By : Magdy Sadek
Cap Gamal FeKry is a Master Marine and has nearly 42 years of experience in the shipping industry. He was appointed as Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board Directions in February 2014 after serving three years as Managing Director of Red Sea Marine Management DMCC (RSMM) in Debi, one of Bihar International Co.LTD Companies (formerly known as Bakri Group).
Gamal was Global Manager ship Vetting then Manager Vetting and Clearance at British Petroleum Shipping in London.
A Global marine expert for over forty years, he stressed via an interview to Leaders that the Kingdom can be a strategical regional player on the trade from East to West considering its geographical location, adding that Neon City will be a fantastic business success story once developed.
How did you get into the Maritime Transportation field? How did your career path lead to those positions?
My involvement in maritime transportations evolved from my career as a seagoing officer following my joining the Arab Maritime Transport Academy (AMTA), currently known as Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, in 1975.
Then, I joined Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC) as Marine Cadet 1976. I progressed with KOTC from 1976 as sea staff to Master on tankers ULCC, VLCC, Products, and LPG carriers.
Next, I was promoted to Superintendent Fleet Personnel/Training in 1992. I established a national cadre training department, was promoted to Superintendent Fleet Operations (LPG & Products) and Crude, and Fleet Manager for the LPG and Products Fleet; usually 18 vessels but managed the entire fleet.
My career progression included Marine Superintended, head of Fleet of Liquefied Gas Carriers and products fleet, and Fleet Manager. Finally, I was a maritime Assurance Regional Manager Middle East for British Petroleum (BP). During that time, I was seconded to the Supreme Petroleum Council of Abu Dhabi as a Marine Risk Manager for three years. That led to my role as Global Vetting Manager for BP in London.
I was later Managing Director of the shipping company Red Sea Marine Management in Dubai, then Chief Executive Officer of the same organization.
Can you briefly tell us about that? And what are its main characteristics and challenges in your career path?
My career path had had many challenges. The seagoing career requires continuous travelling and prolonged periods of being away from home and family.
There was no family or work-life balance at all! It felt like you were visiting home when on leave between long trips, away to an extent made me very independent, but also later relying on my wife to raise kids.
Whilst grateful and thanks to God that worked well in my case, It was the dearest price one had to pay to achieve such career progression and success. That aside, the challenge of dealing with different cultures, races and religions added great diversity to my prospects. It has always been vast but enjoyable.
How do you see the Kingdom’s great strides at the Maritime Field following the development of its main ports?
Saudi Arabia is one of the most distinguish Middle Eastern countries when it comes to the Oil & Gas upstream industry, and we have all been a pioneer in this field since 1934. The Aramco success story is a piece of evidence. However, when it comes to Marine Transpiration and ports, the Kingdome falls behind a great dear if compared to Kuwait or the UAE.
The Marine Transpiration field and its capabilities have been neglected for a long time until recently. The Crown Prince gave orders to develop it, except that Covid -19 slowed the process and put plans on hold.
I believe the Kingdom can be a strategical regional player on the trade from East to West, considering its geographical location and the ability to contribute and serve the shipping lanes leading to Arabian Gulf or Suez Canal. No doubt in my mind that Neon City will be a fantastic business success story once developed.
The Maritime Transport backbones are ship and offshore unities. The Kingdom should look into shipbuilding facilities much faster than in the current program. Ports must be developed separately or isolated if adjacent to Hydrocarbon productions platforms to facilitate easy and practical access to ships and services.
In light of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision, can we say that the Kingdom, with its geo-strategic position, is a global logistic point?
An excellent question, and we may have answered that in the previous points, but the answer is yes, of course.
We are all confident that under the leadership of the Crown Prince, the Kingdom is heading fast to its natural position as a strategic global logistic point. Specifically after the announcement of the largest Free Zone area adjacent to the Suez Canal and its collaboration with the neighbour country Egypt.
The development of the COSWAY’s with Egypt will generate another route that establishes the Kingdom as a Strategic Logistic Hub.
Can Egypt and Saudi Arabia work on a centralization point through collaboration among their ports, experts, maritime cadres? How can this happen?
Without a doubt. The world trade is heading towards centralization and merger to achieve cost-effectiveness operations. Due to their geographical location, Egypt and the Kingdom are blessed by the Suez Canal and the role it plays in international trade.
As mention earlier, the development of the COSWAY’s will also provide a land route trade and distribution to Africa and the shortest route to Europe. Strategies between the two countries in the maritime fields need to be aligned.
Egypt, for example, has a long history and expertise in shipbuilding. The Alexandria Ship Building facility, backed by a significant number of qualified, skilled workforce, is clear evidence that the Kingdom should take advantage of and put a system in place to use that in addition to the far East expertise in shipbuilding.
There are many more fields and examples that we can discuss, but this should be addressed separately.
What’s your vision for Egypt and Saudi ports for the next decade?
The short answer is I am very optimistic and confident that both countries current leadership have shown serious commitments and determination to develop their countries infrastructure and modernize their ports.
I can tell you that once the Covid-19 crisis is over, the Kingdom will spearhead the industry in its maritime transportation modernization.
Egypt has already started that process, and numerous ports are currently undergoing significant development and modernization plans and adding new ports and providing the necessary power and road networks to serve them.
What are the main priorities for Egyptian Maritime transportation respecting that?
Once Egypt political leadership complete its current development plans for expanding, modernization and building new ports and infrastructure, the main priority will be to establish a National Fleet of vessels and offshore unities to serve and support the country maritime commercial obligation.
Specifically, Egypt must establish a National Fleet of Natural Gas Carriers vessels and Tankers to trade its LNG commodities efficiently and benefit from the High freight.
Also, National assets such as LNG, oil or other offshore platforms must be served by national offshore units, thus providing robust business development & continuity plans and sound national security around those assets.
There is a lot of development that Egypt requires in Maritime Transportation. Still, I am confident the current leadership and policymaking have already addressed these challenges and taken them into account even though they will be time-constrained.