Hard work pays off

In 1980, Sheikh Abdo A Alhadhrami began trading car spares and manufacturing water tanks in Yemen. The steady reliability of trading saw his business grow first nationally, regionally then internationally whilst expanding its service portfolio into other manufacturing, contracting and aftersales sectors. By 1990 its various activities were streamlined, collected under the name Al-Hadhrami Group and organised into several subsidiaries focused primarily on the fishing industry. Today it is the most prominent name in the Yemeni fishing sector.

Al-Hadhrami General Trading is the group’s international branch, based in Dubai, UAE, because of the country’s more reliable trade links and economy. It acts as the international touch point and financial centre for the group whilst also handling its own import/export business for products including fibreglass materials, marine engines, boat equipment and fishing products throughout Yemen. It receives products in Dubai, trucks them through Oman, and then delivers to the rest of the group in Yemen.

One of Al-Hadhrami General Trading’s most important end users is the group’s boat building yard in Yemen. Kassim Abdulla Mubarak bin Saad, CEO at General Trading, discusses this yard in much greater detail: “It makes two eight-metre boats per day for the private fishermen that go to sea daily, mainly for their own subsistence but also to sell surplus back onshore. The yard also regularly makes 16-metre boats that carry 15 tonnes of fish, intended for deep-sea fishing, and many of which are sold outside of Yemen, particularly to Somalia and Djibouti. Until very recently we specialised in building out of fibreglass but more recently have made a move into aluminium as a result of customer demand.

“We also make patrol boats for the government and coast guard of Yemen. These range from 17 to 32 metres and have a maximum speed of 30 knots. Volvo Penta engines, imported via Dubai by Al-Hadhrami General Trading, power all of these boats. Although we do not currently carry out repairs at this yard, recent inquiries by the Yemeni Government to service their vessels when they fail to do it themselves means the group is thinking of going into that.”

In addition to building Volvo Penta engines into its vessels, Al-Hadhrami General Trading is also the exclusive distributor for the engines in Yemen. Whilst 80 per cent of the engines it imports are used in its own vessels, the remaining 20 per cent are sold to ship owners for upgrades and replacements to their existing engines. The Al-Hadhrami Group not only manufactures fishing vessels for third party clients but has its own fishing fleet as well, comprising dhows and small huris ranging in size between 17 and 28 metres, equipped with engines up to 420 horsepower and sailed by crews of up to ten people. This fleet operates in the Arabian Sea, around Socotra Island, and catches mainly king fish, groupers, tuna, snappers and other expensive species. It then makes use of the cold storage facilities owned by Al-Hadhrami subsidiary, Apasara International Corporation, which can refrigerate up to 700 tonnes of fish.

The Arab Spring has meant that companies across Yemen and the Middle Easter / North African region have experienced very unsettled business and Al-Hadhrami Group is no different. “We have suffered a lot during the regional political crisis and global financial crisis,” Kassim says. “The company was at a standstill at one point. The Arab Spring meant about 80 per cent of our business has dropped away but since then we have begun taking orders again from the new Government and that has helped a lot.”

Despite a rough period experienced by the group, it has successfully pulled through and is now looking at a number of strategies to ensure its business remains ongoing. “We want to introduce new services but this requires some political stability first,” explains the CEO. “Currently we are looking at moving into aluminium boat building instead because many of our customers are beginning to see this as a more environmentally friendly solution. We are also thinking of putting a small floating drydock into our yard so that in the future we can service our and other people’s fishing vessels, as we feel there is a lot of potential in that area.”

Kassim is also enthusiastic about the potential for strengthening its presence in East Africa: “Yemen has very good trade links with East Africa, a result of the old British Protectorate days that joined the region together with a single currency. There was a lot of cultural trade between Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar in particular, so we are looking at these countries to improve our marketing. In Kenya, for example, there is only one boat manufacturer and it produces leisure boats rather than workboats so we see an opportunity there for us to supply the common people.”

Leading Yemeni maritime company
Fishing vessel builder
Strong East African connections