A provider of world class international shipping and transportation services, Qatar Navigation was named Best GCC Cargo Shipping Company 2010 as part of the World Finance GCC Trade & Industry Awards Programme for this year. When the firm was founded in 1957, the Qatari economy was in urgent need of an organisation that would cater to its growing shipping and transportation requirements. Originally, it focused solely on marine transport, shipping and travel agencies, but has grown its range of business operations considerably over the past 53 years. As well as these three original areas of operations, it now also works in offshore support services, port services, ship repair and fabrication, logistic services, commercial activities and real estate.
As such a key player in many aspects of the national economy, health, safety and environmental considerations are of the utmost importance to Qatar Navigation. It is fully certified by Lloyds Register for work at all of its fleet of ships and floating docks. It is also ISO 9001:2008 certified and has been for the past seven years. In addition to this, the company has developed its own internal safety management systems, which ensure staff are fully trained in the use of protective clothing and equipment. The corporation also carries out continuous quality assessments and uses this data to maintain its leading position in the market.
While the recession did reduce freight volumes and prices, the company was still able to achieve strong results due to its diversified activities and strategic investments. In fact, rather than seeing the downturn as a challenge, Qatar Navigation took it as an opportunity instead. One of the most important developments in the company’s history – the successful acquisition of Qatar Shipping Company (Q Ship) – took place during this difficult period, in April 2010. This has created a major new regional shipping and transportation force, with interests in a number of different market segments. Q Ship brings with it five tankers, eight harbour tugs and two LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) carriers, enlarging group shareholding interest in a total of nine LNG (liquefied natural gas) tankers and four large 82,000cbm LPG carriers. Through its subsidiary Halul Offshore Services Company, the organisation now also owns a total of 32 offshore support vessels, and one dry cargo vessel in the fleet, the 2009-built, 57,000dwt bulk carrier, Qatar Spirit.
In order to facilitate continued growth, the organisation has hired external consultants to assist with the management of its long-term strategy. They have been charged with evaluating and assessing existing and potential business segments with an eye to carrying out any restructuring, as well as overseeing the continued integration of Q Ship into Qatar Navigation. It is a three-pronged project: study all the businesses and, based on core competencies and market analysis, identify which businesses to grow, and which to possibly divest from; study all the internal departments and processes; and develop a strategy and organisation structure for the company. The project commenced in September 2010 and is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2011.
There have been a lot of other changes and improvements recently. The company completed construction of the 52-storey Navigation Tower building, which was to house its management operations. However, as it was able to find one tenant to rent the whole tower, it was decided that it would make better business sense for Qatar Navigation to rent the whole building to this one tenant and move into the Al Jazeera Tower in West Bay itself, which it did in September. The firm has also invested in new IT systems and software, created new departments and hired additional staff. This final element – personnel – is a vital component of the organisation’s continued growth and success; indeed, as with many companies of its size, its people are its biggest asset. As such, finding well-qualified staff is a key goal on an on-going basis. Fortunately, Qatar is a hotbed of talent when it comes to entrepreneurs and top-level management and all members of the Board of Directors are well known and talented local businessmen. Their experience in the Qatari markets, the logistics and transport business and their knowledge is invaluable in driving forward the business. Additionally, this expertise has been drawn upon by Lloyds Register and the American Bureau of Shipping, with the firm actively participating in their technical advisory committees.
The continuous evolution and development of the company is extremely important for its continued success. As such, it has a number of major projects currently on the table that are at different stages of the planning process.
Once they have come to fruition, they will increase the firm’s market share and strengthen its position as a major player in the local and regional markets.
Outside of Qatar Navigation’s own investments, there is another major project that, when it is completed, will provide a major opportunity for the business. Construction of New Doha Port is due to commence in Q1 2011 and is scheduled for completion in 2023. This development is vital for the sustainable growth of the local economy and will transform Qatar into a major transit hub. It is envisaged that this port will act as a gateway for export products manufactured in the Special Economic Zone. This area is next to the site of the new port and was itself developed specifically to be a location for export-oriented industry. The company will seek to gain mutual benefits from involvement in the completed port by bringing its knowledge and experience in cargo handling and port management services to the table. The firm has been carrying out cargo handling services in Mesaeed Port and the existing port at Doha for over 15 years and its expertise in the area is second to none. The new port is designed to meet Qatar’s requirements for the foreseeable future and will attract major liner operators to start calling at Doha directly. This means that the port will become a major hub, which, in itself, represents a great opportunity for the expansion of Qatar Navigation’s logistics and feedering services too.
While the increased openness of the Qatari economy and the unprecedented economic boom in the country have brought tremendous benefits to Qatar Navigation, there have been challenges as well. Increased prosperity and a greater amount of freedom in the market have led to more international companies establishing a presence in Qatar. This has brought with it increased competition, but where Qatar Navigation excels is in offering a unique, knowledgeable, established and reliable service. By the effective use of these skills, it has succeeded in maintaining a good market share in all of its activities, as well as facilitating the continuous expansion of its activities through the introduction of new services and products.
The firm can only see competition increasing in the future as an inevitable outcome of a growing economy – however it is a welcome challenge. Through continuous investment in its staff, levels of quality and health and safety, as well as technology systems, it has anchored itself firmly in the centre of the shipping and export industry. There are many opportunities on the horizon for Qatar Navigation and, through strong strategic alliances and with the continued support of the Qatari government, this newly award-winning firm will continue to pursue success.