Founded in 1999, Mina Group has sourced over a billion gallons of fuel, transporting it thousands of kilometres through the most difficult terrain, to the most remote areas, often under the most challenging of conditions.
“We operate in a highly competitive market”, Mina’s President and CEO, Graham O’Donoghue, tells World Finance. “Mina’s greatest strength is having the real-time flexibility to source fuel from different regions and transport it via whichever route is necessary to get the job done. In our business, much of our work involves security challenges, complex logistical demands, and supply cycles lasting several months and spanning thousands of kilometres. Mina is unique in its proven ability to meet customer requirements in the face of these challenges.”
It is a strategy that appears to be paying off. Today, Mina is the largest supplier of jet fuel to the US military in Afghanistan, where the company pioneered a new supply route to support coalition forces. Mina owns, operates, and maintains significant infrastructure to support its Afghan operations. This includes multiple storage facilities with capacity of over 20 million gallons; and rail tank car and tanker truck facilities. It is such achievements that saw it recognised as the Best Downstream Service and Solutions Company, Middle East in the 2014 World Finance awards.
Mina’s principal storage facility near Kabul can consistently discharge over 200 trucks per day and load nearly 100 trucks per day for delivery throughout the country. “In places like Afghanistan, we take proactive steps to ensure the security and reliability of deliveries, such as building and operating our own pipeline for fuel deliveries in order to reduce dependency on trucks, which can be targets for insurgents”, says O’Donoghue.
And Mina has done precisely that. The group built and operates a pipeline directly connecting its fuel storage facility to Bagram Air Base, the largest US military base in Afghanistan, with a dual runway capable of handling military aircraft.
Mina’s US Government contracts do not end there. In the past year, the company has won multiple competitive tenders to supply jet fuel to the US Defence Logistics Agency in various locations in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. “We’re building our presence in the Baltic region and Eastern Europe”, says Zack Friedman, the company’s Group Executive Vice President and CFO. “The fact that we are nimble enough to mobilise resources at short notice and move fuel in challenging conditions, be it through extreme weather or conflict zones, makes us a valuable partner for the US Government, NATO, and the United Nations, among others.”
Another major project in motion is Mina’s construction of the US Defence Logistics Agency’s highest profile infrastructure project in Oman. The operation will consist of a 230,000 cubic metre bulk fuel facility capable of receiving, storing, and delivering a massive 61 million gallons of fuel for use by the US Navy. “With Mina’s expansion into Oman and our intention to develop a long-term, meaningful presence there, the Salalah project is undeniably one of the most important infrastructure projects in Mina’s history”, says Friedman.
O’Donoghue and Friedman lead
Talking to O’Donoghue and Friedman, you get a clear picture that Mina’s growth may in large part be down to the energy of its new leadership. Both Harvard graduates, O’Donoghue and Friedman were appointed on July 1, 2013. At just 35 and 36 years of age, respectively, they are among the youngest executives running a company of Mina’s scale and stature, which sits at the cross-section of commodities trading, transportation logistics defence contracting, and international relations.
Their biographies are impressive. O’Donoghue served as Associate Counsel to President George W Bush in the White House and holds a JD from Columbia Law School and a BA from Harvard University; while Friedman was a hedge fund investor and worked at both The Blackstone Group and Morgan Stanley. Friedman has a BA from Johns Hopkins University, a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University, a JD from Columbia Law School, and an MBA from Wharton Business School.
Since assuming the top leadership at Mina, O’Donoghue and Friedman have significantly increased Mina’s operating and net profit margins, which have led to the company’s best financial performance in four years. They have also increased government contract revenue, bolstered trading profits, tightened financial controls, reduced administrative costs, optimised inventory management, and expanded the global footprint.
Maintaining the highest ethical standards is high on O’Donoghue and Friedman’s list of prioritiesa. “We move product through many different countries in the world and are acutely aware that we must respect the communities in which we operate and that it is often the people in those communities that enable our success”, Friedman says. “There is no reason not to conduct our operations according to the ethical and compliance standards of the world’s largest publicly traded companies. That is our goal.”
Transporting jet fuel to Afghanistan
In 2004, Mina helped pioneer a new supply route to support coalition forces in Afghanistan, the now widely used Northern Distribution Network. The US Defence Logistics Agency continues to contract with Mina to supply jet fuel to Afghanistan. Mina overcomes extreme security challenges, difficult terrain, and supply cycles that often span several months and involve thousands of kilometres of travel, to meet its customers’ requirements.
The company owns, operates, and maintains significant infrastructure to support its Afghanistan operations. Its quality assurance team operates a laboratory capable of full specification testing on fuel products before delivery. To ensure consistent supply as well as to maintain required strategic reserves, Mina manages several storage facilities with available capacity of over 20 million US gallons and operates rail tank car and tanker truck facilities. Mina’s principal storage facility near Kabul can consistently discharge over 200 trucks per day and load nearly 100 trucks per day for delivery to points throughout the country. To improve the security and reliability of deliveries, Mina constructed and continues to operate its own pipeline to Bagram Air Base.
Over the last decade, in which Mina has delivered more than a billion gallons of fuel to US forces, Mina’s performance in Afghanistan has proven its ability to surmount challenges and reliably deliver quality products in the most difficult environments in the world.
Corporate social responsibility
O’Donoghue and Friedman have overhauled the company’s compliance programme by revising, updating and strengthening corporate policies. The group’s corporate social responsibility programme is equally extensive. Among its programmes is Mina’s partnership with the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in a venture known as the New Generation Academy (NGA), which provides deserving secondary school graduates from central Asia with an intense one-year curriculum to help them prepare for university. Mina has committed funding for the programme through to 2017 and the group sponsors 70 scholars chosen from all regions of the Kyrgyz Republic at the NGA each year. The company provides the most promising with full four-year tuition.
Mina also participates in a programme to promote young female leaders and sponsored delegates from Afghanistan, China, Georgia, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic and Saudi Arabia to attend a leadership summit in Washington DC.
Amid the near-term volatility of world energy markets, what does the future hold for Mina? “We pay close attention to world affairs and current events to assess the impact on energy prices and supply chains”, Friedman says. “From Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan and Ukraine, Mina is prepared to help ensure uninterrupted, on-time fuel supply no matter the location. Further, we are focused on expanding our physical commodities trading business to new geographies where we can identify arbitrage opportunities or trade around a strategic asset.”