Lebanon was one of the first countries to implement the Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) program. Could you tell us about the importance of this initiative?
GARD is a program developed jointly by UNDP and Deutsche Post DHL to assist countries in assessing the capacity of their airports to handle the additional volume of cargo that would materialize in the event of a natural or humanitarian disaster. Aviation and airport professional employed by Deutsche Post DHL have designed the training material and the airport assessment format. The same aviation & airport professionals delivered the training and assisted with the airport assessment. The program assists the authorities in ensuring that the airport is prepared for a disaster and is a way for DHL to put its expertise to work for the good of the country. It is also a great honor for us to be involved in the program and working alongside the Lebanese Army and Civil Defense, Civil Aviation, UNDP, and Middle East Airlines.
Considering DHL's global reach, what importance does the company give Lebanon within its international portfolio?
From a global perspective Lebanon is a medium sized country. However, because we belong to a global network which is committed to a consistently high level of service in every country we operate, it is important that the level of service a customer receives in Lebanon is as good or better than the service received in a large country. DHL Lebanon is committed to providing industry leading service levels and continues to make the investments that enable us to support our customers and our global network. Customers in Lebanon who arrange for collection of their consignments before noon will benefit from a next day delivery to most destinations in Europe and the Middle East. That is just one example of how DHL is providing industry leading service levels in Lebanon. Lebanon's service has been further enhanced by the commencement of dedicated DHL flights. DHL began flying a Boeing 757 Freighter with a cargo capacity of 32 tons into Beirut once a week in 2013. As volumes increased additional flights were added and we now fly up to three times per week. The flight provides customers with a direct connection to both our global air network, and the Middle East road network. The flights support our core Time Definite or what is commonly referred to as “courier" or “express" products as well as our Economy Select product. Economy Select is a door to door product designed for shipments over 150 kg to and from countries in the Middle East.
What areas is DHL investing in the most and on which services have you been focusing most of your growth?
We have, over the years, created a strong network of service points—we operate a dedicated airport facility that was recently expanded. We also established a logistics center in the free zone over 10 years ago. So in terms of facilities and infrastructure we are where we want to be. Our focus is now mainly on using our local and global infrastructure to better meet our customers' needs. Of course we continue to invest in our people, technology and training but we are not planning any major infrastructure projects this year. Our core business is still express documents and packages; what we refer to as our Time Definite Product Portfolio, and that is where we focus most of our attention. The growth in these products is very strong as customers continue to rely on DHL to deliver their documents and parcels in the fastest most secure fashion.
How would you assess Lebanon's potential to become a regional hub in the Middle East?
Lebanon could easily become a regional hub; that is something that we have always looked forward to capitalizing on. Lebanon has a lot going for it. Geographically the country is well positioned. The airport has capacity to handle more cargo. The seaport has seen a major transformation and is now well-equipped to handle large container vessels and the workforce is highly skilled and multilingual. All the necessary elements are in place.