The company was established as a joint venture between several companies involved in the field of corrosion, in order to establish an empowerment tribology and corrosion-control company.
Combrink reports that the major- ity shareholding of ICE is held by previously-disadvantaged indivi-duals, with the balance being held by experienced white males.
He believes that, although there is a shortage of people from the formerly disadvantaged groups in the industry, there is also a general skills shortage in the industry.
There are only 50 qualified corrosion engineers in South Africa, he states, and at present no South African tertiary institution offers a specialised undergraduate course in corrosion.
Combrink says that corrosion is seen as a non-core course that is often only a one-semester add-in in a formal engineering qualification such as metallurgy or chemical engineering.
Further, corrosion is costing South Africa an estimated 5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), making it vital that more education is conducted in this field.
However, corrosion is not just an economic problem, but also an environmental one.
Often pipelines corrode and toxic chemicals leak out, which can affect the environment badly.
This may also lead to government-imposed fines on companies for damage to the environment, says Combrink.
The former navy engineer is of the opinion that, because of the serious shortage of intellectual and human capital in the field of corrosion, the quest to improve skills should not be restricted to black South Africans, but should be improved across the board.
He believes that this, coupled with placement of people on merit, will eventually result in the industry becoming truly representative of the country’s demographics.
Combrink relates an anecdote from his time in the navy.
He was managing the fleet’s corrosion centre in Simon’s Town in 1989.
Engineers, scientists and tech-nicians were recruited as the centre grew and, eventually, out of a staff of 23, only six were white, this before former State president FW de Klerk’s momentous speech in 1990 releasing Nelson Mandela and unbanning the ANC, PAC and SACP, which led to the first inclusive elections in 1994.
Combrink believes that, if all are given equal opportunities, there will be a natural progression leading to a fair representation of all the country’s groups in the corrosion industry.
This, he believes, will happen through education.
Combrink relates that because of the high specialisation in corrosion requirements, contracts have been hard to come by, despite the black owners of ICE currently being involved in Sasol’s natural-gas pipeline from Mozambique to Secunda, Mpumulanga.
The company is, however, bidding for a number of contracts at the moment, he says.
Combrink believes the question must be asked whether companies are serious about BEE in South Africa, or whether they are only playing lip service to government’s demands.