Interview: Muhsen Sigutri
To what extent can Misrata and Libya compete more effectively as a shipping and logistics centre?
MUHSEN SIGUTRI: The fluctuations in energy prices and global supply chain disruptions have primarily impacted cargo and shipment prices. The sector has witnessed significant price changes in recent years, with some fares increasing by more than 100% due not only to energy costs, but also to shipping container shortages in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to reduce costs and boost efficiency, the sizes of cargo ships are also increasing, which creates a need for infrastructure that can support the bigger vessels.
Misrata is in a unique geographic location, connecting Europe to landlocked African countries. This positioning sets us apart, and there is practically no competition. Despite this advantageous positioning, Libya’s security and political headwinds have delayed our progress towards becoming a central trans-shipment centre. To compete more effectively, greater attention must be accorded to improving infrastructure, the regulatory framework and political environment. Storage space and logistical capacity for containers must also be enhanced to truly become a trans-shipment centre.
How pivotal is technology integration to transforming Misrata’s logistics and shipping sector?
SIGUTRI: Technology is vital in transforming the logistics and shipping industries. From Customs processing to container tracking and port management, technology is being used to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, ensure quality and safety, and improve speed and efficiency, while reducing costs. Technology is now foundational to compete in global shipping and logistics and it will only become more important as automation and the use of big data become widespread. The MFZ has already shifted towards electronic corresponding systems, eliminating various manual processes and increasing efficiency in administration. Improving efficiency will remain the top priority, and technology will be a key driver in achieving that goal.
Misrata is making strides in preparing the infrastructure to be a trans-shipment centre. The MFZ already has a new dedicated site that will include a deep draft harbour, a cargo airport and a vast storage area. To achieve infrastructure improvements though, it will be necessary to increase foreign investment. Additionally, policymakers must continue training the labour force and adopting technologies that optimise efficiency.
In what ways is the MFZ impacting the broader economy and empowering the private sector?
SIGUTRI: The MFZ significantly impacts the economy of Misrata. Furthermore, partnerships with investors are actively being sought to launch more projects benefitting the region. Programmes are also being targeted to upskill the labour force and promote the localisation of industries. Enhanced collaboration with the private sector is expected to boost economic growth and expand opportunities beyond the free zone.
Where do you see the demand for trade through the free zone growing over the coming years?
SIGUTRI: There is strong optimism about the demand for trade through the MFZ in the coming years, especially with increasing investment in infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. Our current stability in the region has already led to interest from countries like Chad and Niger. As the wider region continues to invest in infrastructure, the demand for trade through our free zone should grow significantly. Additionally, strong ties with neighbouring countries like Egypt and Tunisia further enhance Misrata’s prospects for becoming a prominent regional shipping and logistics centre. Policymakers remain committed to making the City of Misrata and the MFZ a thriving gateway to Africa and a key contributor to the region’s economic prosperity.