Full steam ahead
Emirates Shipping Line burst onto the regional sea freight scene in 2006 and has carved a profitable niche as as a global boutique carrier.
As the regional maritime business goes from strength to strength, no shipping company has epitomised this better than Dubai headquartered Emirates Shipping Line.
In its first year of business the fledgling container carrier received the prestigious accolade for best emerging company at the Lloyds List Maritime Asia awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This year that initial success has been built upon and recent statistics reveal the group has grown the business by 30%.
Taking advantage of the boom in international freight shipping, the company has launched eight new services in the past 12 months alone.
As a result of these new services, the Dubai Maritime City registered company says it is on track to double its container capacity within the next two years, and boost its agency network, which already spans more than 40 countries.
The group strategy has been to straddle the globe, with commercial headquarters in both Dubai and Hong Kong, two of the busiest container hubs in the world.
With China's exports flooding shops and factories worldwide, that new wealth generation is also driving up import demands, and subsequently employing space on inward bound shipments for previously much under utilised routes.
The Middle East itself has shown no sign of slacking as sectors as diverse as heavy industry, infrastructure development and rapidly increasing consumer demand set it among the fastest growing regions in
"We have positioned ourselves to succeed in these regions which are the core part of Emirates Shipping Line's strategy," explains senior vice president, Mohamed El Alfy.
Emirates Shipping Line has achieved solid business growth in the 18 months following its inception in May 2006. Eight services were launched within the very short time span of one year to meet the demand on service routes throughout the Middle East, Asia and across the Pacific.
"These key deployments are connecting countries with strong economic growth to major international markets," he adds. "This provides us a growth rate which is outpacing the market, with a widespread network now spanning over 40 countries."
The line has taken advantage of undeniable growth in the Middle East and has a robust and optimistic outlook for continuing to build on this early success.
Of the eight services launched, three of them are long haul weekly services focused on this area and the intention is to increase that service frequency and size in the coming years.
"All our existing services are well-operated as per our plan and strategy. We are continuously reviewing new opportunities as we closely watch developments in this area," he says.
Currently Emirates Shipping Line is operating a total of 13 vessels on different service routes and with some services as vessel sharing partner.
"Our fleet size expansion has kept in step with our future growth," explains El Alfy.
Middle East outlook
The company is far from willing to rest on this early success, however. Optimism colours the conversation and expectations for the continued rapid growth in the region have been based on a series of positive economic factors as well as in-house business strategies.
"Several countries in the region have correctly set about undertaking significant planned economic and industrial expansion and this has had a direct bearing on the continuous growth of the Middle East."
In addition, the reinvestment of oil revenues within the region itself has provided a very positive outlook and most predictions maintain an ongoing sustained growth based on increased consumption and a higher affluence level.
Huge potential also exists in arrangements like "GCC plus One" between the Gulf countries and the Indian Subcontinent.
All of these trades have displayed strong growth already, but with any formal tariffs agreement, that growth will be massive.
"Throughout the GCC we see an increasing distribution of wealth within social strata and rapid local infrastructure development which is spurring a huge market for exports of all types from countries like China," says El Alfy.
"While in China the wealth brought in by exports is spurring a demand for imported goods."
"We see these areas going from strength to strength with huge growth spurring increased shipping demand."
As a boutique global carrier, Emirates Shipping Line offers around-the-clock customer service, direct customer contact while maintaining high levels of flexibility to customer needs.
"We endeavor towards becoming a recognised leader in our chosen markets, through strong professionalism, quality, and a passionate and responsive approach in upholding stake holder value," adds El Alfy.
Although a relative newcomer to the industry the company management has decades of experience in the international shipping and marine service industry.
"I've worked in the maritime sector for the past 20 years, with time spent in the US and Hong Kong but have been based here in the Middle East for most of the last ten years," says El Alfy.
The team is the epitome of the Emirates which it derives its name from, with a multicultural, highly motivated core of professionals from all over the world working at every level of the company.
"Regionally our main strength is our strategic positioning in Middle East, India and China where we have a comprehensive network and understanding of customer needs.
Our key strengths are that we provide more direct calls in more ports than many other lines in this region, such as China to Dammam and Abu Dhabi." As far as possible the company has focussed on building up a network of direct calls.
However, Dubai is used as a regional hub for the Arabian Gulf region, using a network of feeders to other ports.
"In this ever changing world, without including security as an element of world-class service, would be a disservice to our customers and the international community," says El Alfy.
"We have been striving to maintain a secure environment for our customer's goods while in our control."
Initially, Emirates Shipping Line implemented the international maritime security standards required under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), and in November 2006, only several months after starting operations, officially became a member of the US customs and border protection's trade partnership against terrorism (C-TPAT) initiative.
C-TPAT is a voluntary initiative, which goes beyond the security standards of the ISPS.
The programme was developed to secure the international supply chain and prevent the introduction of a potential terrorist weapon into legitimate cargo while in a shipping line's possession.
By implementing this commitment to security and working with other companies that are equally committed we are able to pass on the benefits of being a partner to our customers.
"Those customers that share these standards will receive the benefits of the initiative once their cargo reaches the United States, such as expedited customs clearance," explains El Alfy.
"Our commitment to security does not end here, we verify that our third party service providers remain vigilant by assessing the implementation of their security procedures on a regular basis," he says.
One to watch
With a network of lucrative routes and strategic partnerships spanning the world's busiest trade lanes, Emirates Shipping Line managed to enter the container carrier business at a time when competition has been stiff, and make a success where others have floundered.
The network is set to grow, and in 2008 regional and global shipping lines alike will be following the Middle East's newest shipping line with renewed interest.
With an aim of doubling its container capacity over the coming two years, the region's most ambitious carrier is set to make waves wherever she sails.
April 2006 - Emirates Shipping Line Opens for business.
May 2006 - First sailing of the new container carrier Emirates Shipping Line left Colombo on 24th May 2006, marking the launch of the services and operations of the company.
July 2006 - Joins MAX service of OOCL, acquiring slots on premier Asia to Middle East service, including port calls at Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Jebel Ali.
October 2006 - Emirates Shipping Line wins Best Emerging Company award at the 2006 Asia Logistics Awards.
November 2006 - Emirates Shipping Line wins Best Emerging Company at the eighth annual Lloyd's List Maritime Asia Awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
March 2007 - Joins the INTTRA carrier network, an e-commerce platform representing 63% of ocean freight capacity.
April 2007 - Emirates Shipping Line launches two new services - the Gulf Indian-Subcontinent Africa Service (GIA) and the Africa Far-East Asia Service AFA).
November 2007 - CEO and chairman, Vikas Khan awarded Personality of the Year award Seatrade Middle East & India awards 2007.
December 2007 - Emirates Shipping Line confirms 30% growth on the back of eight new services launched in just 12 months.