By Nawaf Abdulla*
From the initial stages of Covid-19 outbreak, it became apparent that a wide range of sectors would be affected, some in greater degree than others, while the virus’ effects were also felt in both the traffic and the volume of goods handled at ports throughout the world. During these challenging times, our top priority is without a doubt, the protection of health and safety of staff and society, and at the same time, the minimisation of social and economic disruption. To this end, the role of ports in trade facilitation is crucial, considering that without ports activity, the world’s food, energy, raw materials and vital medical supplies cannot be transported where they are required.
As a company managing critical port infrastructure of vital importance to the Cyprus economy, DP World Limassol, has implemented robust business continuity plans in order to ensure stability and limit disruption across its activities, while taking all the necessary protective measures. Currently, all trade enabling activities and quayside operations are being carried out as normal. With the Limassol port being a frontline economic growth engine, we believe that keeping Cyprus’ global gateways open is crucial so that the supply chains of the country’s economy aren’t disrupted, especially since many sectors of the economy are heavily dependent on the port’s smooth operation.
At the same time, DP World Limassol has, from the very beginning, taken steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees, and especially those on the frontlines, while also protecting its customers and the wider port community. Specifically, all entities based and operating at the terminal under DP World Limassol’s administration are required to fully adhere to government guidelines. The Company has also taken additional measures, in order to reinforce safe behaviour in all office spaces and has introduced remote working arrangements where possible. In addition, in an effort to reduce unnecessary exposure during the global COVID-19 pandemic, DP World Limassol unveiled recently a new digital payment solution, allowing for convenient and secure digital transactions for all customers and partners.
While it is still rather early to assess the full impact of the coronavirus, experts believe that the shipping industry will face significant challenges this year. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. In times of crisis, shipping is usually among the first sectors to recover. In fact, the global trading system is slowly getting back into gear, as the weekly number of container ship journeys originating in China started recovering, giving us a glimpse into what lies ahead for the rest of the world.
Most importantly, this crisis offers the opportunity for business introspection. We should draw lessons from it and improve the way we conduct operations, by further automating our ports and becoming more resilient. While we have already embraced automation to a large extent, the outbreak and the new realities it has created have forced us to go even further. This crisis can also serve as a catalyst for digital and technological advancements in the port industry since it will spur further investment in freight technologies, data analysis, digital solutions and Artificial Intelligence, transforming the sector altogether while at the same time protecting and taking good care of our hygiene and wellbeing. I am confident that by working together we can overcome this.
Nawaf Abdulla is CEO, DP World Limassol