Despite the political unrest in Egypt, transits through the Suez Canal have continued as normal, and port operations are being conducted as much as possible under the circumstances, report Erland Ebbersten, GAC’s group vice president for Africa, Russia & Central Asia, from his Cairo office. GAC is a Dubai-based global provider of shipping, logistics and marine services.
The biggest challenge that GAC and its clients faced was the shut-down of access to Internet and mobile phone networks during the first week of the crisis. "Alternative means of keeping in touch with clients had to be immediately established," says Ebbersten. "Emails to GAC Egypt were re-routed to colleagues working abroad at the time, who coordinated with their colleagues locally, to maintain a flow of accurate, up-dated information to clients. Faxes and some land-lines were still working, so those colleagues were able to print off and fax the emails to the relevant office in Egypt," he says.
"The lack of Internet [access] interrupted our usual banking procedures, so we liaised closely with the banks and quickly set up emergency telephone banking with high security measures to ensure that Suez Canal transits and other operations dependent on the swift movement of funds continued as normal," Ebbersten explains.
The biggest concern for the international shipping community is the possible impact of the crisis on the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important waterways. "Fortunately, vessel transits through the Canal are continuing without any disruption throughout," says Ebbersten. "And despite rumors to the contrary, a strike by workers in the Suez Canal zone has not had any effect on transits or traffic movements.
At the height of the crisis, Ebbersten notes, GAC recommended against having additional support services such as crew changes, delivery of spares, etc. However, the company is now able to offer such services again, within the limitations enforced by the curfew and provided that GAC is given sufficient advance notice."
Despite some challenges due to disrupted flight schedules and road blockages affecting logistics and operations at some ports, GAC Egypt is doing what it can to keep operations running smoothly.
"Though most operations continued unabated, some services like crew changes and hire of stevedores were affected, worsened by the imposition of the frustrating curfew which seriously cut back working hours and added to backlogs," says Ebbersten.