Imagine a world without cement. You might think that such a world would not be very different from our own, with other materials like wood and steel replacing cement in our cityscapes. But you might be surprised at just what would disappear: without cement, the steel frames of tall buildings would lack an affordable and load-bearing construction material, and skyscrapers would be almost nonexistent. Pavement would be expensive and become a luxury. Energy-efficient buildings would be rare, and industrial facilities would be incredibly expensive to construct, making for faltering technological development the world over. While such a world seems hard to imagine, that was the reality in many developing nations—until Maurice Bouri and his family came along.
As countries in Africa and Asia moved toward industrialization in the mid to late 20th century, rapid construction and new infrastructure was a must. However, many developing countries did not have the local resources to produce the cement needed for construction on this scale. In particular, creating new industrial facilities and the infrastructure to handle industry was difficult, if not impossible.
The logical solution was to import the cement they needed, which (for many countries) could only be done on a small scale. Cement is normally transported in giant container ships that require large docking facilities, but ports in underdeveloped nations lacked the space and infrastructure to handle the vessels. Of course, renovating the ports would have solved the problem—but this itself would have been a massive, cement-heavy project that could take many years to complete, even if funding was available.
That’s where Maurice Bouri and his family came in. Maurice Bouri is the manager of Seament, a company founded by his father Alex Bouri. The Bouris looked at the cement crisis and thought of a solution. While everyone else was asking how to expand the ports, the Bouri’s asked whether the ports really needed to be expanded at all.
Instead, they reasoned, why not unload the cement offshore and bring it into port on smaller vessels? Unloading facilities would still be necessary, but if they could be placed offshore the large ships would not need to enter small, shallow ports. They designed a floating docking facility on a simple barge that could unload the container ships and transfer the cargo to other vessels. This was the origin of Seament.
While their innovations in the cement shipping field may be unsung, they had large reverberations. Ports in at least nine developing nations were revolutionized by Seament’s design, and progress steamed forward.