Resilience in QatarJune 19, 2020
Daniel Nordberg, general manager of GAC Qatar, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s approach to navigating the Covid-19 crisis and the outlook for competition in the shipping and logistics sector. GAC Qatar is part of the GAC Group, a global provider of integrated shipping, logistics and marine services.
How have you managed to navigate the company through the crisis?
One of our main priorities is to protect our employees while we continue to deliver uninterrupted and quality services to our customers. We activated our business continuity plans, which include the ability to work from home so as to reduce physical contact. We also ensured that we have extra offices that we could utilise in order to spread out our employees.
Thanks to GAC’s investment in IT resources such as cloud-based software Office 365 and the availability of messaging apps like WhatsApp, it’s business as usual for us. The forward thinking and investment by the Group helped ease the way we work when it matters most. When there’s a good digital platform, we can quickly scale and adjust to the “new normal.” Locally we also invested in laptops, scanners and printers to ensure we could keep up the productivity while working at home.
We have had great support from all our staff, and people have found solutions such as switching to Microsoft Teams for regular departmental meetings, customers calls and even virtual social gatherings with ease.
Whatever our staff need to work effectively at home, such as office chairs, we will provide. So far, it has been pretty smooth, and people understand that it is for their own safety. We have people in the field that we gave all necessary PPE to and helped to organise their day in a safe manner.
Qatar’s Industrial Area was partially closed for a month, which has affected us as we have a warehouse, people and trucks there. There are always new challenges, and you have to be proactive to find solutions.
How has the crisis hit Qatar overall?
GAC is a service provider across many sectors. Our employees are our assets, and our business is dependent on how our customers are performing. Energy is a key part of what we do. We are involved in most of Qatar’s offshore projects, and many of them are still running, with rigs still operating. However, it is less operations as crew changes are not yet allowed and some projects have been delayed.
Qatar is pushing certain dates forward for the oil and gas developments, but our understanding is that they will all go ahead. These are for the long term; the increased production will be ready by 2025 and they see the demand growing. From a financial standpoint, Qatar is one of the most resilient countries in the Middle East.
We have also seen a USD 20.5-billion stimulus package from the government. I’m confident that Qatar will manage through this pandemic, not to forget that they also have the FIFA World Cup in 2022 so they will continue to invest.
What are your objectives for Q3 2020?
We are trying our best in all our different business areas. We have 10 departments and all of them have their specific challenges and opportunities, so it is about addressing them individually. We are engaged in a dialogue with all of our suppliers and clients to understand how we can add value and create a win-win solution in these unprecedented times. The dialogue so far has been very open and honest as everyone is in the same situation and struggle. For GAC, we want to assure clients of our consistent presence, and we are here to help them adapt to the current conditions and beyond.
To what extent has the crisis prompted GAC to look more into digitalisation?
We have a number of offices/warehouses, so we already had remote connections, and now there are more people connecting to our servers and databases remotely. We have a maximum 20% of staff in office and we are using Teams for all meetings. All staff had to learn better how to use the functionalities we have available and they have been given training. Our International Moving department has invested in software to do surveys online without visiting the house/apartment.
Do you see parallels or differences between the 2014-2015 crisis and this one?
I think this crisis is hitting a lot harder as it is affecting every company across almost every sector. As far as I remember, the earlier crisis was more temporary and didn’t affect companies this much. We have to be close to our customers and utilise this time to be in touch with them although we cannot meet them. It is still extremely important to build the relationship and trust.
In addition to our daily port intelligence bulletin Hot Port News, customers are being referred to GAC’s dedicated coronavirus resource pages on the website, which offers latest shipping and logistics updates gathered from GAC offices around the world.
What is your expectation regarding competition once the crisis is over?
We are already well positioned in Qatar. We will ensure that we are agile and well positioned when the crisis is over. If you are able to weather the storm and support your customers throughout the crisis, that will pay off in the long term.