An interview with the eloquent, self-deprecating Sherine Naggar is never dull. The chairman of the Egyptian based, family controlled Naggar Shipping, founded by his grandfather in 1897, in a candid interview describes both himself and various family members as crazy or nutcases in their career pursuits.
Naggar, and assorted scions, like to think big when it comes to shipping projects. The chairman’s current obsession is to buy six rail ferries, hooking up with China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, whereby said vessels will offer voyages over land and sea from Stavanger to Beijing via the Middle East.
Naggar has identified two of the six ships to buy so far and is likely to tap Chinese financing for the acquisitions, he tells Maritime CEO. This sea/rail idea of Naggar’s is something he’s been brewing since 2006, well before China’s current president, Xi Jinping, came up with OBOR. He stresses that the concept is not to take business away from shipping, but more from aviation. If it takes off, Naggar says the project will eventually involve far more than just six vessels.
As well as operating ships, the Naggars, who hail from the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, are involved in agency, surveying, logistics, NVOCCs and engineering. Two years ago the firm sold all its tankers leaving it mainly as a liner operator these days.
Having been in the family business since 1973, Naggar is somewhat disenchanted with how the character of the industry is these days. “Shipping is ugly now,” he says. “Shipowners today are on their own.” Banks are aggressive, he says, freight rates “lousy”, the ITF are all over owners and as for Port State Control, well they’re “morons who cause chaos”. International shipping bodies, he urges, need to become far more commercial and back their members more strongly.
So with all this aggravation, why’s he still in the business? “I’m crazy,” he admits. “It’s an addiction.”
And what of the other mad men in the family? There’s Naggar’s “crazy” nephew, who, having just graduated from McGill in Canada, is now working on developing hydrogen propelled ships, mainly aimed at the tanker market.
“It’s dangerous,” Naggar concedes, “but I like the idea very much.”
Then there’s Naggar’s “nutcase” of a son, a trained marine engineer, who is working on developing plastic wood composite.
The family tales in the Naggar household run and run.