A New Wave of Maritime Business

Interview with DP World Limassol CEO Nawaf Abdulla

Limassol is changing, growing and evolving, and trying to put the island’s maritime industry on the pedestal it deserves. Nawaf Abdulla, CEO of DP WORLD LIMASSOL, highlights the advancements in the sector and addresses the challenges and opportunities of the industry in the new post-COVID-19, war-battered world order.


How does Cyprus compare with the rest of Europe as regards the volume of maritime-related investment?

Today, Cyprus boasts the 11th biggest merchant fleet in the world and the third biggest in the EU. It is also the biggest third-party ship management centre in Europe and among the top three globally, with more than 20% of the world’s third-party management fleet controlled by companies based here. When it comes to maritime-related investment, Cyprus has seen several large projects in the past 10 years, such as Limassol Marina, Larnaca Marina, Ayia Napa Marina, and soon Paphos Marina, as well as the Vassiliko LNG Terminal. Cyprus has also commercialised the ports of Limassol and Larnaca, allowing them to be operated by private investors. In terms of investment value, it may seem lower compared with what is happening in Europe but the investments and privatisations that have taken place in Cyprus have radically changed its overall maritime infrastructure and created new opportunities.


What is the value of sustainability in shipping and how does it translate into issues of cost? How has DP World responded to the challenge of the ‘green transition’?

DP World is strongly committed to being a world leader in sustainability. It is as important to us commercially as it is to the societies we operate in. We do this by using new smart technologies to make our operations more sustainable. In doing so, we cut energy and resource use, and create a fairer and more connected planet. The Group’s ‘Our World, Our Future’ strategy is designed to deliver responsible operations and, at the same time, it is preparing us for a radical shift in how business in general, and logistics in particular, responds to the great challenges of climate change, education and social inequality. The company’s environmental strategy has three focus areas: to reduce carbon emissions and energy use; to promote renewable energy and the responsible use of natural resources; and waste management. DP World took the lead in global sustainability, launching changes across the board in a bid to meet global objectives by 2030 or 2050. Today, DP World Antwerp is one of the greenest container terminals in the world, as it runs exclusively on green energy.


What makes Limassol such an attractive shipping hub?

Limassol is home to the island’s biggest port and, as such, it is the heart of Cyprus’ maritime operations. It is a modern, developed city with the necessary communications and transport infrastructure and skilled labour force. It also sits in between the airport cities of Paphos and Larnaca, which are only half an hour’s drive away. Limassol hosts the majority of more than 200 companies that provide maritime services from ship ownership and management to shipping insurance, finance, brokerage, bunkering, ballast water system production, marine training, and maritime technology in satellite and radio systems, among others. Some of the largest ship management companies in the world have their headquarters and conduct their operations from Limassol. It is estimated that approximately 4% of the world’s fleet is managed from Cyprus. Among the ship owning and ship management companies established and operating from Cyprus, 90% are controlled by the EU, including those with Cypriot interests.


Has there been progress on the long-term problem of attracting top talent to the shipping sector? What strategy does DP World use to discover and retain employees with the necessary skills?

There are several initiatives undertaken by local authorities, private companies and other organisations to promote the maritime and shipping sector. WISTA (Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association) is a great example of an organisation that tries to attract and support women in the maritime and logistics sectors. DP World Limassol’s talent acquisition process is based on DP World’s global practices, which ensure that we recruit the right people to help us achieve our business objectives. Our vacancies are available both externally and internally, giving all DP World employees the opportunity to apply. We look for people who are experts in their field such as finance, IT, engineering, and so on. We do our best to identify those people whose attitude fits our culture and principles. People who can create growth, drive results, adapt and evolve, and motivate others to excel. It is indeed a challenge to attract and recruit skilled technical staff in Cyprus, as most positions at DP World Limassol require prior general experience in the port industry. Hence, we focus on recruiting people with the right attitude, who are willing to learn and grow in our company.


Now that the digitalisation of the broader shipping sector is well under way, do you envisage a large number of jobs eventually becoming obsolete? Will a bigger number of new ones be created? How have you responded to this challenge?

Digital transformation does not necessarily mean a reduction in human resources. It means that we are redeploying our resources to other activities and value-adding services. Digitalisation aims to remove a lot of time-consuming administrative processes, such as data entry, data review, data validation, etc. which take a lot of manhours during a workday. This process will also create new functions and roles. In December 2021, DP World Limassol became the first DP World port to complete the implementation of CARGOES TOS+, an integrated platform encompassing all IT and operational systems under one umbrella, providing users with real-time information on vessel, gate and yard movements. As part of this upgrade, we removed the cash collection counter that used to cause queues throughout the day as people tried to clear their cargo. Now, this process is done through a simple online payment platform, which is available 24/7. In March 2022, DP World Limassol introduced Automatic Number Plate Recognition software, which captures the licence plates of trucks entering Limassol port via a camera. The software can read the plates and confirm through the Government’s Ariadne portal and the Road Transport Department if they have valid registration certificates. Moreover, in July 2022, DP World Limassol will launch its automated Gate Access Control System, granting access to port users via a pre-registered Radio Frequency Identification, a wireless system comprised of two components: tags and readers. This system will allow port visitors, customers and staff to scan their approval Port Access Pass through a reader, allowing the Gate Barrier to then open for their entry.


How have the war in Ukraine and the resulting trade tensions between the EU and Russia affected the ports operated by DP World across the globe, including Limassol?

The EU closed its ports to Russia’s merchant fleet vessels with a few exceptions relating to ships carrying energy, pharmaceutical, medical, agricultural and food products and humanitarian aid. The ban also applies to vessels that try to evade sanctions by changing their flag or registration. The sanctions have impacted all shipping-related sectors, including commodity traders, tankers, containers, dry bulk and gas, which causes further disruptions to the supply chain, including DP World’s portfolio and activities. Inevitably, DP World Limassol was also directly impacted by the ban, seeing fewer arrivals at Limassol and Cyprus Ports. It should be noted that DP World operates a container terminal in the Port of Yuzhny in Ukraine, which was impacted by the sanctions. In addition, P&O Maritime Logistics a subsidiary of DP World, has several services and activities in Ukraine that were affected. Also, the majority of vessel calls and services connecting European ports are directly or indirectly linked with ports on the Black Sea, including Ukraine, and this has created cargo-flow inefficiencies and loss of connectivity.

DP World Limassol CEO, Nawaf Abdulla