A short interview with Alphonso Elliot, MD of the Bahamas Welding & Fire Company (BWF).
While attending the GAWDA annual convention in the Bahamas, gasworld had the opportunity of catching up with the islands largest distributor of gases and welding equipment.
Founded 36 years ago, Bahamas Welding & Fire Company (BWF) has grown its operations throughout the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas.
gw: So how did it all start?
“Well, I was originally involved with the supply of gases with Bahamas Industrial Gases Co, a subsidiary of IGL – the Trinidad and Tobago based gases company (now Neal & Massy),” Elliot explains.
“While I had respect for Commander Gutteridge (the founder of IGL) I felt that things could be done better and so I left and started up BWF. It took time to win over customers and government contracts from a dominant player but by providing the right service offering, consistency and quality we won the major hospital contract which changed the face of the Bahamas gases business.”
“This lead to IGL deciding to sell out (BIG) and exit the market. I raised funds with my partner Thomas Cleare and so BWF took on the business in 1985.”
BWF has since grown to three locations that include the original store, a new headquarters in Nassau, and a branch in Freeport operating as Freeport Gases.
gw: What gas manufacturing do you have?
“Well, not much as we import all our liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon from Florida (WF is a Matheson TriGas distributor). We do have acetylene production in Nassau and Freeport but that is about it,” he says with a smile. “We have moved into LPG in a big way recently and import LPG from Florida, and supply both bulk and cylinder LPG to many end-users although this is done by our subsidiary – Island Gases.”
“We do import CO2, and also helium, on to the island and we have a cylinder filling operation here.”
gw: How do you supply all these islands?
“Easy – we use the post boats. Well, the original boats delivered the post to all the islands, but these boats now deliver more than just post – including gases.”
gw: Any highs or lows you’ve experienced?
“Well the obvious highs were the winning of the hospital contract all those years ago, and then the purchase of my old company here in the Bahamas. The low is sadly the very recent loss of my partner, Thomas, who died unexpectedly three weeks ago.”
gw: What next for BWF?
“Despite the logistical issues of moving gases around the islands there is still room to grow and improve efficiency,” he says. “I see both CO2 and LPG opportunities, and working with a company such as MTG, we expect to learn more about applications to grow the business further.”