Global unity needed to recover from crisis

Containers stacking in the harbor at dusk.

A group of major Middle East supply chain stakeholders have called upon the maritime industry to collaborate and explore detailed solutions as the region looks to recover from the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior representatives from some of the industry’s biggest trade enablers demonstrated how they had ensured the smooth flow of trade during the pandemic and suggested ideas on the best way forward during the CEO Forum: Challenges and Future Opportunities for Ports and Shipping event on 6 October 2020.

It is important for the industry to “come together and formulate means to eliminate threats to business” said Shahab Al Jassmi, Commercial Director of Ports and Terminals, DP World, UAE Region during the event.

Al Jassmi said DP World UAE Region had “realised the importance of having strategic foresight”, describing the COVID-19 pandemic as an unprecedented situation.

“For us at DP World UAE Region safeguarding business continuity, while protecting our employees from the risk of the virus was a top priority,” Al Jassmi said.

“Additionally, our sustained investments in digital technology and automation made operations highly resilient.”

DP World UAE Region said it has been committed to facilitating an uninterrupted flow of medical supplies and essential goods since the outbreak of COVID-19.

To ensure trade flow amid a deteriorating market, the company introduced key digital initiatives with a focus on prudent cost management, better productivity, asset utilisation and automation processes.

These initiatives include the Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) Customer Support, in addition to other measures like flexible monthly rental payments, deferred payments and choice of leasing warehouses on a short-term basis, have complemented the government’s strategy, boosting the maritime sector in the UAE and the Middle East region. 

Another was ZADI, a unified food import platform aimed at facilitating the import and re-export of food shipments throughout Dubai’s ports, which DP World released through Dubai Trade, the UAE’s single window platform for cross-border trade. Susan Hunter, CEO, APM Terminals, Bahrain, claimed the industry needs to look ahead: “The maritime sector is the lifeline of economies around the world. The CEO Forum facilitated experiential knowledge sharing, contributing to boosting regional and international trade.

“Despite the crisis, a detailed plan of action is essential for the growth of the business. Delivering business continuity and upholding the health and safety of our employees is vital.

“As a community, we must endeavour to devise a flexible and open approach and be prepared for future challenges. We at APM Terminals are taking all the necessary precautions in order to sustain trade flow.”

H.E. Sheikh Yousef Al Abdullah Al Sabah Al Nasser Al Sabah, Director General, Kuwait Ports Authority and President, Arab Sea Ports Federation said: “I believe that by supporting each other, we can rise above all adversity.

“Businesses have to adapt to the current economic environment and evaluate their processes to continue to generate revenue for the nation. It’s time for us to move away from old ways and adopt improved strategies to sustain in this new world.

“Evaluating the situation, I think that automation is definitely the key as it not only increases efficiency, but it also reduces costs after the initial investment.”

The Middle East’s maritime industry has come under substantial pressure since the outbreak of COVID-19, due to its significance as a thoroughfare for goods.

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