CONNECTING THE DOTS

Oman 2015 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to David Gledhill, CEO of Port of Salalah, on the potential the port has and its meaning for Oman.

David Gledhill
BIOGRAPHY
David Gledhill has spent 35 years in the ports industry, previously as CEO for Hutchinson Ports UK and COO at Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, prior to joining APM Terminals and his appointment as CEO of the Port of Salalah. He has held senior positions in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Portugal.

The Port of Salalah has been ranked among the world's top container ports. What factors are at the root of that constant growth?

There are a number of factors that come together for the Salalah growth story, and the factors that propelled the port's growth over 15 years ago cannot be the same going forward. Our strengths will need to continuously change and mature with the times. Nonetheless, at the core here is location and connectivity. The Port of Salalah runs the lion's share of container services calling at Omani ports, and connectivity is always integral for customers and cargo owners who are seeking lean supply chain solutions. Shippers can save on costs primarily on the back of Salalah having the least deviation time from the main Asia-Europe trade lane in relation to competing ports in the region. Furthermore, this port was breaking world records in productivity in only its second year of operations, and until today this port ranks the third most productive port in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. This entails having the resources and the people necessary to keep up productivity.

How do you differ from the ports of Sohar and Duqm?

In the past few years since its inception, Sohar has been primarily involved in general cargo imports and exports for the country, while Salalah has focused on the container transshipment business. As time goes on, Sohar's share of container cargo will increase, while at the same time our general cargo capabilities and volumes will rise. Eventually we will be good at doing similar services but from different locations, and at that point we really need to differentiate our offerings based on the services, natural resources, and markets that each port connects to. That is what we are working toward alongside the government and other Omani ports so that we ensure we are not competing but complementing our unique growth stories. Oman needs for all of its ports to be connected in order for its national economy to grow.

How would you assess the potential of the port as a cruise terminal?

The basic infrastructure to support a good cruise terminal and a good cruise destination is already here; it just needs promotion and organization. Together with the Ministry of Tourism we are doing just that. We are investing in a new tourism center specifically for cruise vessels which will be located at the port. But we also need the rest of the tourism sector to realize that there are other things for tourists to do when they get to Salalah because it is just fantastic during the Kharif season. Still, we need to extend the tourism season throughout the rest of the year, and the port will do whatever it can to assist in that. The cruise offering in the past was not particularly good, but now we have a far stronger offering. It is still in its early days, but I think for Salalah it is probably a quick win; the more cruise vessels we can get here, then the more tourism we can get into the town, and the more money generated for the local economy.

What are your priorities for 2015, and where do you see the port in 10 years?

My number one priority at the moment is to try to find ways to mitigate the Kharif challenges, and that is to some extent possible via technology and better ways to moor a ship. The long-term priority for the port is the breakwater, and that is the 10-year aim. We also need to promote Salalah as a gateway port; a gateway to Oman and the Gulf region, rather than just a transshipment port. That is the objective for coming years.