SMOOTH SAILING

Dubai 2016 | MARITIME | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Stuart Bowie, Managing Director of GAC Dubai, on competition in the maritime industry, the company's green initiatives, and the outlook for 2016.

Stuart Bowie
BIOGRAPHY
Stuart Bowie was appointed Managing Director of GAC Dubai in 2011. Prior to that, he held several roles within GAC, including Group Sales Director, Managing Director of GAC Logistics UK, and Managing Director of GAC Hong Kong. Earlier, Bowie had a five-year stint with Sea-Land Services in Saudi Arabia. He has also held several roles with eminent logistics and shipping agencies in the UK.

What are the main services you offer in the maritime sector?

We look after container ships, oil tankers, general cargo vessels, RoRo vessels, and so on and have our own supply boats for delivering people and supplies offshore in Dubai, Fujairah, Khor Fakkan, and Ras al-Khaimah. We have Hull Cleaning Services for cleaning ships' hulls, and we also provide correspondent representation for all of the major P&I clubs.

In your opinion, what could be done to increase the local maritime community's competitiveness?

The UAE and Dubai in particular has thrived for decades through a healthy mixture of investment, entrepreneurship, competition, and most importantly government departments with a business-friendly approach. No doubt there are market challenges and security concerns that need to be addressed. However, if this free market approach is allowed to continue the UAE will remain competitive with other parts of the region and the world. We have been in the Middle East for 60 years and are very positive about the UAE, the region, and the future of our industry.

How aligned is GAC with Dubai's vision of sustainability and green initiatives?

Last year we received an award for environmental excellence, which was largely due to three initiatives we undertook last year. We converted our warehouse lighting to LED, which is good for the staff and the environment. We installed a water treatment plant to convert wastewater into usable water, which reduced water consumption for irrigation as well as transportation costs for removing wastewater and bringing in fresh water. Last year we installed a district cooling system for our largest site, which is much more efficient than having independent air conditioning systems. This year we are expanding our warehousing capacity and this will include a water treatment plant and a district cooling system.

What are your prospects for the year ahead?

There is a little bit of market pessimism about Dubai's future and the Gulf in general, especially because of oil prices and companies defaulting. I have been in the region since 1988, and in Dubai since 1993, and experience has showed me that there have always been ups and downs but the overall general direction has always been upward. People who have been here for a short period of time may feel a little bit spooked by the downturn in the market. We have confidence in the long-term health of Dubai and the long-term health of this region. This is our most important market and we are very confident. This downturn in the market is an opportunity because when there is a downturn in the logistics business, customers start to look for new solutions, which creates opportunities for us. In the last five years we have been increasingly commercially aggressive and see this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. We tend to view it with a long-term perspective. The long-term perspective for Dubai is healthy and we are not worried about the short term. We have longstanding customers, employees, and confidence in the long-term health of this market, including investment, clients, and government support. This year has started really positively.