Richards is tight lipped about the details of the deal, which will be formally announced this month, but estimates that the expansion will thrust Gulftainer into the world’s exclusive group of top port operators.
By doing so it would be in esteemed company, joining industry giants such as A P Moeller, Hutchison and ICTSI, and is the latest step in a carefully planned strategy that has seen Gulftainer acquire port concessions around the world since Richards was promoted to his current position in 2006.
“When I took over the reins of the company, I asked our shareholders permission to expand internationally on the basis that because of our reputation we were getting so many invitations from so many government organisations, port authorities and commercial partners the world over who were saying ‘we have heard about you and our port is in need of an uplift, an expansion, an improvement and we would like to bring you on board to do it’,” Peter Richards explains.
Gulftainer’s productivity levels at Khorfakkan Container Terminal and Mina Khalid are considered industry benchmarks by shipping lines
“That became the start of Gulftainer International and from 2006 onwards we have taken on concessions in Africa, Brazil, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Russia and Lebanon.” The company was formed in 1976 to manage the newly-opened container terminal at Mina Khalid, the Middle East’s first container terminal.
In 1987 Gulftainer was awarded the concession to operate Khorfakkan Container Terminal on the UAE’s east coast, the same year Richards joined the company.
“When we started Khorfakkan we could see the potential for it becoming a transshipment hub for the area. So we promoted it on the basis that larger vessels — which were about 2,000 teu (20-foot equivalent containers units) in those days compared to the 18,000 teu vessels we have now — could transship their containers to smaller vessels at Khorfakkan and it could be a transshipment hub for the Upper Gulf and region,” he explains.
“Khorfakkan Container Terminal has always attracted a lot of attention as shipping lines were trying to save money wherever they could. We concentrated on productivity — on turning the ship around as quickly as possible — and we developed not only a loyal customer base but also a reputation as one of the world’s most productive port operators,” Richards continues.