After the Colonel Gaddafi led the overthrow of the monarchy in 1969 he soon set about getting rid of the US and British influence on his country’s oil industry.
As he went between oil contractor’s sites in the desert ordering people to leave he came upon the the engineering compound for William Haddad’s fledgling company.
“He saw that around the perimeter we had planted trees and he decided that if this company was prepared to plant trees then it must be there for the long haul and not simply to take from the economy,” said Haddad, recalling a story that he learned many years later.
Consequently, the business that Haddad had started just 18 months before was left to get on with its contracts, building long distance pipelines for the Libyan oil industry.
Haddad was born in Jerusalem in 1936 and by 1948 he and his family, headed by his father who had worked for the British Civil Service and the United Nations, moved away.
Haddad graduated as an engineer from the American University of Beirut in 1960 and joined CCC, part of the Wimpey group laying various pipelines for the growing oil industry, working first in Aden then moving to Libya in 1964.
Over the next four years the young Haddad earned himself a good reputation among oil explorers like Esso, Oasis and BP. “If you want to get a job done, give it to Bill Haddad,” was what they used to say and that gave the young man the confidence to consider setting up on his own.
No one calls him Bill anymore – apart from friends who have known him more than 40 years - but his new business was a success and oil explorers seeking reliable pipelines ensured he had plenty of work.
Forty five years on Haddon, now 77, remains diplomatic about his bosses at the time: “I was responsible for our desert operations and the owner of that company may have been a person who saw the results but failed to hear the voice of the person responsible.
“In 1968 I quit working for them and set up on my own with fewer than a dozen people and we began supplying the same services.”
He recalls the contract that was the turning point. “It was a job I got from Esso laying an oxygen pipeline from the refinery to the incinerator,” said Haddad. “It took me a month to lay the pipeline and I received for that month what I would have expected to earn in a year – that was the money I invested to get my business off the ground.”
He describes the Libyan oil as being “like honey”, a sweet and light oil without the impurities or sulphur content you find in oil from much of much of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. In the 1960s Libyan producers just wanted pipelines laid quickly that took the sweet oil from the wells in the desert to separation plants.
“They wanted reliable, safe pipelines and were not afraid to pay for it,” said Haddad, smiling at the memory. “Life was full of zest, I had camps in several places that were very remote but that is the nature of the oil business.”
Among those pioneers in the desert Haddad explained how a second income stream would present itself for his new company the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Contractors Company Ltd (MACE Contracting Co).
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