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Connecting and Simplifying Trade: Mohammad Shihab, Managing Director at Maersk KSA

In Conversation with Mohammad Shihab, Managing Director at Maersk Saudi Arabia

Q. Tell us what was Maersk KSA’s 2020 Goals and Objectives?
Maersk Saudi Arabia commits to serve the business community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by connecting and simplifying their supply chains and enabling global trade. We are committed to maintaining competitive and efficient supply routes to the key export markets and key import markets. We are serving our customers with compelling solutions that cover end-to-end logistics across ocean transportation and key landside logistics services through our offerings. This includes warehousing, hub solutions, local transportation, customs brokerage, and insurance services tailored to our customers’ needs.

Q. How were Maersk KSA’s operations affected as a result of the pandemic?
The priorities of the Maersk leadership through the crisis has been clearly defined within 3 pillars:
1) To ensure safety of staff and their families during these testing times.
2) Maintaining the supply chain and logistics/transport needs of our customers base with minimal interruption.
3) Ensuring we contribute within the Saudi civil society to alleviating the difficulties on the community. In totality, the Maersk Saudi Arabia staff members have worked tirelessly to ensure we met these goals. While we are still in the middle of the situation, we can look back at the last seven months with an overall positive outlook on achieving those goals. It has been far from easy however, the team dedication and commitment have made all the difference.

Q. Can you tell us if some of the steps taken by Maersk KSA that helped them navigate through this pandemic?
First and foremost, we needed to ensure we worked closely with our key stakeholders – our customers, the Saudi Port Authority, and the Saudi Customs – during the pandemic to amend some of the processes. This was especially necessary for the physical handoff of essential shipping documents that had to be processed as much as possible with higher degrees of automation for the safety of everyone involved. The collaboration in this regard with each stakeholder has been excellent.

Additionally, as a significant logistics provider for essential commodities such as foodstuff and medical supplies, we worked closely with our customers to provide alternative transportation solutions to ensure uninterrupted supply of these essential goods during the pandemic.

Q. The GCC, in general, has an excellent logistics infrastructure. Can you tell us how KSA’s infrastructure (ports, transportation, freight, etc..) helped companies like yours to operate in such an unprecedented year?
The core logistics infrastructure, such as roads, ports, and terminals in the Kingdom is very high when benchmarked worldwide. To add to that, the agility and collaboration from all stakeholders in ensuring flexibility and re-visiting processes that required direct handoffs has been an essential enabler to success during this period. The different Saudi Government entities and our customers must be applauded for their relentless efforts during the pandemic to ensure they aligned with us in applying quick, practical and pragmatic solutions.

Q. Can you tell us what the unique selling point of Maersk KSA is?
One strength that has been a differentiator for us throughout the pandemic period has been the agility that we have been able to demonstrate to achieve customer-centricity. The skill came in various forms – be it adjusting our ocean network or tailoring and executing unique solutions for our customers. We have managed to leverage our scale and showcased the ability to provide a solution fitting our customers’ specific needs. We have thought out of the box to innovate products and services that supported our customers’ requirements during the testing times. These solutions revolved around speeding up their supply chains for essential commodities or slowing them down in non-essential commodities that were in lower demand during this period.

Q. What are the plans for 2021?
2021 will be a defining year for Maersk Saudi Arabia, and one where our customers will be able to enjoy exciting additions to our existing suite of products and services and tailored solutions. We are working on several major solutions for our Petrochemical Customers and FMCG customers in the logistics sector.

Q. Can you tell us about your leadership qualities and what steps you took to ensure that Maersk KSA could navigate through this pandemic?
Right at the start of the pandemic, we set ourselves three priorities – we must ensure our employees’ safety, serve our customers in the best way possible, and help the societies fight the virus. We established a workgroup encompassing all our geographic and functional leads that met daily (lots of virtual meetings!) to ensure a no-detail-too-small approach to the situation, covering all topics ranging from the wellbeing of our staff, to the flow of operations, to business growth. I am very proud of the great results the Saudi Leadership Team delivered during this period.

Q. What latest technology is Maersk KSA implementing to make your operations efficient and productive?
Maersk is a leading investor and innovator in the logistics business’s digital side and we have already delivered various key innovations so far. To name a few, we have gone to market with a very innovative shipping solution, Maersk Spot, that establishes a clearer two-way commitment with customers on space and equipment availability on our ocean services – something that has been well-received by our customers. We are including more and more logistics services on this product and continuing to enhance it. Our website Maersk.com is now a one-stop platform for our customers to get quotes, book consignments, track their cargo and so on from the convenience of their homes or offices. We are also the leading logistics company worldwide in adopting blockchain technology, with significant milestones worldwide coming out of the Kingdom.

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