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Cap Gamal Fikry: Saudi Arabia’s achievements in 2021 are “Unprecedented”


Cap Gamal Fikry is a Master Marine owner who enjoys nearly 42 years of experience in the shipping industry, He was appointed as chief executive officer and member of the board direction in Feb 2014 after having served 3 years as Managing Director of red sea marine management DMCC (RSMM) in Debi.

Gamal was global Manager Ship vetting at British Petroleum shipping in London.

He is monitoring the most important events of the year 2021emphasizing that Saudi Arabia has achieved unprecedented achievements during 2021 and started to occupy the position it deserves as a leading nation in the region.

Leaders MENA magazine sat down with Fikry to get more details on the future of the shipping industry in the Arab region and keep pace with the latest developments of the industry in general.

Q1. The year 2021 represented a major turning point in the

maritime transport and ports sector, as the fourth industrial

revolution, so what were the most important features of

this year?!

The year 2021 has indeed been challenging to the world trade and growth specifically to the Marine and shipping industry where;

a. Covid -19 has brought the world to a standstill and caused many industrial nations to drop to negative growth.

b. The increased serious concern of the world about the climate change and its impact, hence;

c. The COB 26 involved more than 170 countries to discuss means of decarbonization and effective mitigating measures to address climate changes.

d. There have been swift moves by IMO to address the decarbonization and emission from vessels and develop more requirements to impose by end of this year and by the year 2028. 

e. Tanker Market continued to decline through 2021, eventually slipping into negative territory from Jan.21

f. The year caused a diversity of shipping operations, where tankers were utilized for floating storage and changed the pattern of operation of most of the world’s fleet.

g. Decreased New building of ships at a time that oil demand was increasing, thus causing the world freight for tankers to hit a record high, where we witnessed a rate of US$ 200,000 per day for an LNG carrier.

h. LNG was established as the alternative fuel and way forward for most European countries towards decarbonization push, hence there has been a spike in the new building of LNG carriers order book, despite some being speculative.

i. We have seen an increase in Alternative energies and renewable during 2021 and that is expected to increase beyond 2021 towards 2030.

j. The world has been too busy to effectively monitor the performance of shipping following the implementation of the IMO 2020 limited Sulphur content in marine fuels by 0.5% and the introduction of the EEDI phase 2 which requires a 20% reduction of carbon Intensity Index per vessel. This is yet to be assessed.

k. Serious measures towards the implementation of zero-emissions have been committed by many countries such as Norway.

l. Digitalization plans have been forced and accelerated by Covid-19 and big data is back on the scene, yet human elements lacking behind training and the know-how?

m. The year 2021 saw almost 30% of the new building order book is LNG as a fuel or dual fuel.  

Q2: Can we say that there have been leaps in this field in Egypt?

Yes, of course, Egypt has been one of the very few countries that managed to continue with its economic reforms and achieve growth during the epidemic period. There has been development across all different sectors of the industry, Transport and marine were no less where ports and road infrastructures have seen significant growth and developments.

Q3:Digitization is one of the most important features of 2021, so what will it be through your vision in 2022?

Q3: Digitalization, IT, and OT and moving to remote and advanced technology have now been considered as the way forward 2022, will see significant advancement and implementation of digitalization across all sectors of services. We can now consider today quo as the Norma for tomorrow’s business and start from there. 

Q4: I think there is a new perspective on ports with the forerunners of 2021 and artificial intelligence, is this true?

Q4: Artificial Intelligence and remote access will cause a huge spike in the way we operate our ports and terminals and more automation will be introduced and implemented.

The port operation has already proven success with AI and robots operations and fully automated services. This will continue to advance to fully autonomous operations without a doubt.

 Q5:The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made great progress in the field of ports and the maritime transport sector, after 3 of its ports were among the top 100 ports in the world, according to Lloyd List. What are the reasons for this from your point of view? Do you expect more for Saudi ports to be the largest logistics center in the region by 2022?

Q5: Saudi Arabia has achieved a fantastic achievement during 2021 and started to occupy the position it deserves as a leading nation in the region, thanks to a very dedicated and foresighted leadership that finally decided to put Saudi Arabia on the marine and shipping map of the world. There have been significant developments in S.A infrastructure on both sides of the Saudi peninsula. The leadership is very courageous and committed and the Neon Project is a classic example of what is going to happen in S.A very soon.

I expect S.A to be one of the largest Logistics centers in the Middle East because it has all the parameters in terms of Visionary Leadership that walks the talk, numerous coastal ports, resources, a robust economic plan, and a strong will to develop their country. 

 Q6: Do you support the idea of privatization in the field of seaports, and how do you evaluate the idea of privatization in Saudi Arabia and Egypt?

Q6: Privatization is the way forward and I agree that Governments should retain a significant share in the asset but not a majority. Governments should be co-owners but not the manager of any asset unless of course, its impact on the National Security, then the share should be utilized to veto any management decision but not to manage the ports. Many industrial nations have implemented such a model and achieved both business and growth success.

 Q7:What do you dream that Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, or the Arab region will have with the next year to be achieved?

Q7: My dream, is that all Arab countries will agree to have an ARAB MARITIME CLUSTER, where they have joint Arab shipbuilding facilities, technical ship management, and Marine Academies infrastructure that complement each other and NOT compete with each other. My dream is EGYPT and SAUDI ARABIA will have a consistent Marine business plan that serves both countries equally and benefit the manpower of both countries. I dream that GCC will be a Gulf Cooperation Countries and not Gulf Competitions Countries. Do we have 6 of the largest airports in the world within an hour or less from one another? We have 6 huge ship repairs facilities within very close distance from one another and of course same applies to Marine ports and facilities, most of all these are managed by foreign expatriates, not Nationals. Let’s align these business objectives and strategies and develop our nation’s and own national carders.

 Q8:Do you advocate the idea of an Arab classification Society, and how would you evaluate the UAE experience, then?

Q8: Yes I strongly support an Arab or Middle Easter Classification society. I know Egypt has been trying over the last 45 years to establish that but to no avail. A few years back, UAE, through its initiative of Tasneef classification society has managed to make a great starting success and was heading to further development. I was a strong supporter of Tasneef during my role as CEO of a large fleet but I assess that they tried to run before they walk, and before they achieve IACS membership and approval, the initiative expanded into academic training course and independent ship inspections at owners request and introduced high fees structure, which conflicted with their objective of being nonprofit making and serving the flag states. Also, the Tasneef classification relied on government support as it was managed by the element of the Navy, which again brought complexity between government bodies and profit centers, conflict of interest. 

Tasneef alone could not achieve the two min. requirements of being an IACS member to be recognized by Oil Majors and flag states of maritime nations, WE must all support Tasneef project or talk together about any changes needed to bring about those essential requirements with for Tasneef or any other Arab Classification society.

 Q9: Egypt seeks to have a merchant marine fleet with the idea of reviving the shipbuilding industry. How do you see achieving this according to the experiences of others?

Q9: Egypt must have a national Fleet to serve its commercial needs in terms of imports goods and obligations to export its goods, specifically LNG cargo. There are great commercial advantages and National security concerns. However, Egypt needs a complete comprehensive Maritime cluster to be established, to align Maritime activities in terms of ports, transport, ships, offshore, laws, training, agency, maintenance, offshore fleet, and any associated services. I hope one day Egypt will push that direction in the same momentum they are doing other projects. 

I’m very confident that the political leadership in Egypt that achieved all that amazing success stories and developed the country in such a short time under the current government will take care of that in due course. 

 Q10: Egypt has made more oil and gas discoveries, especially in light of the establishment of the Mediterranean Gas Forum. Do you not think it is more appropriate for Egypt to build offshore ships and take care of this as we enter the Fifth Industrial Revolution?

Q10: I must congratulate you on the question, it is a fact that we must all acknowledge. The East Med. The gas forum and the further discoveries of oil and gas fields must be complemented by robust service support arrangements. I know Egypt has one of the best and most advanced Naval Force in the region and can defend its assets against any violation, but the day to day service and support will require a strong modern, and reliable offshore fleet manned at least 50% if not all Egyptian Nationals to ensure service reliability and business continuity in the eventuality of any geopolitical instability. This is naturally part of the Arab Maritime Cluster that we should all call for and request but special attention is drawn to the nature of the service in the current circumstances.

 Q11: What do you expect for Arab ports in 2022? Will Arab ports appear among the best ports in the world, such as the Tangier seaport or ports in the Sultanate of Oman with Dubai International Ports, for example?

I expect that some of the Middle East and Gulf region ports have the potentials to become one of the most advanced and sophisticated ports in the world. WE have all the parameters, knowledge, expertise, and resource as well as the end-users market and above all, we have the visionary and committed Leadership in every corner of the Middle East, from Egypt, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, etc., Not in any place do we find Leadership that will not commit and push for their country advance and prosperity. 

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