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It has been hard for Lebanon to shake off its reputation for violence and mayhem, dating back to the 1975-1990 civil war.  However, 17 years on, the picture is somehwat different. Of course, everything is relative, but in these uncertain days for the region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, where we have seen civil strife and violent extremism take hold in neighbouring countries, suddenly Lebanon feels like a rather safe place to be.

Admittedly, political differences continue to polarise the country, and we recently spent almost 3 years without a President, but towards the end of 2016 we managed to successfully hold countrywide municipal electionsand have a new President elected, who in turn appointed a new Prime Minister. Fulfilling these important constitutional requirements has been a shot in the arm to Lebanon's economy, as it enables progress with numerous crucial issues, including the vital hydro-carbon sector and the issuing of licences for offshore exploration.  Figures for visitors to Lebanon, hotel occupancy and investment in projects have shot up, and we have seen a greater measure of optimism.

The BOT schemeto set up and operate a container terminal in Tripoli, North Lebanon, won by Gulftainer, is starting to show increasing activity, with the dedicated feeder Shuttle 2 bringing ever increasing numbers of containers from the hubs of Port Said and Beirut.

From Henry Heald & Co.'s perspective, business is brisk.  On the freight forwarding side, JF Hillebrand traffic alone increased by more than 40% in 2016, as we have expanded our portfolio to include imports from Chile, Russia and Greece. Similarly Yusen Logistics imports increased by 32% from the Far East and 60% from Europe.

On the liner side, as the Euro begins to recover against the USD, purchasing of cargo from the USA is beginning to revive; notably high and heavy cargo, boats, wood pulp and military shipments.  Regrettably, Nordana Line, that we have represented for more than 40 years, has announced the closure of its liner service after the current sailing. We all feel incredibly sad, almost bereaved; it feels a bit like losing an elderly relative!  However, life goes on, there are many other opportunities to be grasped, and we are already making alternative arrangements for the cargoes we control.

NYK Container Line and Brointermed continue to maintain a steady presence in the market, while NYK RORO is bringing in ever larger volumes of new cars from Japan, and Hyundai Glovis maintains a significant share of the imports of new Korean cars. I had the pleasure of meeting with both companies during a trip to the Far East in December, along with NYK Container Line and Yusen Logistics.

Our plans for 2017 include further developing our airfreighting activities, to include perishables, low shelf-life goods and temperature controlled products.  We are also expanding our subsidiary services such as consolidations, LCL, Customs clearance, warehousing and distribution.  We shall also be promoting our quality Stevedoring service.

There are thus many more positives than negatives, and we look forward to the coming year with confidence and optimism.

Thank you for your interest in our company

Harriet Joly

Managing Director