Sailing Ahead

Despite regional turmoil, Maersk Line’s Anne Gronbjerg says Jordan continues to show promise.

The Maersk Line service that stops off at the Port of Aqaba has faced many challenges over the years. But Anne Gronbjerg, the Danish shipping giant’s managing director for Jordan, Kuwait, and Iraq, says even the threat of pirates, regional instability, port strikes, and fierce competition haven’t been enough to weaken her company’s commitment to the Jordanian market.

Considering the instability in the region, is Maersk’s market growing in Jordan or is it in decline?

The macro trend that we can see is that the local Jordanian market is growing at a reasonable rate. Where we can see some challenges is in the transient market into Iraq because of the unrest there now. But we also know that there is very strong expertise in Jordan for handling transport cargo into Iraq, and in the long-term we think that this market is going to come back.

How much of an impact have worker strikes in Aqaba over the past year had on your business?

It has had an impact on all the carriers. We are all hit the same when there are strikes or when things aren’t running as smoothly as they should be in the port. It incurs extra costs for the customers, extra costs across the line, and it makes it difficult to plan. We run a very reliable network with a fixed weekly schedule, so strikes are really toxic and are a really big problem. However, we are pretty confident now that we’re entering into a period of more stability. We’re hoping that this will make 2015 a much better year for all parties, including businesses, the authorities, and for us as a service provider for Jordan.

Has Maersk faced any problems with piracy on the route into Jordan?

Piracy was a big issue around 2010. But because of a well-coordinated international response, that problem has now been very much reduced. It was never a problem in Jordanian waters or even the international waters outside of Aqaba, but it was a problem off the coast of Somalia, the south end of Yemen, and so on, where you enter into the Red Sea. But it’s almost nothing now.

How much competition do you face in the region?

Globally, container shipping is a very competitive industry because the basic balance between supply of container carrying capacity and demand for carrying containers is that there is an oversupply of capacity. So that makes the industry as a whole very competitive. If we look at Jordan, the picture is basically the same. So it is very competitive on some traits more than others. But again we are happy with the position we have in the market today. We are not looking to grow it or shrink it. That also is the approach of our global company; that we’re just absolutely happy where we are.

How important is Aqaba for Maersk?

Aqaba is important to Maersk because Jordan is a growing market and it also serves as a gateway to Iraq and other neighboring countries. We see this as an interesting market in the long-term and as a growing market. So that’s why we’re committed today and also in the long-term to Jordan. As for how strategic the Jordanian market is to Maersk clients globally; it’s not one of the biggest markets, but it’s a market that makes a lot of sense for us to be in. We have some very good customers here that we really value collaborating with and that we want to continue working with.