MIDDLE EAST

Entering the maritime industry

It is normal for a country like Saudi Arabia, that’s surrounded with seas, to think of maritime services and industries. The kingdom overlooks around 2,600 of very long shores from Ras al-Khafji in the Gulf to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.

This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has decided to benefit from them as in addition to all that, the country’s naval position is also close to three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe, and their major markets.

Aramco’s announcement that it will lead an alliance of international companies to establish the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Service adds another task to Aramco’s oil activity. According to what they promised, the first phase of establishing the complex will be completed in the end of next year.

The headquarters will be the city of Ras Al-Khair on the banks of Gulf waters. This project is one of many as promised by Vision 2030. It strengthens resources and helps the country enter new fields, which are relevant to its economies. Another important point is the correlation between these giant projects and their tributaries.

The aim is not to eliminate oil from the economic formula but to decrease living off the revenues of crude oil sales, like the case is today

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Job opportunities

This maritime project will provide 80,000 direct and indirect job opportunities which a huge percentage of will be the locals’ share. Since the project will be finalized over stages – its production capacity will be completed five years from now – we think local educational institutions, including those specialized in maritime engineering and sciences, can focus their studies on how to serve this project in particular.

I believe they must eventually please the human resources’ expectations as after the project is completed, unemployment cannot be justified by claiming there are no trained or educated competent people in the field.

As many as 80,000 jobs are still not enough to employ everyone, assuming that 1 million students will graduate from university during the next five years. However this is all about a series of projects and plans that complement one another in the labor market.

We expect the government to take the lead and build giant institutions that combine local contents and that are capable of succeeding without the state support so they do not burden the local economy. These projects must be distinguished with competency, quality and competitive capabilities in global markets, just like the Vision 2030 promised in order to build an economy that does not rely on oil.

Trap of skeptics

I do not want to fall in the trap of skeptics with this utopian perspective as the complex – which is one of the vision’s plans – does not deny its relationship with oil. A large part of the global maritime market is dedicated for petroleum transport services.

A part of the complex’s work is about building and maintaining giant oil tankers. The aim is not to eliminate oil from the economic formula but to decrease living off the revenues of crude oil sales, like the case is today. This takes us back to other petroleum services and industries like manufacturing services which came up during my discussions with figures interested in these new developmental plans.

Manufacturing services is an old-new option that the market can greatly expand in on the basis of the “comparative advantage” theory. Petroleum is still a major economic merit in any economic project for a country like Saudi Arabia but it’s not enough to be the almost one commodity that we can rely on in state revenues.

Oil is like a dream, which we must wake up from to confront reality. And truth is there may not be enough oil revenues.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

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Last Update: Monday, 25 September 2017 KSA 09:32 - GMT 06:32
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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