The Business Year Special Report - - Interview -

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.

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