SPREADING ITS WINGS

Saudi Arabia 2020 | AVIATION | INTERVIEW

Air freight and logistics will gain an ever-more important profile in order to realize the government's long-term vision of diversifying its economy away from oil and establishing Saudi Arabia as a global logistics hub.

Omar Hariri
BIOGRAPHY
Omar Hariri was appointed CEO of Saudi Arabian Airlines Cargo in 2018, bringing with him close to 15 years of experience in logistics management with globally renowned express courier and cargo air transportation operators. He holds a master’s of science in procurement, logistics, and supply chain management from the University of Salford Business School and served in various positions in DHL Express, SAF Group, and Abdul Latif Jameel Logistics, the licensee of FedEx Express in the Kingdom.

What role do you expect air freight and cargo to play within the broader National Industrial Development and Logistic Plan?

The Kingdom is strategically well positioned to serve every key market connecting to and from the Middle East. Saudi Arabia currently has 28 airports, of which six are international. Of those, three are among the busiest in the GCC, connecting the country to 81 international airports within 45 countries across the globe. The government is rapidly modernizing its airports and expanding its air cargo facilities with the goal of increasing the total air cargo capacity in the Kingdom from 1 million tons a year to 6 million by 2030. Within this framework, Saudia Cargo invested SAR1.2 billion in 2018 to rejuvenate its cargo stations in Jeddah and Riyadh, aiming to double the current cargo capacity, enhancing our logistical capabilities in support of Vision 2030, which aims to establish Saudi Arabia as a global logistics hub. We also expect the air freight industry to play a crucial role by increasing employment and enhancing our national logistical capabilities. Saudia Cargo recently celebrated the graduation and employment of the first batch of cargo future cadres program, which aims to empower Saudi youth in logistics and supply chain.

What is your assessment on the provision of PPP and concession contract opportunities for the development and operation of air freight facilities?

Saudi Arabia is unique in terms of engaging the private sector, having stakes in major projects across the country regardless of its financial capabilities to undertake those commitments on its own. The PPP and concession contract opportunities are extremely positive because they provide checks, balances, and accountability on the part of stakeholders, thus ensuring the projects' completion and sustainability. GACA has announced that all 28 airports around the Kingdom should be privatized by 2020 in order to enhance revenues, improve the customer experience, encourage best-in-class international operators, and increase private-sector investments. Partnerships and opportunities in the construction of new airports and aviation infrastructure, including air freight facilities, are immense. We are supportive of the model and positive drive and remain open to this philosophy. As such, we will further explore opportunities and partnerships in the future. Saudia Cargo has signed a joint agreement with King Abdullah Port at King Abdullah Economic City to enhance collaboration opportunities and establish a secure logistical operations zone. This agreement establishes an air-sea-air cargo corridor with the surrounding airports to ensure a smooth flow of cargo to the port and re-export by air.

What are some of the key international players and markets that Saudia Cargo is looking to foster partnerships with?

Bridging the gap between the east and west and beyond has always been the goal for Saudia Cargo. We continue to further strengthen our key markets in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Latin and North America through new interline partnerships and alliances with major international players to bridge the world with a dedicated freighter fleet. In April, Saudia Cargo officially became the 12th member of SkyTeam Cargo, which counts as its long-time members Aeroflot Cargo, Aerolineas Argentinas Cargo, Aeromexico Cargo, Air France Cargo, Alitalia Cargo, China Airlines Cargo, China Cargo Airlines, Czech Airlines Cargo, Delta Cargo, KLM Cargo, and Korean Air Cargo. Our membership will give our customers access to a global network covering over 900 destinations in more than 175 countries. In return for that unparalleled access to a growing worldwide network, our company will extend SkyTeam Cargo's reach across the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent via our hubs in Jeddah and Riyadh, which was nonexistent prior to our joining SkyTeam. Such partnerships are crucial in an industry where global connectivity is paramount. Our strength lies in covering a wide route network, and we believe in trade liberalization. We are ready to expand our wings domestically, regionally, and internationally wherever there are opportunities and the need for our air cargo services.