You mentioned shipping and international trade will continue to play an important role in Bahrain’s economy as our ports are the first point of entry into the Kingdom and beyond to neighboring countries. How do you assess the growth prospects for the region?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Bahrain has always been a center of trade in this region and to us a center of shipment to the rest of the northern Gulf and Bahrain has the first modern port (Mina Salman) which started in 1961 and since then Bahrain has had an important role in trade for this region. Due to the extension of trade and the increase of trade and size, Mina Salman was not capable of accommodating the huge extension and the size of the shapes and therefore, the Government of Bahrain thought about moving toward more modern and state of the art ports and here they thought about developing a new port infrastructure and developed a new port called Khalifa bin Salman Port that can handle 1.1 Million TUs. Khalifa bin Salman Port will not only serve the local market of Bahrain but we are also targeting a certain market in the northern Gulf because Bahrain enjoys a strategic location in the Gulf by being situated in the middle and is near huge markets like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. We have a very well developed road infrastructure and good connectivity by air, sea, and land with these markets as well and this is an advantage. Khalifa bin Salman Port intention is to be the most productive and efficient Bahrain port in the region and we are trying to attract transshipment and make Bahrain a hub for the northern Gulf.
Are the growth prospects for the region great?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Yes, the growth is continuing to increase, however, with the situation now in the world, this region is the most stable with regard to the development and growth. We should also see a decrease in the growth but for the most part the growth should be position in the upcoming years.
With the increasing attractiveness of the region, the competition from other countries will likely intensify. Is this a concern and how to do you compete?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Yes there is competition around other ports in the region, especially with Jab el Ali, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar but first of all we are not trying to compete with Jab el Ali because this was the first port in the region. We are trying to be an alternative hub to the northern region and we are targeting the North, unlike Jab el Ali trying to target all of the region and the Far East. We are only targeting a certain market. With regard to the competition we see Bahrain well ahead of others in terms of infrastructure and Bahrain's strategic location makes it closer to the location than other ports. We are very well established and our legal framework is as well. Bahrain enjoys a very strong human resources sector and a very well educated and well trained employee pool to run the port and this is an advantage to help us become a hub and provide our customers with the best and most well priced services.
Your Chairman said that the privatization of the operation of seaports was a major landmark and element in the government strategy to provide world class facilities and services to traders. In your opinion, what were the benefits of privatization and what is the next stage?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Since we privatized we have clearly seen the benefits especially with the productivity of the ports- up to a 25% increase. Our aim was to bring the “know-how” from others companies into Bahrain and of course, this will create more employment for Bahrainis and at the same time it will train them to manage and operate the port from well known companies. By bringing in experienced people, Bahrainis can learn from them and also we will benefit from the networking for attracting transshipment into Bahrain.
Is there anything in the pipeline for the next stage of privatization?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Khalifa Bin Salman Port is only part of stage one and this has been built on 110 Hectares and this is stage one for part of a comprehensive plan for the area and stage two will be built on 150 hectare and this will double our port capacity from 1.1 to 2.5 million TUs. We are also planning for stage three where we have reserved land east of Khalifa Bin Salman Port and it is almost the same size and this will also double the through port of Khalifa Bin Salman Port by almost 5 million containers. This is a plan for the next 20-30 years.
Your mission is to regulate, develop, and promote the Kingdom’s maritime and logistics industry by applying international standards and optimizing all opportunities for your clients. What laws and regulations have you created to facilitate the operations of the private sector and what are your plans?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Bahrain is a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and has been very active in that organization. We are regulating the maritime sector and Bahrain has signed a number of conventions to reach international regulation standards for safety and marine environment and other services. Now we are reviewing our maritime legislation and it has been given to a consultant who has drafted a new set of legislation and we are reviewing this now. We are taking into account international standards and conventions to incorporate this into our legislation. We are also marketing Bahrain to different areas of the world through exhibitions, road shows, seminars, and by telling people how we are developing.
Dubai is probably the world reference in terms of logistics and transshipment, how challenging is it to create worldwide recognition and position yourself against them?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: We are very selective. We are going towards logistic value re-added export companies due to the small size comparing to Jeb el Ali we are not trying to conquer everything. We are looking at companies who have value added, employment, operating in our region. Just because we are small doesn't mean we aren't going to compete with regards to productivity, connectivity, simplicity, and cost effectiveness. I am sure Bahrain will be in a better position when it comes to these things.
How would you characterize your strategy and the areas of strategic focus?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: Our strategy is in line with the strategy of Bahrain for 2030 especially with regards to logistics and ports. In the port sector we are reviewing infrastructure and evaluating our upcoming needs and for logistics we are coordinating with the Aegean Sea to provide services that is comprehensive, cost effective, and moves goods easily.
One of your goals is to preserve and protect Bahrain’s marine environment, what are your strategies to protect the environment, be green, and for sustainable development?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: The environment is always in our agenda and we are participating in various initiatives in the GCC. We also are inspecting ships to ensure they meet international standards at port checks. The Gulf has been declared a special area now and no residue from oil should be discharged in this region and we have a part in this too. Our legislation also wants to protect the marine environment from oil and we are making sure that the companies we operate with have the right equipment to abide with preserving the environment and we have stringent rules and regulations for these companies.
What are your real challenges?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: There are few challenges normally but with these challenges we are able to move past them quickly. Our main challenge was to add depth to our channel to the draft required by international shipping (15 meters) and we have already started this and it will be completed in October. Our challenge at that time was almost 14 meters and we are have changed it to 15 meters to accompany large container ships and adding this depth was a main challenge of ours.
Do you see a lot of reluctance from international companies in coming to Bahrain as Bahrain is not very well known outside of the region?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: The only thing is, in fact, that we have had a lot of companies inquire about Bahrain but this may be because of the current situation in the world now. It is not as easy as before to attract companies to the region but in this situation the companies are mainly concerned about efficiency and cost-effectiveness and I think Bahrain is positioned very well ahead over the others. We have the infrastructure, the port, and a good company operating this and our cost is very attractive to prospective companies at a time like this in the economy.
To finalize the interview, what is your long term vision and dream for the General Organization of Sea Ports?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: This is our first stage to establish the maritime industry in Bahrain not just with Bahrain ports but with all of the related industries. We are starting with ports and logistics and moving to other sectors.
What are your vision and dream for Bahrain?
Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port: We are aligned with EDB and the Crown Prince in this and we are contributing to their vision and I think this is an excellent and ambitious vision that everyone is moving towards implementing. I think Bahrain will advance very well if everybody plays their role in contributing to the vision and I think everybody is determined and with that, I think Bahrain will be in a very good position in the future.
tags: Bahrain Ports, Khalifa Bin Salman Port