The construction and maintenance of roads are among the top priorities for government. IMIESA speaks to Steve Tinarwo, managing director, Instant Tar, about the company’s plans to grow its base in this strategically important sector.

The commissioning of an 80 tonne per hour Apollo Counter Flow 90 continuous mixing plant in February 2017 at its Benoni facility in Gauteng represents a key milestone for Instant Tar. This major plant acquisition spearheads the company’s strategic vision of becoming a top-tier paving contractor and asphalt supplier in the South African and broader Southern African region.

Three mix designs are currently produced by the plant, namely medium asphalt, a bitumen-treated base (BTB), and fine asphalt. The Apollo plant is owned by sister company V&S Plant. Currently, V&S is operating on a temporary licence; however, an application for a full commercial licence is due to be completed during the second quarter of 2018.

“Our goal, from the onset, was to provide a turnkey solution in asphalt pavement construction and the acquisition of our Apollo plant now means that we have complete control over the supply chain,” explains Steve Tinarwo, managing director, Instant Tar. “That’s important from a reputation management perspective, as it means we don’t need to rely on third parties when it comes to project delivery.”

Instant Tar is currently a 5 CE PE contractor in terms of the Construction Industry Development Broad (CIDB) grading system and has gained extensive experience as a subcontractor working on projects across South Africa. “Our plan in 2018 is to apply for an upgrade to a CIDB 7 level, so that we can tender on a broader range of projects,” explains Tinarwo.

The company is 100% black-women-owned. “In fact, we’re the only black contractor in Gauteng that owns an asphalt plant,” he continues. Instant Tar is also a member of the Southern African Bitumen Association, ensuring it keeps up to date with current industry regulations and standards.

From civils to paving

Established in 2007, Instant Tar’s current business model has progressively evolved. Initial activities concentrated on general civils work, like earthworks, stormwater drainage structures and concrete block paving, which it still offers on request as part of a total project  solution.

Having identified a gap, the company refined its strategy in 2008, shifting to a specific focus on asphalt paving – ranging from pothole patching, to residential driveway and light commercial parking area surfacing. This has been supported by a steady acquisition of specialised equipment, starting with a walk-behind pedestrian roller.

Instant Tar’s first paver was acquired in 2010, subsequently followed by pneumatic and compaction rollers that have opened up opportunities into a much broader market for urban and national road resurfacing. Instant Tar’s current paver units include a Vögele 1603 (equipped with a 5 m screed), a Wirtgen Super 800 (3.4 m screed) and a Blaw-Knox unit. Allied equipment includes chip spreaders, pneumatic and double-drum rollers, and tipper trucks.

The company now also owns two low-bed trucks, which enables the rapid deployment of machines nationally for projects in diverse geographic locations, such as the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Ongoing projects within the Gauteng region include subcontract work for the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), the City of Ekurhuleni, and the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport. One of Instant Tar’s recent breakthroughs took place in the recycling market, and the company recently completed an R8 million project for the JRA, working as a subcontractor.

“Whether it is for a patching, resurfacing or complete surface construction job, Instant Tar provides expert advice and ensures that the appropriate materials are used,” says Tinarwo. Instant Tar also provides a road marking service. The solutions offered are solvent- and water-based road markings.

SMME support

“There’s a definite opportunity for SMME contractors when it comes to earthworks projects, but the high cost of acquiring specialist paving plants still represents a major barrier to entry for most emerging companies. Plus the saving segment is not generally catered for by the plant hire industry.

So, Instant Tar is well-placed for growth,” says Tinarwo. “However, we can create joint ventures with SMME civils contractors. This enables them to tender on multidisciplinary roads projects where Instant Tar is responsible for the black-top surfacing phase.”

In the longer term, Instant Tar has an ambitious vision of being one of the top five asphalt suppliers within the SADC region. “As we expand, one of our future acquisitions could include a mobile asphalt plant, which would be ideal for supplying the megaprojects we hope to secure in the future as we climb up the CIDB rankings,” he expands.

Outside South Africa, Instant Tar has a registered company in Zimbabwe, trading as Elshadhai Civil Construction. With the outlook in Zimbabwe starting to show marked improvement, Instant Tar plans to establish a full road paving line during 2018 to respond to local project opportunities.

“In the meantime, our intention is to grow our municipal footprint in South Africa, while concurrently strengthening our relationships with key suppliers, since they play a critical role in ensuring that we provide high-quality solutions,” concludes Tinarwo.