In order to give a limelight into the Marine industry, educate and advocate to have gender equality from the great leaders and a visionary entrepreneur in the Marine & Boating industry; we are very glad to have an Exclusive Interview with few inspirational words from Gulf Craft’s Chairman, Mohamed Hussein Alshaali focusing the Maldives Market along with Deputy Managing Director of Gulf Craft Inc. Ms. Abeer AlShaali.
Chairman, as a marine industry pioneer with over 20 years of successful operation in the Maldives market; we will be very glad to know your feedback on Maldives Marine Expo 2023, flagship event of National Boating Association of Maldives (NBAM)?
We are proud to say that Gulf Craft provides almost 80% of the Maldives’s water transportation services which includes public transport, coast guard, emergency & ambulance services, resorts, and leisure boats. With a strong and established presence in the country, Gulf Craft developed a new production facility dedicated to the manufacturing of vessels for use in the Indian Ocean.
We are very happy to see the boat show (Maldives Marine Expo) being continued and comparatively at a bigger scale this year. For Gulf Craft, the boat show is always important as we get to showcase our new products and designs to our customers as we personally meet them.
This year we are displaying our 45ft boat with totally new interior, hoping it to be a revolutionary and transformative revelation to the luxury hotel and resort market. However, it is not limited to that market as we plan to collaborate with the government as well in the mediums of transportation and military vessels.
We believe that Gulf Craft has played a significant role in revolutionizing the ocean transportation system in the Maldives, particularly in reducing travel time. Additionally, we are building a brand-new state-of-the-art facility in the Maldives which will expand the Gulf Craft portfolio allowing for the building of bigger boats and yachts. This facility will not only cater to the local Maldivian market but also create opportunities for exporting to Asia and Africa. We shall hopefully export the first boat in the next two months, and I believe it is something all Maldivians must be proud of!
Chairman, what is your vision and plans in the upcoming lagoon of Gulf Craft Marina in the Maldives?
We are developing a school and a factory, where we will be taking in young Maldivians with potential and building their talent in carpentry, electric and fiberglass building. After completing their training, they will have the freedom to choose whether to continue working with Gulf Craft or pursue other opportunities that interest them. Our objective is to build talent, create opportunities for the local community and future millennials. With that aim, we will also be training boat captains and crew on navigation system as well as safety systems. We hope in the future, a lot of young people will find good job opportunities and build committed careers since Maldives is surrounded by and depends on water to a great extent.
Chairman, what advice would you like to give to the millennials who like to join as Sea farers and other areas of the Superyacht industry? Do you believe gender equality can be balanced in the boating industry?
Today there is no difference. I have observed that in Maldives and in most of the organizations, women are more committed towards their work. In fact, we have a lot of young women working in our offices. In number, it is less in the field I believe, but we are ready to provide the platform and opportunity for women if they choose to get trained and work in the operational field. We hope to see more equal opportunities in the future.
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Ms. Abeer, as an iconic woman in the Superyacht industry, how did you first get inspired and began working or joined this industry?
Thank you for the opportunity. Of course, my father being the Chairman of Gulf Craft; we were raised and natured within the world of Boating. I have been going on boats since I was very small with lot of fun, joyful memories. So, for me, I really learnt that passion with that love for boating from my father. Soon after my first university graduation, I was very excited to join the industry. But he felt I needed more experience in different industries and it would be vital to enrich my knowledge. So, I worked in different places and then I started a family. As time passed and with the growth of the company, my father decided to invite me to join the team. Over the years, with passion I have learned a lot from the footprints of my father.
Currently I am working in the Executive Office reporting directly to the Chairman. Most of my day revolves around the Finance, Sales, Marketing and HR issues within the company. However, I am engaged in all aspects of the business.
Ms. Abeer, what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome the situations?
You know, there are always challenges when you are in an industry like boating, which is particularly complicated and has many different factors. Gulf Craft builds a wide range of boats from the smallest to the largest super yachts in the world. Practically speaking, I would love to apply more lean production practices in every aspect of our business without losing the craft nature of our industry, and that has been a real work in progress for me.
My father used to tell me, when we launched Gulf Craft in 1982, there was no marine infrastructure or skilled labour available in the UAE. Back then, the team was having a lot of challenges to get the support from the local suppliers. Our shipyard is vertically integrated to manufacture our products in-house. Hence, navigating all the issues involved with building and training a skilled workforce was a huge challenge; especially during COVID-19. We as a team always believed that our greatest strength was to maintain and assure optimum level of quality without compromising on anything.
With challenges we had other opportunities as well. We successfully delivered two superyachts with less manpower and when the global supply chain was on halt. At the same time, we managed over 1200 employees, making sure that everybody was safe and well by taking care of our own families at home. I think that was the most challenging time of our experience at Gulf Craft.
Ms. Abeer, can you tell us your experience as a Female leader in a Male dominated industry like the Superyacht industry?
I don’t like to focus too much on this. Honestly, I rarely think about it. This industry is more about pulling your weight and proving your hark work. In boat building, you need all hands on deck, if you pull your weight, no one cares about your gender. If you are competing with a colleague in your own company, everyone loses. There is a strong quote by Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
Within the company I have never faced any issues, all our employees work well with me, and we have mutual respect. There were situations where people from outside the company assumed they will get more done if they spoke to a man. But today, I strongly believe that there is no gender bias in most of the organizations. It’s all about hard work and delivery. Once you prove that you work hard and that you are capable, I think there is a deep respect.
Ms. Abeer, after talking to you and seeing all of you working together on the same goal, I really think in Gulf Craft you have a balance in gender equality in the top positions as well, is this correct?
Yes. I am very proud to say that there are many women working in Gulf Craft in top positions and I think that its important that you have women in leadership positions, and we work hard on trying to ensure that we don’t use gender in any kind of way to make decisions but rather we try to use other types of qualities like leadership, teamwork things of that sort.
Never take anything for granted. Take time and learn the business. I think it’s important to speak to employees across all levels. Walk the talk. You also need to learn from them and understand their jobs. My door is always open, and I think that’s important. I can’t always give people what they want but I can always try to hear them out and see life from their perspective.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EmbracingEquity, so what does this slogan mean to you Ms. Abeer? And you have been practicing this within your organization?
I think that is important, you know, there are a lot of different things you must take into consideration; equality is not necessarily the same for everyone. Equity is making sure that everybody has equal access. Different people need different things. So, I like the idea of Equity and I think it’s a great slogan.
Yes, we try to always see what, you know I really want to be a premier employer across the region, and I think that we try as much as we can to make sure that we support our employees to the best of our abilities. We are very proud to have so many families working at Gulf Craft, and to have so many people that enjoy working at Gulf Craft. In fact, we usually do an internal event called the annual family gathering where we invite all our employees to bring their families in. We have a great big festivity as we do a sports event, we do a talent show, etc. So, we really try to make sure that families are at the forefront of what we do.
Looking back on the 4 decades of passion, innovation and growth, what made Gulf Craft come up with the new strategic theme; Legacy in Motion?
Well Legacy in Motion is recognition that we have 40 years under our belt, and we are looking towards a brighter future, that we are continuously moving and continuously improving. We build on our legacy, and we move forward as one of the world’s leading fully integrated boat and yacht manufacturers.
Meticulous market research and trend forecasting for a broader global market establish the Majesty 111 and Nomad 101 as new leaders. With clear focus on sustainability theme - with better fuel efficiency, smart product design, and emissions-reducing technologies will reflect our legacy with a bold, forward-thinking stance – the future of Yacht building. Efficiency and the desire to be as environmentally friendly as possible were key drivers for technology on board.
What are the new markets and countries that Gulf Craft wants to expand and make a mark in the Superyacht business?
Gulf Craft is looking to expand into many new markets at the same time. We are looking at both increasing our service capabilities, our service revenue and increasing that part of the business as well as increasing into the United States and Australia. United States and Australia are the two markets we are really looking at now to flourish. We are in those markets, but we are growing our presence.
What are the Community Engagements and Sustainable projects that you envision to work in Asia and Middle East with Gulf Craft team?
We support a lot of Ocean Conservation projects around the world. Gulf Craft is a member of Super Yacht Builders Association (SYBAss), uniting and representing superyacht builders around the world. SYBAss work with Gulf Craft and regulatory bodies to ensure the rules which impact superyachts to consider the unique nature of the vessels.
Gulf Craft supports Marine conservation programmes such as Water Revolution Foundation and the Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) Programme, Turtle Saving Programmes, Beach Cleaning activities, etc and actively participate in talk shows and panel discussions in leading boat shows around the world.
We engage ourselves in Sustainability initiatives in house through our technology in innovation without compromising on quality. With Gulf Craft trailblazing the use of lightweight materials in its yachts, it helps to improve processes and structures within the industry and provide information and knowledge exchange. Gulf Craft also welcomes traineeships and requests for activities such as educational tours from different universities and technical institutes.
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