BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS

Kuwait 2018 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Yousef Abdullah Sabah Al-Nasser Al-Sabah, Director General of the Kuwait Ports Authority (KPA), on the Kuwait Logistics City Project, plans to increase capacity, and digitalization.

 Sheikh Yousef Abdullah Sabah Al-Nasser Al-Sabah
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Yousef Abdullah Sabah Al-Nasser Al-Sabah is currently Director General of the KPA. Prior to that, he served in progressive roles in the military. He holds a bachelor’s in economics from Boston University, a master’s in international studies and diplomacy from the University of London, and an MBA from Kuwait University, as well as advanced military courses in both Kuwait and the US. He served as Major and Commander of Foreign Procurement in the Kuwaiti army and became Lt Colonel before retiring from service in 2007, though remaining a honorary member of the Association of the US Army.

What is the idea behind the development of the Kuwait Logistics City Project?

In certain places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai, the port is the main pillar of the economy and is where everything circles around. In Kuwait, we need to make the port the pillar of our economy as well. The vision of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is for Kuwait to become a financial and trade center and we see ourselves as the gateway within that vision. The Kuwait Ports Authority does more than just import and export products; it is the catalyst for supporting infrastructures such as historical marinas and logistics cities. We will establish several logistics cities in different locations in Kuwait, on land owned by KPA. This will support local trade facilitation for foreign companies that wish to invest in Kuwait and require a logistics hub, and bring down the artificial glass ceiling of any new SME entering into the market. Once we have developed the logistics cities, we will transform the storage sector to a logistics service provider. In the future, we envision having a smart logistics app that allows businesses to offer products that are stored in one of the logistics hubs to be ordered at a competitive rate. This enables SMEs to achieve economies of scale. Multinational companies that have been in Dubai for many decades may be keen on the opportunity of adding Kuwait as a hub, because of our proximity to large markets such as Iraq and Iran. The latter will become more interesting after the lifting of sanctions. Kuwait scores relatively low on the World Bank's port infrastructure and logistics performance indexes. Once we have developed the logistics cities and improved our ports in terms of infrastructure and systems, we will be among the best in the GCC in terms of port management efficiency.

How do you assess the capacity of the three ports you manage, and what are your plans to increase capacity in the coming years?

At the moment, we have two expansion programs in Shuwaikh Port and Shuaiba Port, and these will increase capacity upon their completion in four to five years from now. We have awarded both to engineering firms—SMEC for Shuwaikh and CH2M for Shuaiba—and these contracts are currently being processed by the Audit Bureau. We are also within our current capabilities, freeing more land within both ports. We are demolishing old buildings, which will allow us to have more container space and general cargo space. In addition, we are working together with the customs clearance to give it more land, as this is where our bottleneck currently lies.

How have you proceeded with plans to transform the three ports you oversee into smart port systems with fully integrated control systems?

It is all about digitalization of the port but we have to do it in stages. Stage one is the paperwork flow while stage two is the actual container and general cargo flow. We need to increase the flow and the efficiency of both. There are 12-14 government agencies that support customs to clear the different types of goods, depending on the type of cargo that is shipped in. We will first integrate these into one single window, and will subsequently put everything online. First, we have to familiarize customers with having a one-stop shop. We are improving customer service, quality, and port operations, which involve the development of a port community system and a commander control center with cameras monitoring maritime operations. Port authorities in other countries are already steering away from the single window into working online, so we are in fact behind. However, we have to do those steps first before we can go online, and can catch up with them in the next two to three years and surpass them in the next four to five years.