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Keld M Christensen

OMAN - Transport

Keld M Christensen

CEO, Port of Salalah

Bio

Keld M Christensen was appointed CEO of Port of Salalah in September 2022. Prior to that, he was managing director of APM Terminals Poti in Georgia. He joined AP Moller-Maersk in 1997 and later worked outside the company for several years for ISS A/S and the Danish foreign service as consul general in Istanbul, before he moved to Poti in 2019.

"We have an ambitious policy around sustainability."
One of the major gateway ports into Oman, Port of Salalah is looking to expand further, purchase more equipment, and improve its efficiencies to remain competitive in the future.
What are Port of Salalah’s main operations in terms of volume and productivity, and what have been some of its major highlights in the past year?

Port of Salalah is predominantly a major regional transshipment hub for east and west traffic and one of the gateway ports for Oman in terms of containers. We also have a general cargo business where we handle up to 18 million tons of which the major volume is exports of limestone and gypsum apart from break bulk and liquid bulk. That is the main breakdown of our activity. When it comes to container efficiency, we have what we call as our “way of working” within the port in terms of how we handle containers and discharge and load vessels. When running a transshipment hub, it is all about minimizing the port stay for vessels so you can send the vessel back into the network within the shortest possible time. We have been particularly successful at vessel turnaround, though there is always room for improvement. We are constantly seeking excellence in terms of our turnaround and so on.

What opportunities did you see in the Port of Salalah when you joined?

Right now, we have an expansion project where we are upgrading the container terminal capacity and capabilities by adding another 10 ship-to-shore (STS) cranes. We will be replacing some of the existing cranes due to its limitations to handle the very-large-container vessels that come in, because vessel sizes have increased over the last 20 years of operation. We need to be up to speed with having the state-of-the-art equipment. This expansion project is one area of opportunity. Then, we have a concession with the government that expires in 2028 that is up for extension currently.

How is the Port of Salalah doing in terms of implementing technology and making port operations successful and financially feasible?

On the innovation side, we place heavy focus on automation. We have implemented a general cargo terminal automation system in early 2022, and there is a container terminal automation project ongoing currently that includes gate automation that should be ready by 1Q2023. We operate in a lean environment. The value of a transshipment hub lies not in the equipment, but in the management of the container yard, because the containers practically never leave the port. They stay there and are transshipped to other feeder vessels and destinations.

What is the port doing to introduce eco-friendly technologies and green logistics in Oman?

We have an ambitious policy around sustainability. We are a heavy consumer of energy and are trying as much as we can to minimize that. It is not like we can put up 50 wind turbines into Salalah and be self-sufficient in terms of electricity. Renewable energy has to be connected to the public grid, though there are definitely huge opportunities within solar and wind. Oman is one of the greener countries in the GCC, and hopefully, we can benefit from that and help create a greener logistics sector. We have to move toward becoming completely sustainable. Fortunately, we have global consumers who are much more demanding in terms of sustainability and other areas. We have a clear roadmap on reaching overall net zero CO2 emissions and becoming a green terminal by 2040.

How do you see the port expanding in the next year or two?

Expansion project of the container terminal is scheduled for 2023-2024, which will increase the container handling capacity from current 5 million TEUs to 6.5 million by 2025. Our focus in the coming years is to grow our gateway volume, namely cargo that comes in and out of the port. That is linked to initiatives with Yemen, the free zones, and the airport and will further strengthen our collaboration with the other free zones and ports in the country.

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