Gulftainer Company Limited: Port Management Principles

Gulftainer was founded in 1976 in Sharjah, UAE. From its modest beginnings as a company operating in the third largest UAE city, next to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it has evolved into a widely-recognized player in the port management industry with its new additional port facilities located in Iraq, Lebanon, Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia. In Middle East alone, the company operates 8 terminals, more than any other company in the region. Gulftainer, under the leadership of Peter Richards, Group Managing Director, and Ramesh Shivakumaran, Group Director Business Services, has gained a high reputation as a dependable provider of productivity and customer-focused service.

What are the principles that apply in this complex, high-investment, extremely-competitive industry sector? Here are a few guidelines to give us a working knowledge of how Gulftainer achieved its own position as a leader in the industry:

  1. Completely understanding the role of ports in international trade and transport

A thorough comprehension of the important role that ports play in the global trade and transportation industry is a must for anyone who plans to engage in this endeavor, whether as an entrepreneur, investor, consultant, employee or affiliate. As we mentioned, it is a complex venture with a wide coverage not just geographically but also logistically, socially and politically. One must recognize the respected leaders in the industry and gain enough insight into the general nature of the business and who are the people and institutions involved in it. One also needs to determine the degree of involvement one needs to achieve in order to maintain a viable level of performance in the business. No, it may not be time to look into the profitability of the venture; for it is almost a given that, as long as one maintains a relatively tight management control, one will find the business potentially profitable.

  1. Recognizing how ports can benefit or detract from the economics development of countries and their sea-borne trade

Corollary to the first, one needs to fathom the extent to which ports will serve the goals of the country in which they are located as well as the effects they have on the trade conditions of countries with which they deal with. This requires looking more closely into the dynamics of trade and transport as tandem operations involving real entities (whether we are talking of individuals, companies or countries) with particular goals and visions. For instance, with the growing reach of China’s trade with world and the gradual realization of its low-quality products and even intentional use of toxic and harmful materials and food-based products, it would seem suicidal to go forth and follow the band wagon to the giant nation’s doorsteps at this time. Attaining a trade relationship that brings mutual benefits to trading partner-nations may be difficult at first to achieve; but in the long run, it will bring stable economic advantages to all concerned.

  1. Understanding the effect of globalization on port location and how the dynamics of logistics and distribution patterns affect the growth or decline of ports

The ongoing deliberations among nations toward a complete globalization status will eventually clarify the motivations of the big-player-nations vis-Ă -vis the smaller developing nations. Globalization, for all its good intentions, will tend to favor the rich nations’ agenda for economic control or advantage. Ports will serve a crucial role in the implementation of all the ensuing guidelines and agreements between almost all the nations of the world. Without a thorough apprehension of what is really going on at those conference tables, it would be difficult to pursue a business that will be subject to many new or future policy changes that will certainly arise as a result of nations bargaining to protect their own rights and agenda.

  1. Being aware of the location of major world ports in liner, dry bulk and liquid trades

Going into specifics now, one needs to pinpoint the major points in the present trade routes. This is part of knowing who your friends are and who your enemies are. In many cases, your friends may also be your enemies; it all depends on how they treat you and how you eventually treat them. Competition breeds the best and also the worst in us as we all have interests to protect while trying to give in to others’ interests as much as we can. Business is certainly not for the weak-hearted; and port management is definitely not for the weak-willed and weak-minded. Keeping an intelligent look at where your ports are will help determine how you will plan your operations and eventually achieve your goals.

  1. Understanding the geographic reasons for port location and the extent to which this may depend on the nature of their hinterland and natural resources

Again, this is in accordance with Sun Tzu’s advice that in going to war, one must know the terrain where you intend to meet the enemy. Knowing where you can obtain your supplies and raw material needs for building and maintaining your port facilities will be essential in the final success of the venture. This will involve knowing the citizens’ social norms, cultural taboos, economic policies, political systems and governmental regulations pertaining to the business. Just as a miner has to go to the mountain to scout the source of the ore, a port operator must scout the whole region in order to find what will support the business, where they can be obtained and how much capital will be required. Hiring people who live in the area will be a vital strategy founded on sound social, political and economic principles. A few have done disservice to host nations by hiring their own people instead of local workers.

These are just some of the few initial things to consider in dealing with port management. Gulftainer has made a name for itself gaining enough expertise in helping investors gain the necessary skills and knowledge when it comes to port facilities management.


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