Mr. Darin Zahra
Senior Agency Manager
First, Darin, can you please tell us about the history of Carmelo Caruana? I believe it’s a group of companies. Is that the case?
Carmelo Caruana Company Ltd is part of a diversified group called Hili Ventures. The group is steered from its headquarters in Malta and employs over 9,000 people in ten countries across Europe and North Africa. Hili Ventures’ commercial activities include logistics, technology, engineering, property, and leasing. One of its major businesses is as a Developmental Licencee for McDonald’s in six European countries and it currently operates 148 restaurants. It also owns Apple Premium Reseller chains in Poland and Hungary which are branded iSpot and iCentre.
The company’s origins date back to 1923. The late Carmelo Caruana founded it, henceforth the name. The company initially started trading commodities from which ship brokerage, ship chartering and ship agency were developed. The founder continued to lead and develop the business until the 1970s. By then, Carmelo Caruana’s nephews, members of the Hili family, joined the company and have raised it from a pioneering family run business into an established leader in the Mediterranean at the helm of the shipping industry.
To date, Carmelo Caruana Company Ltd covers a wide range of activities, namely:
- Ship Agency
- Ship to Ship transfer solutions
- Freight Forwarding (all modes)
- Customs Clearance
- Storage and Warehousing
- Mediterranean Logistics Hub
- Project Cargo Management
- Oil and Gas Logistics support services
- Ship Brokerage & Chartering
- Courier Services
- Yacht handling
- Passenger Services
Malta is a small island in a fantastic location. Tell us what that means for you as a logistics outfit. Can you tell us about some of the jobs you handle, even though your home market is small?
Indeed, Malta is small with a population of 460,000 and an area of 316km². However, we host over 15,000 vessels’ calls for various operations. Malta Freeport alone handles over three million TEUs on an annual basis.
On the other hand, Valletta port handles around 40,000 trailers and around 3,000 containers every year. Moreover, it is estimated that over one million tonnes annually are handled at the Grand Harbour in conventional and bulk cargo.
With its geo-strategic location and the success stories in container transhipment and wet bulk, Malta is committed to becoming a maritime hub of excellence. Malta will soon undergo a regeneration exercise for Valletta port and its hinterland to meet transhipment demands and handle larger vessels as well as a more extensive variety of cargo.
Carmelo Caruana Company Limited has been very active in contributing to this national success story, particularly containers and trailers. Moreover, the transhipment of breakbulk is already something which is regularly being dealt with in-house. We have several clients shipping various commodities to Malta, store in our warehouses and then distribute in smaller quantities to various countries via containers, trailers or smaller vessels. We offer a one-stop-shop to all our clients by handling and co-ordinating all the operations in-house from the vessel’s husbandry, arrange berthing and the necessary equipment to load/un-load the vessels, engagement of stevedores, transfer of cargo, customs clearance, storage and on-wards carriage. Heavier and bulkier cargoes are not normally transhipped in Malta although we are a preferred choice whenever such cargoes are destined to Malta.
Do you belong to any networks? If so why? Do you find it beneficial?
Regarding the various activities carried out by the company, we form part of various networks. We tend to choose the more established ones which remain active and the response from its members is instant.
Some of our activities depend on third parties and we must make sure that we partner up with those most reliable on the market.
One of our top networks is CLC Projects. The administrators are pro-active and try to assist with leads. Moreover, they have members from various parts of the logistics chain with a clean track record of operations.
Could you provide us with some examples and pictures of project cargo that you have handled?
The company has been engaged in various projects, ranging from performing complex heavy lifts and transferring them to destination, or transferring the cargo ship to ship.
We have also had projects that lasted several months, when we had to serve as a hub to handle casings and other equipment for the oil and gas industry. Operations were performed 24/7, with particularly our agency and operations handling a number of mother vessels and feeders on various supply vessels.
More recently, we have been involved in the logistics for elite yachting events. These are less heavy, but still challenging in various aspects.
The company has been engaged in various national projects, both for our expertise and our ability to offer a full service. Some of our achievements are pictured below.
Tell us about your own shipping background and when you started your career. Why did you choose such a career?
Before students go to University, they are encouraged to take up summer jobs. My first job was in a company called Euro Malta Express, a subsidiary company to the national shipping line – Sea Malta Company Ltd. My role then was at the check-in counter handling passengers travelling by ferry to Libya and Sicily.
Eventually, I returned to the same company during my holidays and after graduation, I joined the mother company Sea Malta moving in the Operations and Logistics department for the fleet and further pursued my studies to work on board vessels as a super cargo and later with managing transport operations and logistics.
As an industry expert, I should answer why I chose such a career straight away. Yet, I find it hard to reply to that. Whatever drew me the first day still amazes me today. I simply love what I do.
Malta is also known as a retirement and tourist spot. Can you please tell us about some places in Malta that you think are worth visiting?
Whether you wish to retire or take a break from the daily routine, Malta, with its typically Mediterranean climate, is certainly the place.
What is perhaps most intriguing is exploring 7,000 years of history and yet passionately living in the present. Although Malta is mainly known for its beaches, I could safely say that every season sheds its beauty on the island.
If it’s a swimming experience, art appreciation, a family park, a sports activity, ramble along or enjoy our mouth-watering cuisine, there is something for everyone.
Valletta and Mdina must be on the visiting list for anyone travelling to Malta. My recommendation is not to just go around but to force your way into their secrets. There is far more than meets the eye.
This island is accessible to people of all ages and lifestyles: everyone from the peaceful North (Mellieha) to the clubs in the central part of St. Julian’s to the fishing villages in the South (Marsaxlokk).
What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
I am not the typical office person and I like to involve myself in the physical operations. As a preference, I would always advise to get in touch on my mobile phone if something is urgent. Below are my full contact details: