Saudi Ports Authority: A history of continuous support from the state

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Updated 24 September 2018
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Saudi Ports Authority: A history of continuous support from the state

JEDDAH: Maritime ports in Saudi Arabia had been receiving great attention since their inception under the Kingdom’s founder King Abdelaziz, to form one of the nation’s most important economic and commercial streams, as well as playing a major role in boosting its regional and international trade.
The ports also contribute to the national economy by playing a main role in development plans. The Kingdom’s wise leadership has provided them with all the necessary capabilities, services and facilities to develop and increase their capacity, thus contributing to strengthening its regional and international stance.
The ports have undergone various stages of construction and development since the foundation of Saudi Arabia up until the General Ports Organization was established in 1976. This was followed by the establishment and inauguration of several ports until 1997, during which the operation of ports was handed to the private sector.
In 2018, the cabinet approved the renaming of the General Organization of Ports in order to become a public body and it was named the Saudi Ports Authority.
The decision, a very important one, contributed to strengthening its services and raising its capacity, and supporting the process of construction and development in the Kingdom, to fulfill Vision 2030.
It allowed ports to perform its supervising, coordinating and legislative role with a lot of flexibility by giving its board of directors clear validations, which contributed to the rapid response and interaction with all developments in the maritime industry.
The Saudi Ports Authority governs the operations of nine ports in the country, six of them for trade and three for industrial uses. Four of them overlook the Arabian Gulf, while the other five overlook the Red Sea.
Trade ports play a key role in facilitating the importation of all goods and services necessary for social, economic and industrial development.
Meanwhile, industrial ports play a key role in supporting and encouraging national industries by expanding production areas and facilitating the export of petrochemical and petroleum products.
The authority has been keen on providing the ports with latest equipment to serve ships and facilitate the goods they load, and has prepared its docks to receive large ships owned by global navigation lines.
It has also implemented a number of development and expansion projects in all ports to increase their capabilities and improve performance, and adopted a package of regulatory and administrative procedures that meet the requirements of the next phase, including: implementation of the port community system in all ports, implementation of KPI’s international, implementing clearing of containers during 24 hours, which led to a reduction in the time of clearing goods in all ports to only three days, issuing the regulation of the maritime agents for obtaining a license to practice the work of the maritime agent within all ports of the Kingdom.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 57 min 44 sec ago
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”