Sultan Murad Al Joker, Advisor to the Director General - Customs, says the key to DCV's success is in the way it handles its customers

Sultan Murad Al Joker is a man of few words. He'd rather let his work do the talking. Having been in the air cargo industry for more than 39 years, he is regarded as one of the founding members of Dubai Cargo Village. As Advisor to the Director General - Customs, he holds a distinguished portfolio.

Down the ages

"I have been blessed to have a range of experiences with this company," says Al Joker. "I have been a customs employee since 1968. At that time the cargo section was not very large. We had very few flights that operated here, one from the UK and another from Bahrain and Oman. Gradually, there was growth.

"In the '70s the cargo levels increased and we moved to a bigger warehouse. Dubai's airport was built in the mid-70s when the cargo had almost doubled. The late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum turned to exploring the emirate's economic potential and specifically to reorganise the customs department since it was the main revenue maker in a developing trading town. He sanctioned the building of 20 warehouses between 1971 and '72."

The volume of non-oil foreign trade (imports, exports and re-exports) grew from Dh1.08 billion in 1970 to Dh7.68 billion in 1975. "At the time, my salary was just Rs 300," says Al Joker.

In 1988 non-oil foreign trade reached Dh29.29 billion and in 1993 it took another giant leap to reach Dh64.35 billion.

He adds, "By 1983 there was almost 8,000 tonnes of cargo a month that moved from our airports. There were quite a few airlines that operated at that time, including PanAm, and we had to manage up to two million tonnes of cargo a year, which was no small amount in those days. Of course, with the completion of the mega terminal we will be able to conduct even larger operations."

Dubai Customs is no longer a mere collector of duty or inspector of cargo. It has expanded to include the facilitation of trade while constantly regulating the flow of trade into the business sector.

Through the years Al Joker's work ethic has remained the same. "Our motto is to provide good service on a daily basis. We like to treat our customers the same, no matter which part of the world they come from."

Al Joker also credits the success of the Cargo Village to the able leadership of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

"Even when he was studying, Shaikh Mohammad advised us to give full flexibility to adjust to the customers' needs. We were instructed to make procedures for the customers hassle-free."

One of the most experienced employees at DCV, Al Joker is often regarded as one of the biggest assets of the company. "My role is more of an advisor these days. The staff comes to me for advice and consultation," he says.

"It is time for new blood to take over and it is my job to support them. Our role as a team is to support the director and carry out his initiatives. We also make sure we constantly improve our services to our customers," he says.

The key to DCV's success is its perfect coordination with other cargo-related institutions such as the Customs, Dnata, Emirates SkyCargo and the Dubai Ports Authority.

"We carried out a number of infrastructural changes in 2004-05. Besides this, we also increased our transactions to such a degree that we became the third-biggest transaction hub in the world. This was acknowledged by a study conducted at Harvard University that was published in Davos."

Al Joker says that while he used to have a hectic travel schedule earlier, things have become more manageable now. "When I was chief of delegate, I had to travel to Iraq and Iran. There is now a new director general at Dubai Customs - Ahmad Butti Ahmad - who is doing a very good job and is a hard worker.

"When I started working for DCV I was only an inspector, but even at that stage we were told to be courteous to all customers. My advice to people, no matter what rank they may hold, is to treat everyone with respect, no matter the nationality," says Al Joker.

He adds, "The airport, customs and immigration department of any country plays a crucial role in defining the image of that place, which is why it is even more important to treat customers and tourists who visit the country with dignity.

"Besides business, Dubai is seen as a tourist hub as well, which is why customer relations is most important for us. It's like treating family members at home. If you treat them well those relations will become stronger in time."