CLEARLY DEFINED

Oman 2018 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Abdulrahman Salim Al Hatmi, Group CEO of Asyad, on key areas of its logistics strategy for 2040, the importance of a rail network for Oman, and facilitating logistics all around.

Eng. Abdulrahman Salim Al Hatmi
BIOGRAPHY
Eng. Abdulrahman Salim Al Hatmi is a senior executive with 22 years of diverse experience and verifiable success in achieving revenue, profit, and business growth objectives within start-up, turnaround, and rapid-change environments. He has a proven track record of understanding critical business drivers in multiple markets and industries. His current role oversees a group of companies comprising more than 15 subsidiaries spanning three major ports with their associated free zones, transport companies including Oman Rail, as well as other logistical support entities.

All Asyad's work is linked to the Oman Logistics Strategy 2040. What does that strategy entail and how will it help Oman's development?

The Logistics Strategy 2040 looked at what Oman wanted to be in terms of logistics, the contribution to GDP and employment we wanted the sector to have, and how we wanted to be seen as a GCC hub. The consensus was that, generally, we have enough hard infrastructure apart from rail, leaving soft infrastructure as the real issue. We needed to tackle the soft infrastructure issues in a more structural way. Hence we have four pillars. The first is trade facilitation: we need to remove all the obstacles to trade and make it easy to do business in Oman, including issues such as customs clearance, inspections, and regulations and processes for setting up businesses and licensing. The second pillar is the question of the sectors, industries, and commodities to focus on to differentiate Oman from other markets. We had to look at market segmentation and identify the segments, products, or industries that we wanted to focus on. The third pillar is human capital. This is important for us to fulfill certain employment requirements because we have to find jobs for nationals. The human capital pillar therefore entails Asyad dissecting all the jobs, looking at the categories available, and working out how we train Omanis to become competitive and productive. The fourth pillar is technology. One of the differentiators for logistics and other sectors is how fast technology is adopted and how fast new technologies that are game changers are created.

Where does the Oman rail project currently stand and what impact will it have once it is up and running?

Currently we focus on Oman's domestic rail network. We are also ready for the wider GCC rail project and want to come to an agreement with our GCC colleagues on a start date, but the domestic rail network is our focus at the moment. This work is concentrated around opening up the mining sector because it is price sensitive and transportation is one of the most expensive elements of mining. Rail will really unleash the true potential of mining in Oman and we are working closely with the mining industry. We have looked at certain rail lines from particular mines to the ports. Now we will go through the investment elements looking at the best model to integrate mining extraction with the demand and transportation costs. We are working together with our mining colleagues to develop this.

What improvements could the government and private sector make to facilitate better logistics here?

We have made progress in terms of improving things much more. We have managed to reduce the customs clearance times and the system is now fully automated. We seek to integrate all the other government agencies for permits, licensing, and inspections into the system to make it easier and faster. The truly great thing is that the wave of change has started and people are on board. The process is going quicker than previously imagined. The government is moving in the right direction, though the private sector also has to cooperate and become a key player in this. When we structured our strategy the private sector was part of it. Now that we are implementing the strategy, the private sector is also part of this. Asyad's role is also to push the private sector to invest as much as possible, for example to make a reliable warehousing and trucking system available in Oman. We cannot attract businesses if this structure is not available. Fast customs clearance is of no use if there is no one to store or transport the goods after they have cleared the port, so the private sector has to do much more in terms of both the soft and hard infrastructure as well.