Industry news

Yousef Al Dossary, Chairman, Gulf SQAS Sub-Committee, discusses the benefits of adopting the program, how the Sub-Committee has responded to the COVID-19 related challenges and his growth plans for the future

  1. Please introduce the Gulf SQAS initiative – what does it constitute of and what benefits would companies reap if they adopted the system today?

Gulf SQAS (Sustainability and Quality Assessment System) is a system, originally formulated by collaboration of logistics service providers petrochemicals and manufacturers in Europe and adapted for the Gulf region by the GPCA SQAS Committee. The system evaluates the Environment, Health, Safety, Security and Quality (EHSS&Q) performance of LSP’s using standardized modular assessment questionnaires, carried out by independent certified assessors. Gulf SQAS avoids multiple assessments by individual chemical companies and encourages dialogue between LSPs and chemical companies based on the assessment results. It helps companies select new LSPs and offers a tool for evaluating continuous improvement. Gulf SQAS extends the focus of petrochemical companies in EHSS&Q management to all key stakeholders. Gulf SQAS is therefore a key element of Responsible Care® applied to logistics operations.

There are four specific Gulf SQAS modules covering the different types of LSPs active in land-based logistics in close cooperation with the involved industry sectors and their associations: Gulf SQAS Transport Service, Gulf SQAS Warehouse, Gulf SQAS Tank Cleaning and Gulf SQAS Rail. All four activity specific modules share a core management system module. The logistics modules cover services to chemical and petrochemical companies such as raw material supply and product transportation. Each of the Gulf SQAS modules is supported by a guideline, which provides a detailed explanation of the expected standard for each question.

The key difference between Gulf SQAS and other management systems is the assessment process. Gulf SQAS is not a process of certification. Each question is assessed on the three elements 1) policy, 2) communication and understanding and 3) transactional evidence. All three must be answered positively through a rigorous, evidence-based assessment process.  Following assessment, an improvement action plan must be submitted and followed up through dialogue between the manufacturer and the LSP.

  1. When was the Gulf SQAS initiative adopted in the region and how does it relate to the Responsible Care® program?

The Gulf SQAS was adopted from CEFIC’s SQAS program in August 2014 by GPCA to champion it in the GCC region.

Gulf SQAS expands the coverage of Responsible Care® throughout the product supply chain, focusing on continuous improvement of EHSS&Q within the Logistic Service Provider (LSP) industry partners. Gulf SQAS adds a quality component and is fully aligned with all seven Responsible Care® technical codes, but comprehensively addresses the expectations of the Distribution Code.

The initiative is supervised by the Responsible Care Committee and managed by a technical sub-committee spearheaded by GPCA member companies from both manufacturers and logistics service providers. The Sub Committee consists of 10 members, who are experts in their field, and come from industry leading companies. The sub-committee role is to manage the program, ensuring that region-wide awareness, quality, and continuous improvement are achieved. The sub-committee operates the program through a list of certification bodies who nominated individuals with pre-defined criteria set by the sub-committee. The nominees were trained, examined, and certified by the Gulf SQAS sub-committee and introduced as assessors to conduct the onsite assessments. The assessors have access to, and upload the reports on the Gulf SQAS online database managed by GPCA.

  1. What specific benefits does adopting the Gulf SQAS initiative bring not just to chemical manufacturing companies and Logistics Service Providers (LSPs), but also to the general public in the GCC region? And how has it helped to advance EHSS&Q standards over the years?

The Gulf SQAS initiative brought an industry benchmark with defined requirements to all its stakeholders listed briefly as:

  • A key element in promoting continuous improvement of the EHSS&Q standards in logistics operations
  • A cost-effective tool for chemical companies (less auditing) as well as for LSPs (fewer audits)
  • A systematic approach focusing on issues that need attention and improvement
  • An important tool for logistics EHSS&Q, supply chain and procurement managers and professionals
  • Enhances the overall image of the chemical industry
  • Aligns the region with international best practice, for example, construction and use standards in road transport, driver training, and regulation on the carriage of Dangerous Goods (ADR)
  • Improves road safety for the benefit of all road users
  • Provides a mechanism for LSPs to monitor and improve their environmental performance

We can now observe the improved EHSS&Q standards across the value chain of chemical supplies thanks to initiatives such as Responsible Care® and Gulf SQAS.

  1. How did the sub-committee respond to the COVID-19 related challenges, ensuring that disruptions caused by the pandemic to our members were controlled, risks effectively managed, and the rules and regulations were always conformed to while keeping the safety and health of employees front and center?

While the Gulf SQAS program could not have foreseen COVID-19, many of the program participants would have been better prepared for the pandemic as a result of Gulf SQAS which contains business continuity planning.

The sub-committee immediately convened and issued a memo with a recommendation to all its stakeholders to avoid enforcing any physical site visits or audits to Logistics Service Providers (LSPs). Instead, we created a COVID-19 self-assessment questionnaire, agreed between manufacturers and LSPs, which included practical ways to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. The questionnaire was a tool for manufacturers to communicate with their LSPs and measure their preparedness to the pandemic across their operations. Also, the sub-committee suspended all Gulf SQAS assessments until 30 September and expired certificates were renewed until assessments were resumed.

The program reviews the questionnaire every three years. Lessons learned from COVID-19 will be used to ensure we are all better prepared for future crisis.

  1. What have been the key milestones of the Gulf SQAS program in the region? Have you taken on any new aspirations or measures in recent months?

As of today, we have 128 Gulf SQAS assessed company across the region. Expanding the reach of the Gulf SQAS across the region will reflect on the EHSS&Q standards in the industry which will further enhance the industry’s image. The sub-committee conducted its first round of assessors training in 2014. Further training was conducted in 2018 when we released the first revision of the questionnaire and the third round is planned in 2021 to add new assessors to the initiative and accommodate the increased demand of assessments requests.

We hope in this third round to have assessors originating from the GCC who will grow with the program ensuring that the foundations laid since 2014 continue for many years.

  1. What are your plans for the future to grow and develop the Gulf SQAS program in the GCC? What more can GPCA member companies do to further reap the benefits of this important program?
  • To continue to measure and reduce the impact of our operations on the environment from emissions, waste, spilled product, and resource utilization
  • To add regional assessors from the local community
  • To influence the adoption of ADR throughout to GCC for safer transportation, storage and handling of dangerous goods
  • To improve the specification of the road transport equipment offered to LSPs in the region
  • To improve regional knowledge by raising the standard, and availability of training for LSPs staff, manufacturers, and other stakeholders in the region
  • To activate the rail module
  • To include Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) best practices in the Gulf SQAS program