|Logistics firm opens first warehouse in port's 'Free Zone'
|Net Logistics opened the first warehouse at the Port of Beirut's new Logistics Free Zone on Wednesday, following the blueprint for success of Lebanese companies during the country's political and economic stagnation: Focus on regional markets and mostly ignore the floundering domestic one.
Net Logistics, the Lebanese-owned local agent for the multinational logistics firm Eagle, aims to funnel 80 percent of its cargo traffic here to foreign destinations, CEO Mourad Aoun told The Daily Star Wednesday.
"We want to bring back the traditional role of Lebanon as gateway to the Middle East," said Aoun. "If Lebanon wants to be part of the global economy, we have to play the role of logistics platform for the Levant."
Drawing on Beirut's fortuitous geographic position and its deep-water port, freight will typically arrive from Europe on its way to Iraq, Jordan and Syria. From the perspective of multinationals, Lebanon can also offer some of the Middle East's more skilled professionals, said Bruno Sidler, head of Eagle's operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
"We have the perfect location," Sidler said. "We have the infrastructure."
Logistics firms can also take advantage of two of the world's three largest shipping lines which have made Beirut a transshipment hub, as the Lebanon-as-regional-gateway recipe has been pursued aggressively by the port's operator, the Beirut Container Terminal Consortium.
Thanks to the new warehouse, Net Logistics plans to handle more than $9 million in cargo this year, almost 50 percent more than its previous annual best of $6.2 million, reached in 2005. The two-month Israeli naval blockade brought last year's turnover down to $5.5 million.
"We are very optimistic about the future of 2007 despite what's happening [in Lebanon], because of the regional business," Aoun said.
Net Logistics invested about $750,000 in the new storehouse, which can accommodate 100 containers. The freight companies expect their most frequent clients to be high-tech firms, moving computers and telecommunications equipment into the region. The automotive industry will need logistics firms to ship spare parts and finished cars here, and equipment for oil and other energy-related enterprises should also pass through, Sidler said.
Short of another blockade, Lebanon's malaise will affect Free Zone businesses mostly as a brake on plans for local franchises of logistics to build warehouses there, said Mohammad Bayram, head of the Free Zone.
The Daily Star