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Bernard Gerdy

General Manager, CMA CGM

Samir Noaimé

President, Seatrans Agencies (Hamburg Süd)

How has the company evolved since its foundation? BERNARD GERDY CMA CGM’s founder, Jacques Saadé, left Lebanon due to the war and founded his company in Marseille, France. He set […]

How has the company evolved since its foundation?

BERNARD GERDY CMA CGM’s founder, Jacques Saadé, left Lebanon due to the war and founded his company in Marseille, France. He set up one shipping line with a single ship linking Beirut with Latakia, Marseilles, and Livorno with a staff of just five people. We have since grown to 170 lines to 150 different countries with 400 ports of call, and we also have 650 branches around the world. Our staff has grown to 18,000, of which 400 are based in Lebanon. We have 414 vessels, with the company owning around 100, and we now cover the whole world. It’s a pretty remarkable growth story that we have experienced. The group’s mother company, Merit Corporation, is Lebanese, as are its founders. CMA CGM is the number one Lebanese importer and the number two exporter. We use the Port of Beirut as a transshipment hub for the region, affording Lebanon the same status. The Port of Beirut, which has been a great success, although, recently we have experienced increased congestion there.

SAMIR NOAIMÉ Seatrans Agency has been the general agent for Hamburg Süd in Lebanon since 1999. Hamburg Süd is one of the leading carriers in the shipping sector in Lebanon, having a regular liner service from northwest Europe; UK and Scandinavian ports, and South and Central America. Those are the main shipping routes, although there is also service from Egypt, India, and Jebel Ali. We are considered among the top four shipping agencies in Lebanon along with Maersk, CMA CGM, and MSC providing direct service to Beirut. All four agencies control about 75% of the import volume from the mentioned countries. Our evolution was significant since, as of the start of our activities, Hamburg Süd was the only carrier serving Beirut on a direct call basis permitting us to build an honorable clientele portfolio and maintaining our credibility and leadership in the market.

How is the situation in Syria impacting the container shipping sector?

BG It is good for the shipping sector, because land transit is now quite perilous due to the conflict; freight carriers are all opting for sea transport. This explains the 25% increase in business at the Port of Beirut, and why we are experiencing congestion. Even before the Syrian war, Lebanon had been experiencing numerous problematic conditions and difficulties in passing through the country. Lebanese trucks always had to pay transit fees. Now of course with the war, nobody wants to go through Syria anyway. Therefore, since Syria was the only way out as a transit route, we weren’t able to develop transit to other Arab countries through Lebanon, which has been a weakness the country as a hub. The war has increased transshipment, but for transit it has been very bad. We are a small country and we don’t have much transit because we are hemmed in. Syria imposed a transit fee of around $220 per ton on our trucks. That is just not competitive, and the reason why, if you lack a transit arm, you can’t develop a logistics business. If you compare Lebanon to the regional logistics center, Dubai, it has all the necessary facilities in place, and doesn’t have any political barriers, thus benefitting from free and unimpeded logistics networks, on land, air, and sea.

SN In 2013, local cargo import volumes increased by 23% for the first six months in containerized movement, and this is due to the Syrian events where nearly 1 million Syrian citizens arrived in Lebanon and reflected a high consumption in the country. Meanwhile, exports increased by 43% in the first six months due to the closure of the roads in Syrian territories and the freeze in trucking services to Arab countries that were replaced by sea shipping. Hamburg Süd is maintaining its precise, regular, and direct service to obtain a considerable part of this increase in imports and exports.



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