Move One‘s Country Manager for Iraq, Cameron Marchand, gives an overview of what it takes to run a business in Iraq.
An integral part of what has driven Move One to become a leader in its field is the ability to operate in the most challenging and inhospitable environments of the world. Until recently, Iraq was considered a very harsh and unsafe country, however, a recent drop in violence has allowed it to experience a certain level of security and stability; which has not been felt in years. The country is now benefiting from a new focal point in business investment and development in the Middle East. Move One’s Country Manager for Iraq, Cameron Marchand, gave us an overview of what it takes to manage an international company’s operations within Iraq, whilst providing a first hand account of the country’s current situation.
“Move One has been active in Iraq since 2003, providing logistics solutions directly in the center, even throughout its most hostile years. We have also been offering relocation and moving services and assisting diplomatic and humanitarian missions throughout the conflict”, explains Cameron. “Although we are the foremost relocation service provider in the country, our work-load is typically around 80 percent cargo and 20 percent household goods moving. As the region becomes more stable and US government work downsizes, we are increasing our focus on customers investing in Iraq’s future. A significant portion of the current work-load is still related to the military draw-down, however, a major segment of all new business is within the oil and gas industry. The decrease in government-sponsored work is being counteracted by the massive investment from companies around the globe.”
Iraq is enjoying a considerable influx of expats and assignees, and the vast majority of the volume that Move One handles is in imports, rather than exports. Cargo and household goods pour in from all over the world, particularly Europe, North America and Asia. However, it would be a mistake to assume Iraq was anything like a normal Western business environment. It still demands a very high level of preparedness and situational awareness. Cameron characterized the region, saying “I do want to stress that Iraq is not ’safe’ yet and the unrest has not stopped. There is very little rebuilding being performed, except what the companies coming here are forced to undertake in order to meet their contractual engagements. Iraq remains a dangerous and difficult place to operate in, but we have the expertise and resources to excel in this kind of environment.”
The majority of the imports made by Move One’s Iraqi offices arrive by air and ocean, with additional volume going by land routes from Jordan, Syria and Kuwait. Whilst the basic mechanics of import and export are the same as they are anywhere in the world, Cameron and his team have become experts in navigating local bureaucracy. Through it all, the Iraq team has a comprehensive understanding of the complex sectarian disputes and regulatory requirements of the area.
“Everything takes longer in Iraq. You have to expect delays and be prepared to wait. Anyone who has entered Iraq through Basra airport will have their own ‘waiting story’. Erik Hemphill, Move One’s Middle East Regional Manager, recently visited Basra and now has the company record. It took 20 hours for the customs authorities to process his entry visa at the airport.”
Other obstacles include the requirement that goods being trucked from another country must be cross-loaded onto Iraqi trucks at the border, all at additional cost. Cameron mentioned Kurdistan as another example of the invaluable nature of local knowledge, saying “Northern Iraq – Kurdistan – operates as a semi-autonomous state and is completely different from ‘Iraq’. You can’t really talk about the two as if they are the same. Kurdistan is relatively safe compared to Iraq, but can still be dangerous and difficult to work in, with completely different set of obstacles of its own.”
To a certain extent, the standards and practices of running a leading business are the same all over the world, but in order to operate in Iraq, a unique set of skills and considerations need to be developed. We asked how Move Ones operations in Iraq would be different from those in the rest of the world. “Our services adapt almost by the hour,” replied Cameron, “…What works one day, hour or minute, might not the next. Companies outside of a conflict area speak of adapting like it is something you plan to do. Here, the environment forces you to change every moment of every day. A company operating in this environment must be able to mitigate everyday risk and hire people who are responsible, committed and versatile. There is no instruction manual.”
With offices strategically located in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra, Move One has all the necessary resources and experience to handle even the most challenging logistical requirement in the region. Our extensive local knowledge dates back to 2003 and has helped us build a successful track record in delivering everything from small shipments to heavy and over-sized cargo for a variety of customers.