Paul Gibson, International Sales Manager at Bristol Uniforms, looks back on more than 40 years of supplying firefighting PPE to the Gulf countries, and the strong relationships it has formed with distributors in the region.
Bristol Uniforms is a company with a rich history, dating back to 1801 when it began life as a civilian clothing manufacturer in the heart of the city of Bristol in the UK. Overseas exports began as early as the 1830s, with garments shipped to the West Indies in large barrels. This soon expanded to include export markets across the globe, as far afield as Australasia, South Africa and South America.
To this day, the global reach and reputation of the company is still thriving, largely due to the strong relationships we have formed with more than 70 distributors across the world who are vital to our success and share our commitment to the provision of high-quality firefighting PPE.
Bristol’s links with its very first overseas distributor were established with Concorde Trading Company in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 43 years ago. By this time, Bristol Uniforms had considerable expertise in developing garments to protect firefighters, working with the Home Office in the UK to create the serge T63 tunic, the first to keep firefighters dry, which was worn with iconic yellow trousers known as ‘wet legs’.
Concorde’s Managing Director, Mahmoud Awad, and Bristol’s former Managing Director, Pat Hill, saw an opportunity for the companies to work together to increase sales in the Gulf, with Concorde providing essential local knowledge and business contacts. The first order was taken in late 1975 for Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, who provide commercial and domestic fire and rescue services for the emirate and continue to procure their PPE from Bristol Uniforms today. The partnership with Concorde has since gone from strength to strength, and paved the way for a long-standing and prominent presence for Bristol across the Gulf region.
Concorde Trading Company is now part of the Concorde-Corodex Group and has evolved to become a pioneering provider of fire protection, water purification, wastewater treatment and environmental services in the Middle East, offering a diverse portfolio of products and services. It has diversified into 23 individual companies and has grown from a relatively small team to a workforce of more than 1,450 people.
Mahmoud Awad, Managing Director of the Concorde-Corodex Group, comments:
“Over the years, we have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Bristol, built on mutual trust and respect. We can depend on Bristol to supply innovative garments of the very best quality, using the latest technology. Equally, Bristol Uniforms appreciates our strong sales capability and expertise within the region. It is a partnership that continues to prove beneficial to both companies.”
Today, in addition to supplying the Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, Concorde-Corodex and Bristol now work together in all the emirates in UAE, supplying PPE to a variety of customers including industry firefighters working for oil, gas and petrochemical companies. We provide the Concorde-Corodex team with regular product and technical training, and jointly attend trade events in the region such as Adipec in Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s largest oil and gas industry exhibitions, and the International Security Expo, Intersec, in Dubai.
Another distributor in the Gulf that has had a significant impact on Bristol Uniforms sales in the region over almost four decades is Chubb Fire Qatar. A subsidiary of the International Gulf Trading Company (IGTC), Chubb Fire is Qatar’s leading fire safety equipment and security solutions provider. Its capabilities range from the provision of sophisticated fire detection and fire-fighting systems for major high-risk, high-value installations to solutions for smaller industrial, commercial or domestic use.
Chubb Fire Qatar became a Bristol Uniforms distributor in 1979, soon after the Concorde Trading Company in UAE, and is looking forward to celebrating 40 years of successful partnership next year.
Mr. Hamad Al Mana, Managing Director of IGTC, comments:
“As a total capability company, Chubb Fire Qatar is ideally positioned to provide firefighter PPE to both the Civil Defence and the oil and gas industry in the region. We’re proud to be offering top-of-the-range PPE at a competitive price, and together have built a sound customer base and a strong reputation for quality.”
The Bristol team visits Chubb Fire Qatar regularly for training and support, and we enjoy exhibiting together at the annual Milipol conference and exhibition – an international event for Homeland Security and Civil Defence in the Middle East.
Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain
In more recent years, since these initial partnerships were formed with our first distributors in UAE and Qatar, we have gone on to expand our reach and form relationships with several other companies in the Gulf.
In 2012 Bristol Uniforms began working with another company in the Concorde-Corodex Group. Integrated Engineering Solutions (IES) based in Oman is a leading provider of water treatment solutions, components, chemicals, firefighting safety, rescue equipment and vehicle manufacturing in the country. Over the last five years, we have worked closely together to build up a customer base in Oman, attending the Oman Fire & Security Expo in Muscat and providing firefighting PPE to customers such as Oman Civil Defence.
Successful partnerships have also been formed with Mahmoud Said Fakhry & Sons in Saudi Arabia in 2005, Al Jazeera Industrial Services in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2006 and Ahmed Al Salah & Sons in Kuwait in 2014.
Our customers in the Gulf tend to favour structural firefighting ensembles as these provide maximum protection suitable for both municipal and industrial firefighting. Our latest Xflex and Ergotech Action structural firefighting ranges come in a variety of colours and fabrics with either PBI or DuPont Nomex fibres, and a choice of moisture barrier such as Gore’s Crosstech Airlock, Crosstech Fireblocker and Parallon.
Both styles are popular in the region since they adhere to international standards set by all major international standard-setting bodies: the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) which covers Europe, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which covers the USA, Latin America, the Middle East and the Asia/Pacific region, and the International Standards Organisation (ISO) which sets standards worldwide. Since our customers in the region range from industry firefighters for international oil, gas and petrochemical companies to Civil Defence firefighters, preferences for certification vary in the Gulf region, with some requesting CEN and others NFPA certification.
National Civil Defence Forces in both Qatar and UAE have opted for our innovative XFlex range, which features a Gore Crosstech moisture barrier, and Hainsworth’s TITAN1220 outer layer, supplied in Paris Blue to Qatar Civil Defence and Desert Tan to UAE Civil Defence. This kit is perfect for the job because it is ergonomically designed, with distinctive sports styling, enabling excellent range of movement and flexibility which helps firefighters carry out a variety of physical roles more effectively. Its combination of protective and breathable light-weight materials offer maximum comfort and guard against heat stress.
Bahrain Civil Defence have specified the alternative Ergotech Action 2 fire coats and trousers, also with a Hainsworth Titan 1220 outer layer in Paris Blue. This style is lightweight and ergonomic, featuring special shoulder shaping, which provides greater comfort when wearing breathing apparatus, plus large underarm gussets for greater reach manoeuvrability.
Oil and gas companies across the region tend to favour XFlex for their industrial firefighters. The Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO), for example, selected XFlex for its durable, lightweight, breathable, and flexible qualities, which is perfect for this type of environment.
All firefighters are also provided with specialist, compatible helmets, hoods, boots and gloves to provide top-to-toe protection.
At Bristol Uniforms, we’re very proud of the strong relationships we have built with our representatives in the Gulf and of the hard work and dedication provided by the distributor network in the region for many years. Without doubt, their support has helped us widen our international reach and to consolidate our position as one of the world’s leading suppliers of firefighting PPE.
For more information go to www.bristoluniforms.com