Nearly 150 shipping agents and cargo experts from nearly 20 countries gathered in Amman mid-October to discuss the state-of-the-art information technology of the shipping industry, amidst growing modernization and a privatization drive in the region. Under the motto “World Commerce and Cargo 2000,” the three-day conference was designed to face up to the globalization challenge and adapt to the steady demand for e-commerce.
The conference was organized by the Shipping Agents Association of Jordan (SAA), chaired by Nadim Gargour, in coordination with the Geneva-based International Multi-Modal Transport Association (IMTA).
Gargour said the conferees sought to gauge the recent revolution in shipping industries worldwide so that traditional regional shipping systems transcend towards a “total multi-modal transport concept” on a regional scale. “Jordan has always taken advantage of being a transit country, and we need to exploit this edge towards a full-fledge transit package on the basis of a regional bloc,” Gargour told the Jordan Times.
He said countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine — along with Jordan — could form a transport-oriented bloc based on the multi-modal concept rather than the fragmented traditional approach. It was the first such venue for the IMTA outside its headquarters and the Jordanian shipping agents managed to drive Jordan to the forefront of Arab countries hosting this venue.
According to IMTA regional representative and the SAA's managing director, Sufian Al-Muhaisen, the IMTA groups Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The gathering in Amman bears added significance in a country where the transport sector contributes 13 percent of the gross domestic product.
Muhaisen recalled that this sector has been negatively affected over the past decade in the wake of the Gulf War (1990-91). Before the 1990s, the Red Sea Port of Aqaba had served as Iraq's principal maritime outlet. “By the year 1999, the transport sector's activities had dropped by 40 percent compared to the late 1980s handling,” Muhaisen told the Jordan Times.
In 1989, Aqaba Port handled 20 million tones, nearly one third of them, found their way to the Iraqi market — as opposed to only 12 million tones in 1999, most of them for the local market.
High on the conference's agenda is how to deal with the fast-prevailing e-commerce and e-shipping manifests in addition to topics pertaining to insurance against shipping risks, the recent developments in maritime cargoes and new methods in funding international trading.
Jordan is pinning high hopes on setting up an SEZ in Aqaba, a low-tax economic zone set to attract $6 billion from tourism, transport, industry, information technology, commerce and services.
The conference elected Swiss representative Hans Carl as the IMTA president, succeeding the Spanish Gumez-Ferrer, in office since 1993. The IMTA convenes once every two years. Its last gathering, however, took place four years ago in Singapore.
Carl told the Jordan Times that the IMTA planned to “help small- and medium-size companies gain a competitive edge on the international arena.” The Amman forum decided to set up an inter-award scheme under which Valencia University, Spain, offers a yearly masters scholarship for students worldwide.
Founded in 1993, the IMTA is a non-governmental organization specialized in door-to-door transport logistics. It groups 150 organizations and individuals.
The WTO sent a speaker and world bodies such as UNCTAD Multimodal Transport Section, FIATA, the insurance-oriented TT-CLUB and the World Order for e-Commerce Bolero as well as London-based SEATRADE co-sponsored the event. — ( Jordan Times )
By Saad G. Hattar
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)