When Mike Llewellyn launched EFM Global Logistics from his back room in 2000, he clearly had lofty ambitions for where he could take the company. His very first client was big production German rockers Rammstein, for whom he moved 800kg of freight to Japan; 23 years on, EFM is still working with the band except nowadays the tour fills seven Boeing 747s. And while the company has a weight of high-profile clients from around the world – including NASA, for which it moved the single most expensive piece of equipment ever shipped, the James Webb Space Telescope – Llewellyn makes no secret of the fact that without the Middle East, EFM might not even be in existence today.
“I don’t know how well we would have come out of COVID-19 if it hadn’t been for the Middle East,” he shared. “Like many people in our industry, we lost most of our revenue overnight. Thankfully, the way the leadership in the UAE, especially, dealt with the pandemic meant that work was able to continue quite quickly. After a short stop, we were up and running again – that really helped us get through what was a horrible period for the entire industry.”
This year, EFM is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its entry to the Middle East market, and the company marked the occasion in typical style with one of its now-legendary parties – this time aboard a yacht that set sail from Dubai Marina. With a select guestlist of friends and colleagues (including TPMEA), the event was a celebration of its achievements in the region.
Since 2008, EFM has provided specialist services to some of the most high-profile clients in the region, handling all kinds of shipments for the biggest names in exhibitions, music, film, entertainment, events, sports, aerospace, automotive and government.
According to Llewellyn, one of the keys to the company’s longevity has been its ability to take the skillset needed for rock ’n’ roll freight and apply it to a wide range of other areas, including commercial events, product launches, exhibitions that tour, and hotel logistics. “I believe that rock ’n’ roll is the hardest freight forwarding in the world because the windows are so small and if you miss them, the show doesn’t happen,” he stated. “The fact that we’ve been able to deploy those skills to such a variety of verticals has been a big factor in our success.”
While EFM’s Middle East journey started in the UAE, the emergence of Saudi Arabia in recent years as a major event-hosting nation has made the country increasingly important to EFM’s plans for the region. “2019 turned into the busiest year in our history, and that was in part due to Vision 2030 and the incredible growth of events, sport, entertainment and tourism projects across Saudi Arabia,” Llewellyn noted, adding that the company was engaged by multiple clients on a wide range of projects across the Kingdom, including Dammam Spring Festival, KSA National Day, WWE, MDLBEAST, Jeddah World Fest, Diriyah Season, Riyadh Season, Formula E, and the Dakar Rally.
Such was its success in the Kingdom, EFM opted to open a branch in KSA, which already has full-time Saudi staff and is actively building towards a full-scale Saudi-based team. “We have a very large warehouse in KSA; it’s the biggest of our warehouses anywhere in the world and we’re still desperate for more space,” Llewellyn revealed, speaking of the massive demand that is already coming from the Saudi market.
“Dubai will always remain a hub for us, but Saudi is extremely important, too,” he concluded. “It’s been a fantastic 15 years in the region and we’re very excited about what is still to come.”
Photos: EFM Global Logistics