Saudi firm's container network to capitalise on mainland-Middle East trade

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 1996, 12:00am

National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia's (NSCSA) efforts to set up a comprehensive network of roll-on-roll-off (ro-ro) container services in China have positioned it to meet increased trade between the mainland and the Middle East.

'We were the first to establish a unique combination of shipping services calling at China's strategic ports. One of our goals now is to further improve our services to facilitate trade between China - a big area of growth, with the GCC,' Ghazi Al-Ibrahim, president of the Hong Kong-based subsidiary, NSCSA (Asia), said.

GCC refers to the six member-states of the Gulf Co-operation Council - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain - which controls 45 per cent of the world's crude, producing about 13 million barrels per day (bpd) of which about 12 million bpd is exported.

The NSCSA became the first ro-ro and container carrier to call direct at Shekou in 1991, opening a similar service early last year in Shanghai, and one in Tianjin the same year.

Mr Al-Ibrahim said the recent visit to Hong Kong by NSCSA chief executive officer and NSCSA (Asia) chairman, Engr Abdullah Al-Shuraim, was designed to assess and further upgrade the group's operations in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, North and Southeast Asia, and the east coast of the sub-continent.

NSCSA (Asia) operates on a fortnightly basis a combined ro-ro/container service from China, handling varied cargoes destined for the Gulf countries and the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

The cargoes include consumer products, dry goods, commodities, equipment, machineries, steel, and metal products.

'This is where China shows very huge growth,' Mr Al-Ibrahim said.

Volume carried by NSCSA (Asia) to China and Hong Kong from the Middle East comprises petrochemical products and project cargoes. Saudi and Dubai-based contractors have assembled project cargoes for use at construction sites of the Chep Lap Kok international airport.

The Saudi Basic Industries Corp (Sabic) - which has become one of the world's top five producers of nitrogen, phosphate and compound fertilisers - last year shipped millions of tonnes of its products to export destinations including China using NSCSA vessels, in addition to ships operated by Saudi Arabia's National Chemical Carriers.

Mr Al-Ibrahim's office directs NSCSA's ro-ro, palletised and containerised cargo operations in Asia and part of the sub-continent. Transport of Saudi oil worldwide is partly handled by another NSCSA subsidiary but mostly by Aramco's fleet of oil tankers. Mr Al-Ibrahim cited China's container-handling rates as stable.

'Let's hope the rate stays this way,' he said.

NSCSA (Asia) moves a great deal of cargoes to the United States from Southeast Asia and the east coast of India and Sri Lanka.

From Southeast Asia strategic commodities such as rubber, cocoa beans and coffee which are taken to Norfolk, Savannah, and New Orleans in the United States are shipped via direct, all-water sailings.

The Asian region also supplies garments, foodstuff, tobacco, electronic items, and timber to the Middle East using NSCSA's (Asia) fleet.