BEIRUT: For the longest time, school students in Lebanon have been reciting from their geography books a passage that praises the country’s strategic location “in the middle of the world.” Yesterday, politicians and key figures in the freight and transportation industry used the very same passage in their speeches as they convened in RAME 2019.
The prestigious location turned the country into a critical trade link between the Mediterranean and India and East Asia. Lebanon, “the tiny yet very important country,” as told by Metternich, has been honored to host RAME.
The Lebanese Forwarders Syndicate (LFS) inaugurated the FIATA RAME conference (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations in the Region of Africa and Middle East), in Beirut for the first time. Lebanon won the honor of hosting the conference following a thorough voting process held during the International Conference of FIATA in India in October, 2018.
Under the patronage of PM Saad Hariri, in collaboration with the FIATA and in coordination with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the chamber of commerce industry and agriculture in Beirut and Mount Lebanon and with the sponsorship of the Port of Beirut, Beirut Container Terminal Consortium, and Middle East Airlines, the conference entitled “Towards 2025: Emerging Trends and Initiatives Vitalizing the Freight & Logistics Sector in the MENA Region” was launched on June 24 for two days at Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut.
According to their bio, FIATA is a non-governmental organization, which represents an industry covering approximately 40,000 forwarding and logistics firms. FIATA has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (inter alia ECE, ESCAP, ESCWA), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
FIATA Association members are divided into four regions worldwide: Africa/Middle East, Americas, Asia/Pacific and Europe.
The primary target of the Regional Meetings is to bring forward the regional issues and, if necessary, submit them to the Institutes and technical bodies of FIATA. Another important objective is to gain synergies between the member countries of the region and to import and export these benefits to other associations, organizers noted.
The conference welcomed governmental, diplomatic and political personalities, as well as freight forwarding and logistics companies from the whole Middle Eastern and African region, it hosted over 500 individuals representing 150 countries. The day started with five introductory speeches, and a warm greeting reportage from Lebanon, it continued with two keynote speeches and three-panel discussions.
During the opening ceremony, Lebanese Forwarders syndicate President Amer Al-Kaissi gave a speech that explained how hosting conferences such as RAME can stimulate the creation of new long-lasting relationships between local and regional partners that will inevitably prosper the collective economies.
“The world we live in is competitive in nature and has place only for the fittest. It is critical that we stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of technological disruptions such as uber-freight and drones, that have the power of restructuring the logistics sector as we know it,” said Al-Kaissi.
Minister of Telecommunications Mohamad Choucair then took the podium and welcomed the foreign faces to Beirut, “the capital of exhibitions, conferences, beauty and culture.”
According to him, this sector is very important and is therefore in good hands. “We are proud of the achievements of the Ministry of Transportation in this field,” said Choucair.
Hariri Representative Minister of Transportation Youssef Finianos said: “The silk road mentioned by the FIATA President is being thoroughly taken care of because the ports of Beirut, Tripoli and Saida are the main destinations of the Silk Road and this is a promise I won’t break.”
He added that organizing this conference in Beirut is a big achievement for the LFS, for it reinforces Lebanon’s strategic role in all shipping operations and highlights it as a liaison between the East and the West.
“Lebanon is preparing to take a pivotal leap in the infrastructure sector especially transportation and shipping like ports, airports, highways network, railroads,” revealed Finianos. “This comes with the success of the Government in securing 11.8 billion dollars from Cedre to launch the biggest operation for redeveloping the infrastructure in Lebanon.”
Coming all the way from Pakistan, FIATA President, Barbar Badat said: “The Syndicate has organized a regional meeting for the industry that provides opportunity for all participants to discuss key topics leading to developing of interregional trade between so many prominent institutions and delegates participating in the meeting.”
Lena Boueri Moawad, owner of Boueri Freight Services and Ammar Kanaan, Chief Executive Officer at Terminal Investment Limited gave two keynote speeches. The first was about the challenges that are faced by the industry, and the second was about the global trends and state of the container terminal industry.
RAME 2019 hosted international and local speakers to discuss and debate the logistics and freight forwarding business, the digitalization and future of smart shipping, which Lebanon aims to achieve. RAME Beirut 2019 is the perfect meeting point and an inestimable opportunity to exchange knowledge and promote alliances between the Middle East and Africa, organizers noted.
The sessions will continue to take place at Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut until June 25 and an exploratory trip will follow on June 26.
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