| Qatar Tribune | Interview with CEO OSCAR YAMIN
by Tribune News Network Doha
Lebanon has unfortunately become a veteran in suffering ongoing crises of all kinds and sizes. Last year was an excruciating and painful one, crammed with an unprecedented economic meltdown attacking almost all sectors. With the escalating Russian-Ukrainian crisis and its implications on supply, Lebanon fears a “déjà-vu” of suffocating long vehicle queues along highways and internal roads, leading to gas stations in a scene that inscribed the second half of 2021. A crisis that would have intensified had it not been for the containment of major oil importing companies and particularly Coral that played a leading role during crisis maintaining supply despite all challenges. With raising fears of supply shortages again, Qatar tribune interviewed Oscar Yamin*, Chairman and CEO of A. Yamin Group, The Coral Oil Company Limited (UK), and Liquigas-Liban SAL.
We all know about the “humiliation queues” as they used to call them in the media, all leading to gas stations due to a massive shortage in gasoline and diesel. How did your companies face this existential crisis?
“The humiliating queues” you evoked were another burden endured by Lebanese citizens and they reminded us of the darkest days of the Lebanese civil war. As people-oriented and socially responsible companies, Coral and Liquigas stepped in to ease a shortage that was affecting all aspects of the daily life.
When the crisis erupted, and the sector started facing long queues, we took immediate operational measures such as the direct recruitment of additional talents and the consolidation of all our stations’ staff across the country. Consequently, we were amongst the few Lebanese companies to remain operational all over the crisis and the only one without any service interruption.
And to encounter the long queues, the board of both companies took the decision to stay fully operational even during weekends and public holidays serving people and vital institutions such as hospitals and telecom stations and Coral was the only company where all lanes at all stations were open and fully functional, not to say that we applied absolutely no limit to people filling their cars’ tanks.
And I would like to take the opportunity to salute Coral and Liquigas employees that have been exposed to risks, leading some of them to hospitals with serious injuries without mentioning the physical damages to some of our stations in some times. Even during the pandemic curfew periods in Lebanon, we obtained special permits for our staff from the Ministry of Energy to continue our operations in the terminal to support vital sectors remain functional.
Concretely, how did “Coral” and “Liquigas” contributed to easing the gasoline and diesel crisis and would this practice ensure uninterrupted services in Lebanon in the future?
I can happily share with you some of Coral’s and Liquigas’ initiatives during this catastrophic period, hoping sincerely that Lebanon will never have to witness it again.
First and foremost, our companies took immediate measures to support vital sectors and institutions, which are crucial for the country. For instance, we created fast passes to Lebanese medical doctors, the Lebanese Red Cross personnel, and the Civil Defence staff. We also did the same with various other fundamental actors, such as schools that were struggling to open their doors after the pandemic and ensure transportation to their teaching personnel and students amid the crisis.
We also created a fast pass for those institutions’ members and are proud to have contributed to facilitating their operations running despite tremendous constraints.
Furthermore, we ensured constant diesel supply to essential players such as bakeries and different types of factories. In these Beirut port refrigerators, national food imports were stocked and provided for private generators that play an essential role in securing electricity in the country. Finally, even though private diesel distribution wasn’t on our services portfolio, after realizing the urgent need for electricity for patients’ oxygenators at home, we quickly introduced the home diesel distribution to support where we could on the deadly Covid19 front and compensate for the shortage of other companies in the country.
In the same line and in July 2021, Coral company secured diesel for the only oxygen production facility in Lebanon, based in the southern region of Zahra. Our immediate response to this plant problem was vital for its operations to secure oxygen for hospitals amid the Covid-19 pandemic. I am very relieved to say that this initiative saved many lives of Covid19 patients. Another example is the initiative undertaken by Liquigas to donate Rafic Hariri University Hospital, known for fighting on the forefront against Covid-19, 30,000 litres of diesel. It is worth mentioning that thousands of litres of diesel were also secured to all hospitals across Lebanon in those dire times, even if they were not on our companies’ client lists. Also, immediately after the disastrous Beirut Port Explosion, we urgently mobilized our staff around the clock, 24/7. We instantly donated 150,000 litres of diesel to five leading private hospitals in the capital facing electricity shortages. We are thankful to all hospitals and staff in operations rooms fighting for the lives of survivors after the blast.
Those are some of many actions that we modestly did as part of our duties to our beloved nation. We did everything we could to stretch out a helping hand to the people of our homeland.
Coral and Liquigas crisis management is the result of the Board of Directors’ vision and mission to maintain social and economic safety in dark times and have been possible because of our solid network of relationships, the commitment of our employees, and our available facilities with foreign suppliers and banks.
Therefore, Coral and Liquigas will remain committed to servicing Lebanon’s needs.
Did your clients express their gratitude, and how? Can you share with us some feedback or testimonials?
This is absolutely true. Our clientele that grew considerably was extremely grateful. Numerous clients cited us and thanked us over traditional and social media platforms. This generated incredibly positive word-of-mouth for our companies and brands. Whether clients or not, persons and institutions alike thanked us in many touching ways; for instance, I would like to share a very moving story: In August 2021, numerous positive comments from customers supported Coral when it announced its forced closure due to the inability to unload vessels given the government’s new tight policies. This showed how much Coral’s clients were satisfied with the company’s service and performance. Besides, Liquigas and Coral were cited multiple times on live TV shows by both anchors and hosts as the only two companies in Lebanon to constantly provide for stations and clients despite the acute petrol crisis. Additionally, the President of the syndicate of private hospitals thanked us multiple times live on TV for being one of the few companies to provide hospitals unconditionally with a regular supply of diesel. To only give you a few of what I honestly remember, such feedback encouraged us to maintain this line of action and be resourceful when facing challenges, which is the motto we live by.
*Oscar Alfred Yamin is a Lebanese entrepreneur and businessman with more than 30 years of experience in the petroleum industry. He is a Shareholder and Chairman of A. Yamin Group, The Coral Oil Company Limited (UK), and Liquigas-Liban SAL. Moreover, he sits on the board of directors of several companies. The group of Companies presently employs more than 800 persons, actively supporting the Lebanese economy in one of the harshest crises the country has ever witnessed. Yamin has also experienced several oil crises in Lebanon throughout the years. He is a significant player in proposing multiple effective plans to the government, with short-term and long-term strategic solutions.