Gulftainer aims for 15% growth in 2010

Gulftainer plans to increase its staff by 25 per cent in the UAE. (EB FILE)

Gulftainer is embarking on a massive expansion plan in international markets and is planning to double its workforce this year.

The Sharjah-based firm also reported yesterday that it saw an 11 per cent increase in revenue and throughput from 2.5 million TEUs in 2008 to 2.7 million TEUs in 2009, at a time when most port operators and shipping firms saw significant drop.

The growth, according to Peter Richards, Gultainer Executive Director and General Manager, was fuelled by an increased productivity of up to 12 per cent in 2009, which they plan to further increase to 78 per cent this year.

"I know that all our competitors in the UAE have felt the strain of the recession and saw drop in volume throughputs. Our terminals enjoyed another increase on top of the already fantastic 2008," Richards told Emirates Business.

In addition to a recovering economy, the company is counting on its aggressive expansion plans to sustain the growth level to another 15 per cent this year.

The company increased its handing capacity by up to 50 per cent last year while other major Middle East ports placed developments "on hold". This month will mark the completion of the $230 million (Dh844m) expansion of the Khorfakkan and Sharjah terminals, which began in 2006. The first and second phase expansion of the Khorfakkan container terminal (KCT) cost $100m and $80m respectively, while the Sharjah container terminal (SCT) cost $50m. Gultainer is also planning to go into a third expansion of KCT, which could handle additional one million TEU.

"The company is waiting. We're talking to some major customers and if those customers come on board then we'll have to have expansion," Richards said.

The firm, which currently employs about 1,200 people, is expecting to see a 25 per cent increase in people in the UAE due primarily to the Borouge project in Abu Dhabi, with which it had secured a five-year contract.

Gulftainer is upbeat that its business in Iraq will bring more business with about 1,000 people coming on board in 2010. The number, which would be mostly Iraqis, is set to reach 4,000 over the next three years.

"The initial investment is $50m for this year only and we're going to have 4,000 people with different ventures," he said.

Gulftainer through its subsidiary Momentum Logistics recently opened a new office and depot location in Iraq, as part of its network development strategy.

The new branch is located in Zakho, Northern Iraq, on the border with Turkey, and is about 8,000 square metres in size, inclusive of the office and transport yard.

"The opportunity for port development is not that much in the UAE because there are lot of ports here. We are really looking at transshipment for sustaining the growth. KCT is an ideal position to service countries such as Iran, India and Pakistan," he said.

"Although many projects are on hold or cancelled, very slowly we're seeing movement in projects that were on hold and is now starting to progress again," he added.

"And it's not just the UAE. A lot of the cargo is touching the UAE but its onward shipment is going to Iraq. Year 2010 is going to be a major boom for Iraq, especially with new election and with a government that knows how to get back to its feet again."

 

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