PORT OF CALL

Saudi Arabia 2020 | TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS | INTERVIEW

As part of its plans, Mawani seeks to transform Saudi ports into attractive international logistics hubs.

BIOGRAPHY
Saad Alkhalb was appointed President of Mawani in 2018, after serving as Vice Minister of Transport. He has more than 25 years of executive experience in the private sector across several industries including oil, electronics manufacturing, and financial services. Alkhalb holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

What are your current projects to improve efficiency and capacity at Saudi ports?

As an integral part of the Saudi transportation system and one of the key enablers of Vision 2030, we work continuously to improve and enhance our efficiency and capacity. We have launched several projects and initiatives focused on infrastructure, superstructure, systems, and maritime regulations to enable Saudi ports to provide a more flexible and competitive service. We are also exploring opportunities to deploy new technologies such as digital and Internet of Things (IoT) to help provide a seamless service to all our customers and key stakeholders. For example, working in close coordination with our partners via the Port Community System and utilizing state-of-the-art technology, we managed to reduce the average dwell time of containers in Saudi Ports from 14 days to five in 2018. Also, in close partnership with Saudi Customs, we launched a “24-hour container clearance initiative," which had great impact on our service levels on end users and capacity levels for the ports. This is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the average container dwell time at Saudi Ports to three days or less by 2020. We also launched a new initiative for truck management to reduce the time spent inside the port from the current average of three hours to 25 minutes. Lastly, we have successfully launched the integration of ports' capacity at a coastal level using both land and marine feeder lines. Upon completion of this phase of the integration, we aim to integrate the capacity of both Saudi coasts on the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, which will help position Saudi Arabia as the marine gateway of the region and realize its vision of becoming a leading global logistics hub.

What are the opportunities for direct investment in Saudi ports?

In line with the NTP's initiatives, Mawani looks at direct investment not only as an opportunity to attract investments, but also as an opportunity to adopt global best practices and operate at a best-in-class level as well. Hence, we continue to work with our partners at the SAGIA and other key stakeholders on regulatory reforms that help attract and retain the confidence of foreign investors and global talent. For example, in 2019 we issued licenses to four out the largest 10 global shipping lines to operate their own local agencies in Saudi Arabia under 100% ownership. Furthermore, the coming 24 months will present more opportunities for interested parties both locally and globally, as we prepare to offer more concession agreements for terminal operations, marine operations, and port support services for public bidding, in addition to increasing the number of the bonded areas and re-export zones at Saudi ports.

What are the strategic priorities to develop Saudi ports to the next level?

In 2018, Saudi ports handled more than 267 million tons of cargo, including over 6 million containers. While the growth in volumes is in line with Saudi economy, it represents approximately 40% of the total capacity of Saudi ports. Therefore, while we continue to invest in enhancing our efficiency and improving our infrastructure, the immediate strategic priority is to place Saudi ports in a position to utilize its existing capacity and unlock its untapped potential. Working with our key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, we piloted, launched, and deployed several initiatives to that end. We seek to attract more transshipment business to Saudi ports in addition to exploring new business opportunities. For example, by increasing the number of bonded areas and re-export zones, we anticipate additional value-added activities to be deployed to attract more cargo movement through Saudi ports. Furthermore, we are keenly observing new developments in the industry and global platforms with the aim of taking the lead in adopting new technology and best practices. Earlier this year, we participated in the first shipment using full blockchain documentation in partnership with Saudi Customs and a global shipping line.