(MENAFN - Arab News) German firms are very committed to supporting the development of the Saudi airports and would like to continue this cooperation. They are also very active in supporting the impressive upgrading plans of the Saudi railway network. What is more, German companies have excellent skills in the urban planning and construction sector. "To express it in a somewhat exaggerated way, we Germans are known for 'building for eternity,' because we attribute great value to the highest quality," Peter Ramsauer, German federal minister of transport, building and urban development, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News during his recent visit to Jeddah.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Apart from the German expertise helping building the Northern Pumping Station at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, are German firms vying for any future airport projects, especially because the Kingdom is seeking to expand this airport? Also, in which other major Saudi airport projects are the Germans involved?
German companies are very committed to supporting the development of the Saudi airports. Fraport AG would like to continue this cooperation. Deutsche Flugsicherung, too, is interested in contributing its expert knowledge in the area of airport safety and security, just as many other German companies of the construction industry and airport logistics that are keen to participate in the upgrading and development of the Saudi airports.
It is said that three years from now Saudi Arabia will have one of the most extensive rail networks in the world. Will Germany be a part of helping the Kingdom achieve this. If so, in which way?
German companies are already very active in supporting the impressive upgrading plans of the Saudi railway network. Bombardier, Siemens, Rail.one and Dornier Consulting already have intensive business relations with Saudi Arabia. The enterprises would very much like to continue this. A large number of additional, highly specialized suppliers from Germany are on hand. As a result of my trip, Deutsche Bahn International was able to record an important success, since it now acts as a "preferred bidder" for the planning of a part of the high-speed line between Makkah and Madinah.
Saudi Arabia is experiencing an extremely rapid urbanization. It is also seeking to complement modern architecture with environmentally sound policies. Will Germany be part of this new urban development?
The growth of the population of Saudi Arabia is enormous. I admire the ambitious and extensive plans for the construction of housing and the construction of numerous new cities. Especially the King Abdullah Economic City has to be mentioned here. German companies have excellent skills in the urban planning and construction sector. To express it in a somewhat exaggerated way, we Germans are known for "building for eternity," because we attribute great value to the highest quality. Outstanding competencies also exist in the area of "energy-efficient building" for which also high-tech building materials are required. German companies like BASF and many others are world leaders here.
After seeing the ongoing expansion at the Jeddah Islamic Port, how do you think this port will rate internationally as a link on a major shipping route?
With a share of 70 percent of goods transshipment of Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Islamic Port is by far the biggest port of Saudi Arabia. Due to the high investments into the port and its transport infrastructure and due to the high economic growth in Saudi Arabia and its good geo-strategic position, I am very optimistic that the Jeddah Islamic Seaport will undergo a very positive development, compared to other ports in the region.
Major ports in the GCC are also seeing expansion, especially in Qatar and Dubai. Is Germany involved in helping these projects and how?
Germany is involved in many ways in the implementation of the impressive port projects on the Arabian Peninsula. Experts from Hamburg and Duisburg, for example, are actively participating in the construction of the new port in Abu Dhabi. Hamburg Harbor supports the projects in Jeddah and Doha. In seminars German authorities and industry representatives inform about German environmental and safety standards. German technical knowledge is particularly appreciated for the issue of connections to the hinterland. Special emphasis has to be put on the logistics school in Abu Dhabi, a joint undertaking by Germany and the emirate that began its teaching activities last year. Three professors from three German universities impart German expert knowledge in the fields of logistics, maritime transport and port operations to the students.
The Kingdom is inviting joint ventures and investments in major projects. How do you see the German participation in this?
There are already many joint projects. One could mention, for example, the cooperation of the Saudi Binladin Group with Deutsche Bahn or the joint ventures and partnerships of the Juffali Group with Mercedes-Benz, Siemens, Bosch and Liebherr. This tendency to cooperate is indispensable. Without the expertise of a strong Saudi partner, it is impossible to be successful as a foreign company. The Germans have understood this and focus on additional partnerships. On my trip to Saudi Arabia, too, a number of delegation members who accompanied me were able to establish valuable new contacts.
With the EU seeing a slowdown in development, do you see this affecting German firms, especially in the transport sector?
After the 2008 financial crisis, Germany has been able - from the perspective of a highly developed national economy - to develop very good growth rates again and was economically little impressed by the crisis of the euro. Germany again belongs to the most competitive industrial countries and, due to its range of products and especially due to the high quality of the products, it profits from the boom of the economically emerging, newly industrialized countries. And our logistics industry, which is leading worldwide also profits from this. So I assume that the growth of the German transport sector will continue.
How do you evaluate the bilateral economic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Germany?
In addition to the very good political relations, Germany and Saudi Arabia are linked by a close economic cooperation. The objective of my visit was mainly to contribute to its intensification. I was very impressed by the hospitality of the Saudi partners whom I met. I am certain that by pooling our competencies we can make a big contribution to the further positive development of Saudi Arabia. German products may have their price. But for this price one gets excellent quality and durability. This is the difference between many international competitors and us.