After Columbia Group’s successful endeavours in the Saudi market, the company is integrating its services in the UAE with a new office in Dubai to underscore the Group’s strategic goals and unique potentials in the maritime industry.

In Robban Assafina's exclusive interview, Mark O’Neil, President and CEO of Columbia Group believes that Columbia Group sets itself apart, capitalizing on Dubai's advantages to penetrate new markets and establish a strong foothold in the region, driving growth and fostering strong relationships with key clients and projects.

- Columbia Group is opening a new office in Dubai after the company’s latest exposure in Saudi Arabia. What goals and potentials you see that sets the company apart from others in the industry?

Columbia Group's decision to open a new office in Dubai underscores the Group’s strategic goals and unique potentials in the maritime industry. Leveraging Dubai's established maritime infrastructure, advantageous location, and business-friendly environment, the company aims to access GCC markets efficiently. The region's emerging opportunities in the maritime sector also provide a fertile ground for growth. By focusing on offering integrated maritime services, Columbia Group sets itself apart, capitalizing on Dubai's advantages to penetrate new markets and establish a strong foothold in the region, thereby distinguishing itself from competitors in the industry. It's worth noting that Columbia Group already has established clients in the UAE, and with the opening of the new office in Dubai, our relationship with them will become even closer, enabling us to better serve their needs.

- As an integrated maritime logistics, leisure and renewable service platform, what is the company’s strategic plan in approaching the UAE and Saudi Arabia markets?

In both UAE and Saudi Arabia, our strategic plan involves leveraging the Group’s integrated maritime logistics, leisure, and renewable services platform. The focus is on capitalizing on Dubai's maritime infrastructure and diverse economy. We are building upon recent exposure, leveraging both countries’ significant maritime potential and fostering strategic partnerships to expand the company's presence and offer comprehensive maritime services tailored to local needs. As an international organization, we are committed to bringing German quality standards to the Middle East, ensuring that our services reflect the highest levels of excellence. We understand the importance of adapting our expertise to the unique demands of the local market, and this approach allows us to provide tailored solutions that meet the specific requirements and expectations of our clients in the region.

- In 2022, CSM signed with Marcap UAE MoU in the aim of leading innovation and shape the technological future of the maritime sector in the Middle East Gulf region. Are there new partnerships and joint ventures with Dubai leading maritime organisations?

We are always looking at opportunities for new partnerships and joint ventures. Through the Columbia Group platform, we are able to provide services to local companies in the areas of: Ship Management and Technology Services, Maritime Logistics; Maritime Catering; Shipping Procurement; Maritime Crew Health and Wellbeing; Marine Spare Parts and Equipment; Maritime Agency Services, Energy and Offshore; Commercial Management as well as Vessel Performance and E-Learning, driving in operational and financial efficiencies, as well as sustainability.

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- What is CSM’s main vision in the Middle East region especially after the latest two offices in Saudi Arabia and Dubai?

We know what the region needs, and we are ready to work alongside local players and help them add value to their services through our platform of integrated maritime services, as well as offer our expertise so they improve their operations. Harnessing the “can-do” and “project-led” approach of the Group, together with state-of-the-art technology and optimisation systems, means Columbia can bring considerable added-value, synergies and dynamic energy to its partners and partnerships.  

- IMO has a vision of six years plan to focus on upholding IMO's leadership in global shipping regulation, addressing emerging challenges such as technological advancements, climate changes and supporting sustainable development goals. What is CSM’s plan in aligning with this strategy?

Columbia is dedicated to supporting IMO's six-year vision through active participation in decarbonization projects and exploring alternative fuels. We align with EU requirements to promote a sustainable future, especially regarding the EU-ETS. Columbia is involved in the NH3CRAFT project, developing technology for on-board ammonia storage as marine fuel, and in a European Union tender to develop large-scale liquid hydrogen containment for shipping as well as the BlueBARGE project for offshore electrical power supply of moored vessels. We are also overseeing the newbuilding of five Super B-Class vessels that are dual fuel and methanol-ready, meeting high automation and emission standards in compliance with IMO regulations. Digitalization plays a crucial role in our strategy; our preferred partner OneLink and its EmissionLink service, offer comprehensive performance optimization, including real-time CII rating tracking, carbon emission control, predictive maintenance and emission scheme
management services, in particular the EU ETS. Utilising the latest digital systems and expertise, EmissionLink brings clarity to all facets of the often complex world of emissions management.

- How is the Saudi market going for Columbia Group after two years of achievements, especially with the company’s partnerships with different companies mainly Saudi Aramco in the aim of expanding its offshore activities?

The Columbia Group is thriving in the Saudi market, marked by strong partnerships and significant achievements. Our collaboration with Saudi Aramco and local partners has been pivotal in optimizing and digitalizing offshore activities, underscoring our commitment to innovation and efficiency. Additionally, our partnership with Cruise Saudi has expanded our reach and impact in the region. We have integrated our Saudi operations into our Group-wide Maritime Services Platform, enhancing our service delivery and ensuring seamless support for our clients. This transition has been positively received, reflecting our dedication to the region. Our office in Saudi Arabia remains a critical hub, driving growth and fostering strong relationships with key clients and projects.


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Issue 91 of Robban Assafina

(May/ June 2024)


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