Private sector must ‘step up’ for Saudi Vision 2030 goals, says Crescent’s Badr Jafar

Badr Jafar has been involved in panels on philanthropy and family businesses at Davos, among others. (Courtesy WEF)
Updated 30 January 2019

Private sector must ‘step up’ for Saudi Vision 2030 goals, says Crescent’s Badr Jafar

  • Badr Jafar: The private sector in Saudi Arabia has to step up and take authentic ownership of the Saudi Vision 2030
  • Badr Jafar: From our perspective, what is going on in Saudi Arabia is a tremendous opportunity, and we want to work toward delivering on the Vision 2030 strategy

DAVOS: One of the Arabian Gulf’s leading businessmen believes the private sector in Saudi Arabia must play a greater role in the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the nation’s economy and reduce its dependency on oil revenue.
“The private sector in Saudi Arabia has to step up and take authentic ownership of the Saudi Vision 2030,” said Badr Jafar, president of Crescent Petroleum and CEO of Crescent Enterprises, the Sharjah-based international conglomerate with interests in shipping, ports, energy and several other industrial sectors.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, he added: “When people think of a country in the Middle East region, they tend to think of just its government but I like to think of the whole ecosystem, both public and private sector. I believe the private sector has to play a bigger part in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
Jafar acknowledged that there are some critics who doubt the ability of the Saudi government to successfully implement the Vision 2030 transformation, but added: “If there were no skeptics, I think that would tell you the Vision isn’t big enough. There will always be skeptics, and in some ways that is a healthy thing because it adds an element of accountability.”
Jafar said that Gulftainer’s port terminal operations in Saudi Arabia, at Jeddah and Jubail, are being expanded. Gulftainer is a subsidiary of Crescent Enterprises.
“We see ourselves as an Emirati company but also as a part of the Gulf community,” he explained. “From our perspective, what is going on in Saudi Arabia is a tremendous opportunity, and we want to work toward delivering on the Vision 2030 strategy. It is too important to fail and we all have a vested interest in making it succeed.”
He said there will be challenges along the way but that Saudi policymakers should ensure that there is enough flexibility in the economic and political systems to overcome them.
“It is all about building into the system sufficient resilience to cancel out the shocks,” Jafar added. “This is the Middle East; there will always be shocks. But one way to do it is to empower the private sector to take charge of its own destiny.”
Gulftainer, of which Jafar is also chairman, recently pulled off a business coup with its $600 million plan to redevelop and operate the port in Wilmington, Delaware, as a major port facility on the US east coast. The US ports sector has presented challenges to Gulf businesses in the past but Jafar said that Crescent’s pedigree in the UAE, combined with its existing ports business at Canaveral, Florida, and its efficiency record in the industry, had helped ease the deal through.
“We had the acceptance and trust of the local community,” he said.
Jafar has been involved in various sessions at Davos, including panels on philanthropy and family businesses. He echoed the views of WEF founder Klaus Schwab that there should be a new approach to philanthropy based on a coordinated, rather than a collaborative, approach.
“What inspires philanthropists in Saudi Arabia or the UAE is not the same as what inspires them in New York and Beijing,” he said.
He sees a strong affinity between philanthropy and family businesses, especially in the Islamic world where the payment of charitable taxes — zakat — is a religious duty. The top 500 family businesses in the world generate sales in excess of $6.5 trillion, making them the third-largest global economy, and they employ 50 million people, he said.

The above text has been changed to make it clear that Badr Jafar is also CEO of Crescent Enterprises, and that Gulftainer, a subsidiary of Crescent Enterprises, runs port terminal operations in Saudi Arabia, at Jeddah and Jubail. The top 500 family businesses generate sales in excess of $6.5 trillion, rather than being valued at that amount. 


Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

Updated 16 July 2020

Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

  • The circumstances of the hijack are still unclear and the boat has been tracked to Iranian waters

DUBAI: An oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers organization said Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the US

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

Hammond said that he had no other details about the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. 

Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati government, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not immediately report on the vessel and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, at that time named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. 

The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the US government said.

Court documents allege the scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.

“Because a US bank froze the funds related to the sale of the vessel, the seller never received payment,” the Justice Department said. “As a result, the seller instituted a civil action in the UAE to recover the vessel.”

That civil action was believed to be still pending, raising questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Data from the MT Gulf Sky’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but Iranian vessels routinely turn theirs off to mask their movements.

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck on board without pay for months, according to the International Labor Organization. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO did not respond to a request for comment.

As tensions between Iran and the US heated up last year, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast became targets, particularly near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20 percent of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine attacks the US blamed on Iran targeted several tankers. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize several tankers.