TBY talks to the heads of two shipping executives on Beirut as a port, competitive advantages, and environmental issues.
How has the Port of Beirut developed as a regional hub?
Georges T. Kurban The port’s importance in the Eastern Mediterranean is established because of its strategic location and the facilities it offers. It was the first part of the container terminal, as its natural water depth is ideal. At the time, the shipping industry was growing, as were the ships themselves, and they needed deep water. The only port that could offer this was Beirut. This is why international carriers switched to Beirut. Our company came here for that reason, in addition to the fact that our roots are in Lebanon and so it was a natural move for us to be here and to select Beirut as the regional hub. It is a very good thing for the Port of Beirut to play an important role on the international shipping map.
Chadi T. Houkayem Lebanon played an important and leading role since the early ages with its geographical location offering a major advantage. The Lebanese market is unique and has maintained growth despite challenging years when the country has experienced war, political unrest as well as global economic crises. More stability in the country would allow additional growth. Lebanon has been an appealing destination for many global carriers, some of whom are using Beirut Port as a transshipment port for surrounding countries. The abundance of carriers servicing Beirut Port has made the market highly competitive.
What are your competitive advantages?
GK As a family-owned company, there is a certain dedication that you may not have in a public company. We have a double quality: we are the agent of the vessels and the line, and at the same time we have the mentality of the owners. We care about the interests of the line and the interests of the customer.
CH Maersk Line started operations in Lebanon in 1996. A dedicated Maersk Lebanon office was established after six years in 2002. Its first representation was only for Maersk Sealand, until in 2005 Safmarine was joined under the same agency roof. Following the P&O Nedlloyd acquisition in 2005, Maersk Lebanon relocated to Pasteur Street in 2006, representing Maersk Line and Safmarine. Since then, Maersk Lebanon has increased its market share and has maintained y-o-y growth. The Maersk Line product strength for the local Lebanese market is a weekly dedicated feeder connecting Beirut to Port Said as well as direct products to Beirut from the Far East and Europe. Our various products allow Beirut to be directly and efficiently connected to the largest container shipping network available in the market today.
What significance do environmental concerns hold for your company?
GK The trend today is to go into eco-containers, eco-ships, and faster load systems. All the new ship builders in South Korea and Asia are building eco-friendly ships. We have equipped our ships with electronically controlled engines, improved hydrodynamics, and waste recycling. We have also developed 130,000 eco-containers with bamboo flooring, low energy reefers, and light steel containers. In all, CMA CGM’s efforts have reduced CO2 emissions by 35% since 2005.
CH As a global company efficiency is important for Maersk Line. Apart from continuously adjusting to market needs and customers’ requirement to maintain our leading role, Maersk Line is committed to help protecting the environment. For Maersk Line, protecting the environment is a question of constant care—in the way we use resources, optimize operations, and handle waste. Operating vessels in an environmentally sound manner requires a balanced and sustainable approach to long-term economic growth. This means seeking solutions that help protect and sustain the environment.
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