Saturday, February 24, 2024

Our plan involves transitioning from being just a successful transshipment hub to becoming a vital link in the supply chain: Keld Mosgaard Christensen, CEO, Port of Salalah

Our plan involves transitioning from being just a successful transshipment hub to becoming a vital link in the supply chain: Keld Mosgaard Christensen, CEO, Port of Salalah


Keld Mosgaard Christensen
Keld Mosgaard Christensen, CEO, Port of Salalah

Profile
Keld Mosgaard Christensen has been the CEO of Port of Salalah since September 2022.

Prior to his current role was managing director of APM Terminals Poti in Georgia.

He joined AP Moller-Maersk in 1997 and later worked outside the company for several years for ISS A/S and the Danish foreign service as Consul General in Istanbul before he moved to Poti in 2019.


Your history with A.P. Moller-Maersk and various leadership positions, including consul general in Istanbul, Turkey, showcases your versatile background. May you review how your past roles contribute to your vision for leading the Port of Salalah?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: First and foremost, my educational background is in law, which inherently offers value across various facets of business and beyond. I embarked on my career in the private sector and later joined Maersk in 1997. At a certain point, I had the opportunity to transition into the public sector, working for the Danish Foreign Service in a diplomatic capacity. I spent a year at the ministry in Copenhagen, honing my diplomatic skills, before being stationed in Istanbul, as you mentioned, for four years from 2007 to 2011. These were highly intriguing times, marked by events like the cartoon crisis, which posed significant challenges for diplomatic efforts. It was a dynamic period, engaging in stakeholder management and navigating the intricacies of politics and trade.

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Subsequently, in 2011, I returned to the private sector and have remained there since. Now, to address your question regarding the value of this journey, let us break it down. The Port of Salalah’s primary customer is typically the government due to our long-term partnership. This is where my public service experience comes into play. In addition, overseeing a workforce of 2,600 individuals demands strong performance management skills. The combination of performance management expertise and my experience in both the public and private sectors has proven to be invaluable for our port’s leadership.

We are proud to hold the status of being the second most efficient port in the world for two years in a row

Keld Mosgaard Christensen
Your association with APM Terminals, holding a significant share in the joint venture that operates the Port of Salalah, provides a strong foundation. How has this partnership influenced your approach to leadership and the strategic direction of the port’s growth?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: Well, not only does APM Terminals have a major share of the company, but they also have a management contract with the Port of Salalah. So, effectively, the Port of Salalah is managed by APM Terminals. This gives us a fantastic advantage because we can leverage all the concepts, processes, and procedures that APM Terminals have developed over the years. Lean management, for example, is a good example of this. We adapt these processes and procedures as much as we can, and right now, we are proud to hold the status of being the second most efficient port in the world for two years in a row. This demonstrates how we approach our operations, ultimately benefiting our customers.

The Port of Salalah has been recognized as the second most efficient container port in the world for two consecutive years. Could you provide us with insights into the factors that have contributed to this consistent success?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: It essentially boils down to the speed with which we can handle incoming vessels, unload and load cargo, and turn them around back out to sea. Ideally, this efficiency is a result of seamless port operations and effective marine services for vessel arrivals and departures. The combination of these elements has propelled us to our current position.

We closely align our services with our customers’ requirements and service level expectations

Keld Mosgaard Christensen

Furthermore, we closely align our services with our customers’ requirements and service level expectations. Understanding what drives their businesses is paramount. Our largest customer is renowned for its reliability, so we prioritize ensuring that their ships arrive and depart on schedule. To achieve this, we have honed our operations by sharing best practices from our global association with APMT. This collaborative effort has continuously strengthened our performance. Our workforce is also trained in lean principles and problem-solving skills. When issues arise, they have the tools to resolve them independently, driving our overall efficiency.

You can observe the impact when our biggest customer, Maersk, operates a liner service. The faster we can return their vessels to their schedule, the better they can optimize their operations, potentially even reducing the number of vessels required. This efficiency ripples down the entire line, benefiting all involved.

Considering the excellence and speed of your operations, as well as the reputation of the port and the notable customers you have mentioned, could you shed some light on your approach to attracting new customers, particularly from the Middle East? How significant is it for you to onboard new customers, partners, or investors from Saudi Arabia into the port?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: By having our network of customers, we essentially establish a hub of connectivity in Salalah. This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses looking to set up in the Salalah region, as they can benefit from this extensive worldwide connectivity, one of the fastest growing in the region in terms of coverage and key global destinations. When major global players choose Salalah, they enhance the connectivity that our customers can leverage.

When major global players choose Salalah, they enhance the connectivity that our customers can leverage

Keld Mosgaard Christensen

We have witnessed substantial growth in connectivity over the past two decades. Particularly, since 2007, based on a benchmarking study conducted in 2022, we have a remarkable 7% year-on-year growth in this aspect. Essentially, we possess a wealth of untapped potential. This is where potential investors and partners can find opportunities. The fundamental basis for any place or country’s economic growth is connectivity, and we have abundant unused capacity in this regard. Investors can leverage Salalah as a hub, benefiting from ample capacity, reduced transit times, and potential cost savings.

Additionally, we have worked closely with companies that have chosen to establish themselves in Salalah, even though their primary business activities are in Oman. As Salalah represents a secure and strategically advantageous location in the region, these companies take advantage of the connectivity we offer, making it a win-win situation for all parties involved.

As you just mentioned, the growth of connectivity at the port has seen a significant increase in recent years. Could you elaborate on the strategy behind this growth and what plans are in place for the current and upcoming years to further enhance connectivity?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: When you compare our connectivity to key major ports in Europe, Asia, and the US, we proudly hold a leadership position. Looking ahead, our plan involves transitioning from being just a successful transshipment hub to becoming a vital link in the supply chain. We are making notable progress in this direction by adding value to the supply chain of various companies. Some of them are in the process of establishing their presence in Salalah due to the significant reduction in delivery lead times we offer. Our aim is to be recognized for our supply chain capabilities, moving beyond our transshipment hub status.

Looking ahead, our plan involves transitioning from being just a successful transshipment hub to becoming a vital link in the supply chain

Keld Mosgaard Christensen

This strategy extends beyond the port to include the Salalah airport. Together with the airport and the free zone, we have developed what we call the Salalah value proposition, which we leverage to attract businesses from outside the region. The combination of sea and air freight is an area where we excel, offering efficient multimodal transport solutions. Shipments can be sent faster than traditional sea freight, and at a lower cost than air freight, making it an optimal choice for many. We are making substantial strides in this direction, and we have just concluded a successful trial shipment in the second week of September ’23.

Recently, you have been involved in establishing new MOUs with new partners and ports. How do you foresee these strategies enhancing trade opportunities in Salalah and Oman, and what benefits can you derive from these MOUs?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: Absolutely, these initiatives, such as the one from Pakistan and East Africa, hold significant promise. Collaborating with other ports is instrumental in expanding our footprint and adding value to the region. Firstly, we are working on establishing connectivity through Pakistan, linking Pakistan and Salalah. While it is in the early stages, this endeavor could eventually create a connection between the Silk Road and the GCC mainland, and onwards to Europe. This has the potential to unlock capacity for airfreight, passenger transport, and sea freight along this route.

Collaborating with other ports is instrumental in expanding our footprint and adding value to the region

Keld Mosgaard Christensen

The second aspect involves some of the fastest-growing markets in the region, particularly East Africa. We are on the verge of finalizing an MOU with the Port of Mombasa. More than just the MOU itself, we see the immense value that Salalah can bring to importers and exporters in the Subcontinent, East Africa and the Red Sea region.

However, what is even more intriguing is our work with Pakistan, which includes the concept of speed ferries accommodating trucks and passengers. This opens up opportunities for the transportation of perishable goods like flowers and fruits, not only from Pakistan to Oman but also beyond, connecting with airfreight to reach destinations in Africa and Europe. The synergy between sea and air transport becomes especially appealing in such scenarios.

Are you currently engaged in discussions or exploring the possibility of forming more partnerships with airlines or air partners, either within or outside the region?

Keld Mosgaard Christensen: Let me clarify our role as a port. We function as facilitators in this process. We collaborate closely with airports and the free zone. Although we are three separate entities, we operate as one to offer a unified value proposition to potential investors. We do not handle cargo ourselves, nor do we provide direct services to end-users. Instead, our focus is on serving our customers and offering these services collectively. This approach has been working well.

The key is to create a seamless corridor or road that attracts people and cargo

Keld Mosgaard Christensen

Regarding airline partnerships, it is a natural progression. Airlines seek cargo, and as cargo begins to flow through our facilities, airlines will naturally be drawn to the opportunities we present. As for the Silk Road, I have previous experience from my role managing an APM terminal in Georgia on the Black Sea coast. During that time, I was instrumental in establishing what is now known as the Middle Corridor, which extends through Georgia, and Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, ultimately connecting to China. This corridor, which is essentially a part of the Silk Road, Cargo came to Poti via the Middle Corridor, and then across the Black Sea to Europe via Constanta in Romania. The key is to create a seamless corridor or road that attracts people and cargo.

Just like a well-constructed road, when you provide a smooth and efficient route, it naturally draws traffic. We have faith that initiatives like the one in Pakistan will further solidify Salalah’s position in Oman and the region.

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