Today, January 31,2021, less than 6 months after the 4th of August, I am proud to announce the reopening of the first warehousing unit in the Beirut Harbor Free Zone.
I am writing this, as the daughter of Keyfreight’s owner and CEO, Robert Paoli, as a tribute for the outstanding work the company have demonstrated during this unbelievably ruthless mega-crisis.
On the 4th of August at 6.47PM, my father, Robert Paoli, one of the founder of the Beirut Harbor Free Zone project, rushed to arrive, out of breath, to his warehouses on the port to see an apocalyptic vision of destruction. The shock was indescribable. The fact the team was not on the premises and no one was hurt was a miracle in itself.
His reaction upon the shock of seeing the wrecked and flaming warehouses at the port was sighing:
“This was my baby”.
When we started to realize what was happening, we couldn’t be but heartbroken for the victims of this terrible catastrophe, and for our beloved Beirut.
Robert finally came home very late that night, surrounded by us, without even blinking, without hesitating, without a single complaint, he simply said: "In spite of everything, I will rebuild”.
It only took a few hours after this horrendous disaster for Robert to start thinking about solutions, elaborating an action plan, and moving forward. The days following the blast, I got taught the most marvelous and valuable lesson in life.
Robert could barely sleep, he was up by 6AM every day, and would go straight down to the warehouses. He was standing all day, borrowing his workers’ bikes to run around the free zone more efficiently. Leading the team on the ground, motivating his group of incredible employees who worked round the clock for months straight.
In the most challenging time of our lives, I witnessed my father lead and inspire a community, create ingenious solutions out of thin air, lay the foundations for change, and do all that despite a system not equipped to react in any way in this crisis mode.
In all this, my father has been the most positive, optimistic, bright person I could have ever imagined. Instead of seeing the damages, he saw the big percentage of merchandise that could be salvaged, he saw what could have been destroyed and was not, he saw the miracle of having his entire team alive.
And so, he clearly communicated his priorities: our clients’ merchandise comes first, this is our DUTY as warehousers. He talked about RESPONSIBILITY and CARE. Two words which meanings I had forgotten.
I repeatedly asked my father to calm down, to rest, take it easy, to take care of himself… that was until the fire which erupted on the 9th of September.
During the first 3 weeks after the blast, Robert was running around frenetically because there was merchandise in his warehouses that needed to be safeguarded.
He took the initiative to contact all the relevant authorities, find an alternative and secure location, and organize the highly sensitive operation of moving that cargo in the demolished field.
When the fire erupted in the warehouse next door to his, IF that cargo was still left where it was, IF no one had taken the conscious decision and initiative to move the merchandise… the blaze would have taken gigantic proportions.
This was a heroic act.
It reminded me what responsibility meant: putting the safety and needs of the people before one’s own needs.
So today, less than 6 months after the 4th of August, I want to publicly thank my father for being the man he is.
I want to congratulate the entire team of Keyfreight Services for this outstanding achievement of having rebuilt the first warehouse in the port of Beirut as well as the reconstruction of both the Karantina and Medawar warehouses; an accomplishment which was done with no financial support from any type of party.
This altruistic act is a message of support to the Lebanese economy, of support to the employees and partners, and mainly, as our sign currently shouts loudly, a needed message in actions and not only in words of “Rebuilding Hope” in Beirut.
Join me in congratulating Keyfreight on their amazing achievement, and in coming together in supporting Lebanon to brighter days.
A tribute to the team and to the incredible work done after the 4th of August explosion.