The first staff members have now moved into Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM)’s new office in Riyadh, heralding the start-up of local operations, as the Cyprus-based international ship management group ramps up its presence in the fast growing economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
A subsidiary, Columbia Shipmanagement Saudi Ltd, has been set up, initially to support the requirements of key client Saudi Aramco, not just for ship management and maritime related activities but also in the energy and offshore sectors. Eventually the intention is for the newly-established Saudi business to work with other local partners in the Kingdom and also support the group’s expansion into additional regional Middle East markets, including the United Arab Emirates.
Mark O’Neil, Columbia Shipmanagement Chief Executive, says, “The main aim and objective of this exciting initiative is to enhance the quality of service we can provide to Saudi Aramco and other Saudi clients. Beyond that, our strategic vision is to expand our presence in the Middle East overall and we see this as an important first stage in that journey.”
To begin with the Saudi office will be headed up by staff deployed from Columbia Ship Management’s European businesses, the first of whom started work in Riyadh in mid-November. O’Neil says, “The process of establishing a physical presence in the Kingdom was slowed down a little by developments relating to the pandemic, but we are now quickly staffing up the new office in Riyadh in a safe and secure way and we will also be locating personnel at key Aramco operating centres across the country. Our plan is to expand our Saudi-based team as the project develops over the coming months and many of them will be Saudi nationals as we are committed to respecting the principles of Saudisation.”
He adds, “We see huge potential for growth given the seismic shift that is taking place in the Kingdom as it opens up its economy and society. Our desire is to forge partnerships not just with Saudi Aramco, but with other key players locally as well.”
The concept being adopted, he says, is that these partnerships will be genuine two way relationships. “We have established a presence in the Kingdom not just to see what we can get out of it but to explore what we can put in as well,” he claims. “I believe there are a number of areas where Columbia Shipmanagement can add value locally and are looking forward to having the opportunity to do so.”
He stresses that Columbia Shipmanagement’s strategy is fundamentally based around establishing relationships through local engagement. He adds, “You cannot go into a market thinking you always know the best way to do things. There is a huge knowledge base within Saudi Arabia and we need to tap into this.”
While it is early days, O’Neil is clearly optimistic about prospects for the new venture. “We are already having a number of discussions which could lead to further expansion both in the Kingdom and the UAE. I would encourage any interested parties in the region to talk to us and see what we have to offer.”