On the RIGHT TRACK
What precautionary and preventative measures has the Kuwait Ports Authority (KPA) taken to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic?
Every day, we are constantly making adjustments based on lessons learned. And we seem to be on the right track. We held a video conference with Shanghai International Port, comparing our measures to handle COVID-19, and encouragingly, 90-95% were the same. This was also the case for our video conference with the Arab Seaports Federation in mid-May. In a way, we are more agile than countries that perhaps have more legacy protocols. We have been able to implement new measures effectively and quickly. In Kuwait, we also had the advantage of forewarning that Iran and many in Europe did not have. KPA did not wait for any directive from the government, and I immediately closed down Kuwait’s Doha Port, which is the smallest of our three main ports. This was important because 80% of the incoming freight from Iran comes on smaller dhow ships. We also worked with the Ministry of Health to implement screening measures at ports that receive larger ships. The staff on the ship observe social distancing and are well supplied with PPE, and when the ship comes to port, we deploy medical personnel to take the temperatures of everyone on the ship. We implemented measures regarding PPE three months before the release of regulatory circular from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and before any other GCC country.
How has KPA leveraged technology to ensure maximum safety?
Some of the most effective measures require little to no technology. Early on, we reduced our on-site employee attendance to 30%. And some of our most vulnerable employees, for example, those who are immunocompromised or those above 60, were relieved from coming on-site and are being paid full salaries during this time. For others, we have reorganized shifts to minimize contact and enforced social distancing and PPE measures. We are also working with contractors to best protect the stevedores working at our ports. We have been screening temperatures and testing people, and we have had no cases in KPA thus far. Technology plays a more significant part in video-conferencing and remote working. We have also been securing some advanced PPE, such as devices that can measure body temperature from several meters away.
How has KPA advanced WHO and IMO standards regarding coronavirus instructions?
We have taken a lot of steps to work with shipping lines, tracking where the ships have been in recent periods, with special considerations given to ships coming from highly infected countries. The shipping lines themselves have been proactive in providing the necessary PPE and introducing rules and regulations for their crew. It is very much a collective effort across the sector, and we have donated PPE to other military and security organizations. KPA is the first port authority in the Middle East to purchase disinfecting trucks to sanitize the containers and all premises within the port. We have a public health responsibility to make sure we are meeting the highest standards; after all, any defense against this virus is only as strong as its weakest link. We have been coordinating these efforts with several governmental bodies. We have even taken our disinfecting trucks to several supermarkets and the coastguard base.
How is KPA looking to move forward?
We have signed an MoU with the Public Authority for Industry to build the first industrial port in Kuwait. This outbreak has reminded us that we need renewed efforts to increase local industrial capacities, which requires industrial-style berths. We are also restructuring KPA, with plans to go abroad and compete in the areas of port operation, logistics cities, and luxury berths for yachts. In this last segment, we have plans for a USD1-billion project called Al Fintas Marasi, with 2,000 yacht berths and a mall. Progressively and steadily, we are moving forward, and hopefully we will see KPA establish a presence in Europe and Africa.