When Wilhelmsen Ships Service (WSS) opened its office in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1976, it had 20 employees who were tasked with looking after the liner trade in the Kingdom. Today, its presence has grown to ten offices with 200 members of staff. WW World has taken a look at WSS in Saudi Arabia – then and now.
In the 1970s, a massive construction boom was taking place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To support this expansion, Wilhelmsen set up its first Saudi office in Jeddah in the summer of 1976, followed by a second in Dammam later that year. For about a decade, these offices mainly supported the liner trade, handling cargo arriving into Saudi Arabia from every corner of the globe.
570 YEARS OF WSS EXPERIENCE
Fast forward 40 years and WSS is now represented by ten offices throughout the Kingdom, including seven on the East Coast with their Head Office in Dammam and three on the West Coast with Jeddah as the main office. Between them, they employ 200 members of staff, from 16 different nations around the world, speaking 19 languages, with a total of 570 years of WSS experience between them.
Angelo Cachia is the general manager for WSS in Saudi Arabia. While he himself joined WSS three years ago, he says many of his team members have spent two or even three decades with the company.
“We have an extremely loyal, hard-working team here in Saudi Arabia,” he comments. “The first things you notice are the strong sense of team spirit and the positive attitude and dedication of our people. I’m very proud of our staff retention rate, which is in no small part due to the great atmosphere we have here.”
BETTER HEALTH FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Today, WSS in Saudi Arabia covers all WSS business streams. Its main segments are Ships Agency – where it offered its services to some 2,000 vessels last year, including ancillary services such as Cash To Master (CTM) and delivery of Ships Spares – as well as Maritime Logistics and Air Freight. With its range of marine products safely stored in the warehouses in Jeddah and Dammam, WSS is also able to cater for any vessel passing through the Red Sea or Arabian Gulf. Finally, WSS Saudi is general agents for the world’s seventh-ranked container line Hamburg Sud, which has chosen WSS to represent it due to its expansion plans in the Kingdom.
Angelo says that, whereas in 1980 there were only five main shipping agencies in the entire country, there are now 25 or more, making the business climate today far more competitive than when WSS first arrived here. However, aside from this, most of the changes over the years have been positive.
“Our first female employee joined the company in 2010 and we’re proud to currently count 11 highly educated, able ladies among our ranks. We also have a female assistant manager in our HR department – something that would have been unthinkable here as little as 10 years ago”
“Saudi Arabia has become far more developed, with a higher level of education, and better health facilities and infrastructure, including port development,” he explains.
Things are also improving when it comes to equal opportunities – an issue that Wilhelmsen is keen to promote.
“Our first female employee joined the company in 2010 and we’re proud to currently count 11 highly educated, able ladies among our ranks. We also have a female assistant manager in our HR department – something that would have been unthinkable here as little as 10 years ago,” adds Angelo.
A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY
Whilst working in a hotspot like Saudi Arabia can be complicated at times, Angelo maintains that the positives far outweigh the negatives.
“Of course there are security concerns, but this country also offers a world of opportunity,” he continues. “There’s a great deal of business to be done and the day-to-day is more challenging and exciting than in Europe.”
There are also advantages to working for an industry leader like Wilhelmsen in a country that is still in the early stages of developing its shipping sector.
“Although some local companies are now operating to internationally recognised standards, we stand out being a Norwegian owned maritime organisation. In the last 40 years, I believe WSS has shaped the Saudi maritime industry and that our competitors look up to us and measure themselves against our level of service,” says Angelo.
“We wouldn’t have achieved any of this without the leadership of our head office in Norway and the regional office in Dubai, and the experienced, able and loyal employees who have served this company over the past four decades,” he concludes.