By Nawaf Abdulla
Even though 2020 was a challenging year for the maritime and entire shipping sector, it presented us, at DP World Limassol, with an opportunity to see things from a different perspective.
We are striving to boost our resilience, improve our working practices including systems, embrace digitalisation and automation, and overall adapt to new and more productive ways of doing business.
As the world took measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, ports saw a significant decline in traffic, the cruising season was cut short, and container volumes contracted significantly.
Throughout the year, we were presented every day with new challenges that had to be swiftly overcome, to ensure that trade kept flowing and that critical goods were delivered in a timely manner.
To this end, DP World Limassol implemented a robust business continuity plan to ensure that trade enabling activities and quayside operations continued uninterrupted day and night, while we swiftly adapted our operations to keep our frontline workers and customers safe.
Despite the fact that major cruise lines suspended their operations due to the pandemic and that energy exploration off the coast of Cyprus was put on hold, we carried on as normal, as part of our commitment to bringing vital goods to the people and businesses of Cyprus.
In fact, DP World Limassol safely handled the necessary cargo required for local and international businesses and processed 645 vessels between January and November. We also invested heavily in additional equipment and technologies that would boost our resilience, while we leveraged digitalisation and automation to adapt to the new circumstances.
New era of automation
In an important step towards the modernisation of the terminal, we invested in a range of equipment that enhanced efficiency and productivity, updating our fleet with new forklifts, an empty container handler and a telescopic crane.
In the summer, following a successful external audit, DP World Limassol obtained the ISO 45001:2018 certification, the new international benchmark for occupational health and safety management.
Moreover, we launched two new digital payment solutions, enabling our customers and partners to carry out quick and safe online transactions, in an effort to reduce exposure. In short, our clients can today pay all their port-related charges from their homes, offices or even mobile phones, eliminating altogether the need for physical interaction.
At the same time, aiming to further optimise the operations of the port, we are in the process of introducing a new cloud-based terminal operating system (TOS), known as Zodiac, which offers an integrated platform, providing supply chain participants with real-time information on vessel, yard and gate movements.
The system is expected to boost the efficiency and productivity of the terminal, while reducing the operating costs and overall improving the customer experience. This comes with an advanced hand-held device that allows our quayside team to share real-time operational updates on all cargo handled.
DP World Limassol is also in the process of obtaining Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status, which will demonstrate that the port’s customs checks and procedures adhere to the most stringent international standards, providing us with access to customs simplifications across all European Union member states.
Optimism for 2021
We are now heading into 2021 focusing on regaining lost ground and contributing to the sustainable growth of the Cyprus economy.
The cruise sector is expected to recover as soon as the different vaccines are rolled out, while major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will be carrying out test sailings in the first quarter of 2021.
Moreover, the resumption of the Cyprus-Greece ferry link in May 2021 is expected to rejuvenate and boost the tourism sector of Cyprus, offering an alternative to air travel for both foreign tourists and locals. Because of its proximity to Greece and the cruise terminal’s state-of-the-art infrastructure and services, the Limassol port is among the government’s top choices for the ferry link.
Although this is not an easy endeavour and it will depend on many factors, such as the smooth resumption of oil and gas activities, the sustained consumer interest in cruising and the quick and efficient roll-out of a vaccine, we are confident that by working closely with the government and other stakeholders, DP World Limassol will be able to pick up where we left off in terms of establishing Limassol port as a major trade and cruise hub in the region.
Nawaf Abdulla is CEO, DP World Limassol