The sea has shaped our country’s history. For thousands of years, long before words such as infrastructure and logistics were ever heard of, we created much of our wealth and influence in the world through pearl fishing and establishing valuable trading routes. The people of the UAE have always been pioneers in this area and understood its importance for the well-being and prosperity of the nation.
So when the UAE was formed 41 years ago, it came as no surprise that the leadership not only recognised the essential role of infrastructure for maritime trade, but made it a fundamental priority. As a result, the UAE now has world-class businesses in this vital area of economic life which we can be truly proud of.
On Wednesday December 12, 2012, we witnessed the latest chapter in our maritime history, as four decades after founding father of UAE, late Shaikh Zayed inaugurated Mina Zayed as the main gateway to Abu Dhabi, we saw the continuation of his commitment to the economic importance of infrastructure and logistics, with the inauguration of Khalifa Port, by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Everyone at Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) is immensely grateful to Shaikh Khalifa for personally inaugurating the port and for the vision and wise leadership over the years which came to fruition at 12.12pm, on the 12th of the 12th, 2012 — a day of immense pride for ADPC and the UAE.
The UAE’s port and logistics infrastructure has created significant economic growth, diversification and skilled careers for UAE nationals and has seen the country’s international shipping and logistics sector develop as one of the fastest growing in the world. Recent reports from industry analysts Drewry, forecast growth in the Middle East for container traffic alone of between 6-7 per cent over the next few years, vs. 1-1.5 per cent in Europe.
The addition of Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port enhances the strong portfolio of other world class ports across the UAE and it is expected to contribute, along with Kizad, the adjacent industrial zone, up to 15 per cent of the Emirate’s non-oil GDP by 2030.
Since commencing commercial operations on September 1, 2012, Khalifa Port has got off to a strong start. In the first two months, the port received 146 of the world’s largest ships and handled a total of 102,000 container units. By early December, we transferred all container traffic bound for Abu Dhabi from Mina Zayed to Khalifa Port, three months ahead of schedule; thanks to the advanced technology employed in the port and the efforts of the employees of Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Abu Dhabi Terminals and Abu Dhabi Customs. Khalifa Port has received 1.65 million tons of raw material for Emal’s smelter. The adjacent Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad) has also had early success with over 25 per cent of Area A (51 sq km) having been already occupied by investors.
The UAE offers regional businesses advantages such as lower operating costs thanks to advanced port technology. Features such as paperless processing and automated handling allow for faster turnaround of ships and significant cost savings as a result. The UAE’s location offers strong access to global markets; Khalifa Port alone can reach two billion people within four time zones, accessed by efficient road, rail and air connections. In addition, the UAE offers regional businesses a tax-free environment, low energy costs and, as recognised in a recent World Bank report, is one of the easiest places in the world to do business.
Our ports have been designed to accommodate the ever-increasing size of today’s mega-ships and we offer much needed capacity to handle growing trade levels from emerging markets as traditional markets recover.
With the inauguration of Khalifa Port on 12.12.12, the UAE is in a stronger position than ever to make the most of the growing market for shipping and logistics in the region.
Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is chairman,
Abu Dhabi Ports Company.