The Spanish Business Council is a private non-profit and is working   on a corporate platform, where Spanish companies are linked to Emirati public and private entities in order to strengthen business and cultural ties between both countries.

As part of its “Member Interviews” initiative, last June the SBC interviewed the Erhardt Projects CEO, Igor Muñiz, to analyze the future of the Project Cargo Sector in UAE and the CCG countries.

The questions asked and answered are below.

E.D. As Erhardt Projects expands its presence in the UAE and GCC countries, what do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for Erhardt Project Cargo & Logistics Middle East in the UAE and GCC countries? And how do you plan to address them?

In terms of Country Challenges and Opportunities

The economy of the UAE and GCC countries is growing rapidly thanks to their trade diversification and investment strategies; along with their positioning as the Eurasian Transportation Corridor on the main strategic international trade routes.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, the European Union and India have recently signed an agreement to develop “IMEC”, a transportation corridor between India-Middle East and Europe; that will open up new opportunities and challenges for all of us. Whether or not to take advantage of them will depend on each company’s strategy and capabilities.

Turning to our Sector’s Challenges and Opportunities

Project Cargo Logistics in the Middle East is a market being driven by the growth of the Oil & Gas, Renewable Power and Offshore Sectors. It is a highly competitive and culturally diverse market; however, it is affected by geopolitical situations that are directly impacting the Supply Chain, placing it under stress, and causing interruptions and higher service costs, which negatively affects businesses such as ours.

However, such situations are also an opportunity, as they force us to collaborate and network with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to make supply chains more resilient. We also have to adapt our own processes to be more streamlined and flexible and to transform and create new services to deliver greater value.

In our case, we are addressing the challenges and opportunities that these situations bring. That involves positioning our brand in UAE and GCC countries as a niche business – under a “Boutique & Unique” concept – with a project anticipation and mentoring strategy (Be First Where Projects Are); along with a lean organization, made up of local professionals with extensive experience in the market and sector, and who are able to provide customers with greater added value.

E.D. Given the requirements and unique challenges of the UAE and GCC markets, how will Erhardt Project Cargo & Logistics Middle East adapt to meet the specific needs of customers operating in these regions?

At EPME, we have opted a “Hands On” strategy that takes into account the idiosyncrasy of the UAE and GCC markets, and draws on our knowledge of the specific logistics needs of customers operating in those regions. The strategy combines a highly personalized door to door service, where each project is undertaken by our own highly qualified local team (Engineering, Chartering, Project Managers, Operations Executives…) with an agile working methodology; the project has the support of the most appropriate local partner at any time to ensure the “time to market” required by the customer.

We can thus adapt, be flexible and streamlined in order to meet the requirements of each project, in each country of origin and destination; particularly in today’s volatile and vulnerable economies due to the diverse geopolitics and other events affecting them.

E.D. How does Erhardt Project Cargo & Logistics Middle East differentiate itself from its competitors in the UAE and GCC markets? What strategies will it employ to remain competitive? Is digitalization part of the operations strategy?

We prefer to use the term ‘coopetitors’ rather than competitors in today’s collaborative environment. Many logistics project can only be managed collaboratively in growing markets, where economic sectors are undergoing transformation; that involves adding complementary Assets and Capabilities and thus generating “Win Win” relationships for each of us.

Our focus is on our customers rather than on competitors; on understanding what our customers need and supporting them in their markets and strategic projects, which are fundamental for their growth.

Therefore, we rely on multicultural professional teams, which are highly qualified technically and operationally, and with extensive experience in the UAE and GCC region; with the ability to anticipate possible contingencies that may arise, and to seek solutions and make decisions quickly, in order to meet the required Time to Market.

Our value proposition, which helps to keep us competitive in our markets, includes: being part of a family business; having a lean technical/commercial structure; our value chain digitized with Cargowise and with end-to-end traceability; and our digital services platform (smart operations planning; real-time operational verification; blockchain certification of contracts and transport documents; cargo traceability from origin to destination, and at intermediate locations until it reaches its final location…) .

E.D. Establishing strong customer relationships is crucial in the logistics sector. How does Erhardt Project Cargo & Logistics Middle East plan to engage and cultivate relationships with customers in the UAE and GCC countries in order to ensure long-term partnerships and customer satisfaction?

At EPME, we understand that respect and tolerance is the basis of any relationship. That is why we invest time in getting to know in depth the culture and local customs of the regions where we are present.

UAE is a country that is home to people of more than 220 different nationalities, from more than 400 different religions and speaking a myriad of languages; that makes working in an environment of respect and tolerance a must for everything else to happen.

Professionally speaking, we are known for our excellence in operations; we therefore consider the different suppliers required for each operation as “customers”. We are able to connect them to each other and integrate them into the project as part of the team, to ensure a door-to-door service for the end customer and, therefore, their complete satisfaction in that regard.

The success or failure of the projects is determined by strategic alliances with the right suppliers always being in place and working with a single shared objective, along with being a single team to implement the projects. Speaking the same technical and operational language, along with sharing synergies, facilitates understanding and a good connection; positive long-term relationships are so generated between all parties, based on customer trust and recurrence.

E.D. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the logistics sector. How does Erhardt Project Cargo & Logistics Middle East integrate sustainability into its operations in the UAE and GCC regions? And what initiatives are planned to minimize environmental impact?

Our office and field operational processes at EPME are designed as per ISO 9001 ISO 14001 and ISO 45001: Quality, Environmental Sustainability and Occupational Safety therefore underpin our way of thinking and working, which reflects our tangible commitment in that regard.

When we contract different services (ships, special transport…), we do so from a technical/operational and environmental sustainability point of view; we also require our suppliers to produce their certificates and initiatives in this regard, to ensure that the whole logistics chain of each project is focused on reducing CO2 emissions. Such control and traceability are very important to reduce the environmental impact generated by our business.

We are currently developing a calculator to measure the carbon footprint that we generate in our operations; we will then be able to take additional measures to those already implemented in order to continue reducing it as far as possible throughout our logistics chain.

In addition, we participate in different organizations working for environmental sustainability and attend the region’s main conventions in this area. We were recently present at COP28 in the UAE where it became clear that the country is a global hub and growth engine for sustainability, technology, business, trade and tourism; and that it is uniquely positioned to build bridges and foster consensus to accelerate inclusive climate progress.

At EPME, sustainability is part of our DNA. We are therefore willing to participate – together with others – in any initiative that helps to make the region in which we are based more sustainable.

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