Companies Shipping Giant Bahri

Published on February 19th, 2017


Data is the Future, Says CEO of Shipping Giant Bahri

The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, or Bahri, the world’s second largest owner/operator of very large crude carriers or oil super tankers, is betting big on data to innovate and realize deep data science driven insights to help support smarter decision making, bring cost and operating efficiencies and create sustainable share-holder value.

Bahri Data, one of the six business units within Bahri and started in early 2015, is expanding it’s data team by hiring more data scientists, considered “ very rare for a shipping company”, says Ibrahim Al-Omar, the chief executive officer of Bahri.

“We believe the future is all about big data,” Ibrahim told India Tradeways in an interview during a visit to India last week to open its office in Mumbai.

“What we are doing on the data side is we are hiring ex Yahoo team. We are also hiring from the Indian market and they will be based in our office in Mumbai. Bahri data will be more about how can I monetise my data and get value out of our data,” Ibrahim said.

For instance, within Bahri, we can’t project today the failure of the engine of a ship; we can’t tell the engine will be failing in the next 48 hours, but what we can project is the market with an accuracy of about 95%, says Ibrahim. “It is very important for us to utilise data to generate higher revenue yield”.

“With the help of data, we are beating our competitors in terms of generating more value from our assets. For big data, we are competing with Google, Yahoo because we are all going after the same people. It’s all about data scientists; we are after those guys on data. Big data is not only about making money but also about projecting and winning cups”, Ibrahim stated.

The company runs a fleet of 84 ships of various types including 37 oil super tankers with nine more VLCCs under construction at Hyundai shipyard in South Korea.

Surprisingly, Ibrahim said that Bahri is keen on expanding into the dry bulk segment, a business that is one of the worst hit by over-capacity and sluggish global trade in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

“We have very strong plans to expand in the dry bulk segment in the future. As you know, in dry bulk, the asset price has gone down, the rates for chartering ships are below operating costs. It is really a tough market. We think it’s a good time to go on buying assets,” Ibrahim noted.

Bahri entered the dry bulk business in 2012 through a joint venture with Arabian Agricultural Services Company (ARASCO), the largest bulk importer into the region, and currently runs a fleet of five dry bulk ships. Bahri holds a 60% stake in the joint venture company.

Despite its stature as the world’s second top owner/operator (and very soon the number One) of very large crude carriers, Ibrahim said that Bahri would focus more on the logistics unit, comprising the freight forwarding business or the door-to-door services.

“Going forward, most of our investments and lot of our focus is going to be in Bahri logistics”, he asserted.

While Bahri’s newly opened India office will, mainly, cater to the break-bulk business such as project cargo and vehicle exports for marque customers such as Tata Group, Mahindra & Mahindra and General Electric, the company plans to set up a team to look after the tanker business for the Indian market, which is currently done out of Dubai, and where it counts Reliance Industries as one of its top customers.

Ibrahim said that Bahri plans to go much more into the Indian market given India’s “very good” GDP growth rate of 7.3% which, he said had “direct links” with logistics.

“India’s GDP is projected to grow between 6-7% over the next few years which is a very high number compared to any other country. We believe there is a strong potential in the Indian market. For instance, India’s vehicle exports have jumped 40-50% over the last 3-4 years. India today is ranked number 4 or 5 in terms of vehicle exports in the Asian region. That’s really big”, he noted.

“We have opened our office in Mumbai to be close to our clients. We were here many years ago, but through an agency and now we are opening our own office which will provide a better customer experience and better insights for us into the market. That’s also a strong commitment from our side to the Indian market where we hope to have good growth going forward”, he said.

Bahri, according to Ibrahim, does not presently offer freight forwarding and door-to-door service to Indian customers. “But, as part of our future expansion, if we see the needs of the market as we have direct links with our customers through our office in India and there is demand, we might extend our freight forwarding and logistics business to the Indian market,” he stated.

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