself, however, business will soon be drawing to a close. “In 2014, after 47 years in the job, I will retire,” he concludes. “I feel very lucky to have lived my professional life in the fascinating world of shipping, sustained by a strong passion and rewarded with its generosity. I will devote my time to my wife, sons and myself.”

Strong moves into East Asia
Premier Alfa Laval alternatives
Growing reputation for quality