May. 5, 2020

Ali El Ali

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Ali El Ali

Managing Director, Zakher Marine International (ZMI)

After building a diverse asset base, ZMI is on a clear path to becoming a fully integrated solutions provider to the offshore industry.


Ali El Ali is the Managing Director at Zakher Marine International and QMS 2 Offshore Services, both of which are part of the Zakher Group of multinational offshore oil service companies based in Abu Dhabi and constitute his family business. After growing up in Abu Dhabi, he studied in Scotland and England. He is focusing on modernizing the Zakher Group during its phase of rapid international expansion and shipbuilding, and diversifying the group's interests into real estate, tech, and other areas.

What have been some recent milestones, and how is your range of services poised to meet the demands of offshore marine?
In respect to our recent milestones, in 2019 we achieved our target of entering subsea contracting services with our major clients by securing four commitments, three long term and one spot, within the UAE. For the most part, this market has not seen any new entrants in quite some time, making such milestones significant. We have proven through our expertise on these subsea service contracts that we can step up to be a market leader. We are building upon our existing resources in house, both personnel and assets, and look forward to securing a larger market share in 2020. This addresses the second part of your question, the development of our new subsea division. Here, we are on a clear path to becoming a fully integrated solutions provider to the offshore industry, having built a diverse asset base. This transition means we could be categorized as an EPC contractor, but what will differentiate us is the ability to rely upon our own assets and internal expertise to perform these contracts

As ADNOC announces new concessions, engages international partners, and increases production, how will offshore service providers meet this new demand?
As any service provider would, they must increase their asset and service base in order to meet the demand. For ZMI, we are not only continuing our strategy of acquiring new assets at low prices, but also entering into partnerships and JV agreements to ensure we can meet the increasing demand we anticipate for this coming year. As for critical factors, it will all depend on how competitive one wants to be. With the Southeast Asian and North Sea market and their respective projects coming to light this year, we will see some deficit on the supply side for good assets, which will help prevent pricing levels from dropping.

How will your business model adapt to the government's policy outlook for the energy transition and diversifying the broader economy?
The public perception with this question is that it assumes the inevitable is going to be a non-oil economy. That's far from the truth. The reality is oil and gas is here to stay; what will move is the general consumption of oil and gas. We see the focus shifting to downstream and its related products, which means that even though the population will eventually get its energy demand from alternative sources, not just oil and gas but renewables, the reality is that overall demand will continue to increase as the national and global population grows. It's a shame that climate change activism, which is necessary to ensure we do move toward a more sustainable future in energy demand, is actually placing a black marker on the industry. Rather than educating the public on the necessity of oil and gas, climate change activists are chastising it.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities abroad for offshore marine services companies from the Gulf to apply their expertise?
While the Gulf will remain our core focus and our home market, we see Southeast Asia and East Africa as viable future markets. We have just signed an exclusive JV agreement with ENH logistics, the government entity of Mozambique that sees the offshore oil and gas market, for 25 years of marine services. This is a strong step toward securing the right business partners and ensuring we enter the market both sufficiently and sustainably.

What new technologies are you exploring or deploying throughout your operations?
The largest impact in offshore and marine services is big data collection, management, and analysis. Typically, onboard ERP and equipment have many onboard data collection points, so it is essential to collect it in a live timely manner by carefully implementing secure networks between the fleet and HQ. The final stage is data analysis, which is vital for understanding and tailoring data to report to key decision makers for optimum operations.