The Business Year

Abdulaziz Higgi

General Manager, Faisal Higgi & Associates Co.

Richard James

Managing Director, Gulf Stevedoring Contracting Company

The transformation of the Saudi shipping sector has made it a great time for trade facilitators to play their part and increase their coverage.

How did your operations evolve in the last year, and what is your growth strategy based on?

ABDULAZIZ HIGGI Business has been fairly regular for the past six months. Faisal Higgi & Co. has two new contracts, and we are having discussions with a Danish company in Dammam. In terms of our strategy, we want to expand, covering all ports, in particular GCC markets. We are looking to do this by partnering with equally big names, which can also boost our reputation. The key is a partner that can add something to our business. The market is opening up for us and our competitors, and we would like to see the government safeguarding fair competition. We have seen 100% improvement in customs clearances at all ports in the Kingdom, regardless of their location. The current environment will still be led by the government, though private companies are really stepping up to be involved. That also includes the smaller players, not just the major ones.

RICHARD JAMES There has been a big strategic shift in terms of how Saudi Arabia seeks to approach the port industry, which has seen the focus being spread beyond just Jeddah and Dammam ports. We will see significantly more focus on the other ports, so that players will be able to use the closest and most convenient terminal to them with interconnections to utilize coastal shipping. The approach now is more comprehensive and holistic, and it looks at combining the entire country’s strength points to combine them through a network. The increased importance of King Abdullah Port has led us to consider the whole Red Sea as a platform to be engaged with. As a result, we are expanding to Yanbu and are considering opportunities along the whole west coast. Yanbu Port has an existing but currently underutilized facility and requires a specialist partner to reinvigorate the operations in the industrial port.

Where has technology and innovation had the biggest impact on the logistics sector in recent years?

AH We use technology to track goods and have a number of internal applications that we use, for example, for our internal stock and operational maintenance. We have a plan to implement a mobile application for use in our role as a shipping agent and ship supplier. That means any client that wants to order anything from us can use our application and place an order, even from their ship. Clients can also use the application to request agency services and to handle their cargo arrangements.

RJ In the past, it took 14 days to get a container through a Saudi port, while today, the single-payment window has been extremely successful in terms of simplifying processes, and the response from the customer base has been phenomenal. This digital platform is transparent, and all paperwork can be done online. There is definitely growing momentum as a result of the rapid pace of progress, and the Saudi Customs Trade Facilitations Unit has been particularly successfully in troubleshooting individual challenges. The government is now tackling the specifics to help deal with all the anomalous cases and unique circumstances.

What risks does Faisal Higgi & Co. face?

AH Since we want to cover all Saudi ports, the major risk in our line of business is economic. If the economy, particularly oil and raw material exports, starts to decline, then this can result in our market suffering, too. Right now, there is less risk on the west coast than the east, highlighted by insurance prices increasing.

What is your assessment of human resources in Saudi Arabia?

RJ Saudi Arabia is sitting on some of the best untapped homegrown talent in the entire region, thanks to its investment in schools and universities. The UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait also have a great education system, but the sheer scale in Saudi Arabia makes it even more critical here. There is a great attitude from the youth, who are enthused by the country’s progress, and it is great to see these dividends now paying off. Having a network of homegrown nationals who understand and trust each other is a hugely beneficial part of all sorts of business relationships.



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