How is your recently implemented Marine and Container Handling (MACH) terminal operating system (TOS) at the terminal in Sharjah assisting operations?
This is a brand-new system we are implementing in cooperation with Tata Consulting Services from India. We are putting the final touches together for its launch in the Khorfakkan Container Terminal. It will improve the way we do business, both in terms of operational efficiencies and transparency. We are going from a previous system, which was adequate, to a new system that is state of the art and gives us many advantages internally, as well as providing our customers with a greater visibility of their cargo. People want to be able to access more information about their shipment, and now we can give it to them.
What are the main reasons behind Gulftainer's success?
The past two years have been about IT at Gulftainer; we introduced the TOS and a new SAP system called S4 HANA, which was the first time this technology was introduced in the Gulf. SAP was introduced without any delay and without any overrun in budget and has resulted in greater efficiency and smoother transactions. We have now interlinked SAP with the Sharjah Port Authority and the Sharjah Customs Authorities to provide a more holistic experience for our customers. These awards are not just given for the systems, though; it is how you apply these and how our people utilize that capacity that makes the difference.
In what way do Avalon and Momentum Logistics complement the operations of Gulftainer?
Avalon Transport specializes in long-distance trucking between Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai to places as far away as Jordan, Riyadh, Jeddah, and even Oman and Kuwait. This company allows us to cultivate more business in Sharjah and the region as a whole. Together with the port and customs authorities we have now developed a system called Sharjah Land Bridge that allows us to take more and more cargo in and out of Khorfakkan on the east coast and transfer it either through Sharjah or to our inland container depot in customs-bound mode. Then, customs clears it from there and gets it out to the customers in both Sharjah and elsewhere in the UAE. Avalon focuses specifically on high-end customers, quality, and meeting time requirements, and they cannot grow by 20, 30, or 40% per year because we cannot compromise on quality. Avalon has an annual growth of about 10-12% per year, and we are adding around 10 to 15 trucks to our fleet every year. We are operating about 140 trucks today. We created Momentum Logistics after requests from our customers. It was originally called Speed Trucks and focused purely on trucking, but our customers requested warehousing, and we started to complement the port services of handling containers and offloading cargo with storage. We continue to look at growing the various business segments, such as distribution, freight forwarding, container repair, and storage.
In terms of commodities, what countries have been trading the most with Sharjah?
We have direct services to and from Europe, Africa, Asia, India, and the Middle East. We have a limit in terms of the size of Port Khalid, which is 12.5m deep; therefore, we cannot receive larger ships as we do on the main east-west routes. In terms of commodities we move everything from cement to clothes to raw materials, electronics, and foodstuffs.
What are your expectations for the next 12 months for the company?
Our ambition is to grow. Today, we are probably number 15 or 16 in the world in terms of size and we would like to be somewhere around the top 10 or 12 within the foreseeable future. In order to achieve that we will need to keep on growing our business here locally and we also need to expand internationally. We are looking at specific investment opportunities, which are for both the logistics as well as the port division.