By: Ridwan Al-Saqqap
Aden Container Terminal has recently seen an explosive reawakening under a new operator, OPM Aden. The Terminal scored a post-Limburg throughput record of 30, 000 TEUs in January 2004 and is expected to maintain this momentum this year.
Aden Container Terminal or ACT is the most ambitious infrastructure project under Yemen Free Zones Public Authority. The Terminal commenced commercial operation in 1999 and saw its business grow to 40,000 TEUs per month in 2002 when the Limburg incident abruptly sunk its throughput to about 5,000 TEUs per month. The fall in ACT operations continued after that ominous incident until October 2003, the month that witnessed on the 23rd day the conclusion between the Authority and Yeminvest of the Termination of Development Projects Agreement signed between them on 18 March 1996. One week later the Free Zones Public Authority concluded a contract with OPM, on 1st November 2003, which restored relief to international and regional shipping lines, which had withdrawn calls to ACT. Shipping lines have resumed calls to ACT and the number of containers handled rose to reach 30,000 TEUs last month.
The awakening of ACT was due mainly to two reasons:
1. The wise manner in which the Government of Yemen handled the issue of Termination of the DPA without excessive fuss.
2. The proper and prompt selection of the Operator (OPM), for Mr. Subramaniam is not a strange face to the Clients of ACT who have dealt with him since the establishment phase of ACT and its operations during the first period of its life.
It was during his time ACT scored the aforementioned figure of 40,000 TEUs. He was then the Senior Vice President of PSA and the President/ CEO of Yeminvest and the first man responsible for the ACT. Furthermore, Mr. Subramaniam was the man behind the PSA Container Terminal in Singapore for almost 15 years and achieving the first rank among world container terminals in 1992. During his career with the PSA the Singapore Government also honoured him with State Awards for efficiency, notably the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) and the Public Administration Medal (Silver), the latter for his contribution to the management of PSA’s Container Terminal.
Now, together with a team of ex-PSA officers with vast experience in managing and operating container terminals world-wide and some of whom were at ACT before, Mr. Subramaniam has taken over the operation and management of ACT, charged with the task of normalizing and bringing up the quality and operational readiness of the terminal for growth after it has stagnated for over a year. The team also brings vast experience in establishing and managing transhipment hubs, which is vital to make ACT a major transhipment hub.
The results speak for themselves. ACT is hitting record growth and more business is expected to pour in. ACT is now embarking on a program to rehire Yemenis who had previously been made redundant, as well as to hire new recruits.
In a rare interview with the CEO of OPM Aden, Mr. MMJ Subramaniam, Yemen Times became the first Yemeni weekly to be able to gain an insight into the company, its achievements so far at ACT and the plans in hand for ACT in the future.
OPM Aden is a fully owned subsidiary of Overseas Port Management(s) Pte Ltd based in Singapore. OPM Singapore was invited by Yemen Free Zones Public Authority to help in the takeover of ACT from PSA and later to operate and manage ACT on an interim basis until the formalities for a long term terminal management agreement are finalized. In compliance with local statutory requirements, OPM Singapore has assigned the interim agreement to OPM Aden, which was incorporated in Aden in November 2003.
Mr. Subramaniam has adopted a two-pronged strategy. One was to rejuvenate the existing personnel and resources for growth and the other to launch an intensive marketing and promotion blitz to attract new business to the terminal. He was in familiar territory, having in the first instance marketed the business of ACT when with PSA to achieve 40,000 TEUs a month. This factor, together with his previous and present familiarity with local as well as regional conditions surrounding ACT, enables him and his team to open dialogue with users from shipping lines, trade associations, related government agencies such as Customs, hauliers to related service providers to launch new initiatives for growth. Mr. Subramaniam is confident that OPM Aden is capable of more than doubling in 2004 the throughput of 120,000 TEUs in 2003. Although OPM Aden’s continued tenure after the current contract will depend on the Authority’s policy for a long term terminal management agreement, he said that the groundwork will be laid in the areas of marketing, systems, procedures, skills, talent and resources for ACT to handle up to 400,000 TEUS a year. The Terminal capacity, it was emphasized, was more than 750,000 TEUs. This surge in growth, he explained, will be translated into higher revenue for the Authority, more job and business opportunities for Yemenis and Yemeni companies and higher status for Yemen as an international transhipment hub.