As political developments continue to unfold in Egypt, GAC is playing its part in keeping shipping moving in the country, Group Vice President for Africa, Russia & Central Asia, Erland Ebbersten is assuring clients.
Despite the unrest, transits through the all-important Suez Canal have continued as normal, and port operations are being conducted as much as possible under the circumstances, he said from his Cairo office.
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,” said 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.
“The lack of internet 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.”
GAC also used its daily Hot Port News service to send regular updates and news of key developments as mail shots, text alerts to mobile phones, and as part of the daily email bulletin to subscribed clients around the world.
Information on Hot Port News is available at www.gac.com/hpn
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,” said Ebbersten. “And despite rumours 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, GAC did recommend against having additional support services such as crew changes, delivery of spares, etc. However, we are now able to offer such services again, within the limitations enforced by the curfew and provided that we are 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 everything in its power 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,” said Ebbersten.
“Tribute must be made to the dedication and professionalism of our local staff in Egypt, who did everything in their power to ensure that business continued as normal as possible. Around the world, the GAC Group’s greatest asset is its people – and Egypt is no exception. It is during a crisis like this that our staff are really put to the test, and thanks to their professionalism and ingenuity, our colleagues in Egypt have really risen to the challenge to help maintain ‘business as usual’ as much as possible throughout these trying times