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“Ports are focusing on holistic transport system planning”

What are the latest infrastructure trends that GCC ports are embracing?
Capacity expansion There is a big focus on capacity expansion and improving efficiency of port facilities. Over the next ten years, major upgrade plans are expected to be implemented across UAE and GCC ports, which will ensure the required infrastructure to cater to larger vessels and trade growth is in place.

Over the past couple of decades, the average size of shipping vessels has increased by 65 per cent and the draft of the largest vessels has almost doubled, which has effectively tripled their carrying capacity. This development has led to a global shift towards larger vessels, which has cut time and costs. With this in mind, growing port capacity to accommodate the larger vessels is more crucial than ever.

Abu Dhabi Ports has been designed with such trends in mind. Khalifa Port’s terminals, ADT and the new CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal, are capable of handling mega vessels with capacity over 20,000 TEUs. For example, Emirates Global Aluminium, the largest industrial company in the UAE outside of oil and gas, welcomed the first fully-laden Capesize vessel to call at any GCC port at its quay at Khalifa Port earlier this year. We accomplished this important milestone by modifying the approaches to the port to accommodate such vessels. Specifically, we deepened the approaches from 16.5 metres to 18.5 metres draft, and widened them from 250 metres to 280 metres.

The CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal has already welcomed MV. COSCO SHIPPING SOLAR and PISCES vessels, with capacities of 21,000 TEU and 20,000 TEU respectively, demonstrating Khalifa Port’s position as a hub port in the region and the gateway for COSCO’s network in the Middle East.

To meet the growing demand, we are expanding Khalifa Port further; by the end of 2020 it will have an additional 2.7 million square metres of land available to lease and a supplementary 6.1km of quay wall.

Such initiatives are part of our five-year strategy to expand capacity at Khalifa Port from the 4.1 million TEUs by the end of this year to 9.1 million TEUs. Our partnerships with global players are helping us develop forward-facing models that expand port capacity in line with future growth trends.

Holistic transport planning Ports are not looking at capacity expansion in isolation. Rather, they are also focusing on holistic transport system planning in order to maximise their additional capacity to its full potential. For example, one needs connecting road or aviation networks that are suitable to handle high cargo shipping volumes. In other words, connectivity and capacity are key.

At Abu Dhabi Ports, we understand this need and it is why we are focused on developing an effective end-to-end infrastructure system. This approach allows us to maximise efficiency across the entire supply chain — for the benefit of all operators involved.

Our integration with Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) forms a core part of our infrastructure strategy. KIZAD already provides efficient sea, air and road connectivity — as well as a rail network for the future — connecting businesses to more than 4.5 billion consumers across the Gulf, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Meanwhile, Khalifa Port serves more than 25 shipping lines, offering direct links to 70 international destinations.

Furthermore, we are investing Dh1 billion in the Port of Fujairah through our joint venture Fujairah Terminals, to create a new gateway to the UAE from the Indian Ocean. We are also executing a Dh200-million expansion at Mugharraq Port in the Al Dhafra region, to better cater to the offshore Oil & Gas sector. Of course, Etihad Rail will add yet another layer of connectivity, linking together Khalifa Port, KIZAD and Fujairah, as well as increasing the capacity and efficiency of our transport network.

The other major trend driving transformation at ports around the world is the digital innovation taking place within the wider maritime industry. We at Abu Dhabi Ports are strategically moving towards becoming the world’s leading digitalised smart port.Digitisation The other major trend driving transformation at ports around the world is the digital innovation taking place within the wider maritime industry. We at Abu Dhabi Ports are strategically moving towards becoming the world’s leading digitalised smart port.

Our digital trade subsidiary, Maqta Gateway, developed and is operating the UAE’s first port community system; a single-window platform that works across multiple entities to deliver more than 130 services to the trade community across sea, land and air. Late last year, Maqta Gateway collaborated with Abu Dhabi Customs to launch MAMAR, which seamlessly integrate trade services under one single-window platform and facilitates trade for Abu Dhabi across seaports, land and air. The company has also been developing and testing an international blockchain solution with MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company called SILSAL, which aims to provide a seamless and secure link between stakeholders across the trade community. All of these digital initiatives are helping ensure that trade is faster, more secure and even more efficient.

How will ports across the region function differently in the years to come?
This is a transformative time for the trade and logistics industry worldwide. With the IMO 2020 sulphur regulation around the corner, and a strong push for digitisation of the entire supply chain, there is a real need for ports to be smarter. We, at Abu Dhabi Ports, believe that smart ports of the future will need to champion such solutions in order to continue to put customers first, and help them become more efficient and effective, while also cutting costs.

Over the coming years, ports in the GCC will become more advanced in terms of technology and operations, and even more instrumental in terms of their role as enablers of trade and commerce in the region. They will allow the GCC nations to better seize economic opportunities; helping their domestic markets become even more connected with high growth markets, and accelerating economic diversification in line with national visions.

The UAE, with its strategic location and world-class technology and infrastructure, is well positioned to seize opportunities in India, China, South Korea, Japan, and across Southeast Asia — and as a key participant in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is indeed doing so already.

In this context, Abu Dhabi Ports is playing a key role domestically, regionally and globally. We are forming strategic alliances with partners such as COSCO Shipping Ports, ICBC, JOCIC, MSC and the All India Plastics Manufacturers’ Association. By increasing connectivity to markets around the world and improving the ease of doing business in the UAE, such alliances are opening up new opportunities for firms already established in the UAE, and for those looking for a base in the Middle East.

We have invested heavily in key infrastructure projects, such as Khalifa Port and KIZAD, and these are already paying dividends. The key to this success is our long-term outlook, which is why we are typically signing concessions for 35 or even 50 years.

How does Abu Dhabi Ports plan to improve operations and remain competitive in the future?
Our growth strategy focuses on three important priorities: securing partnerships with some of the world’s largest shipping companies and port operators; expanding capacity and interconnectivity between our facilities; and investing in maritime technology to help our customers and partners streamline supply chain operations.

Could you tell us about the new products and services you have launched to enhance services and streamline operations?
We have implemented a range of digital initiatives aimed at improving maritime logistics operations in Abu Dhabi, which, ultimately, will help to ensure that trade is faster, more secure and more efficient.

As I mentioned earlier, our digital trade subsidiary, Maqta Gateway, plays a central role in Abu Dhabi Ports’ technology partnerships and investments. The company has developed and is operating the UAE’s first port community system; a single-window platform that works across multiple entities to deliver more than 130 services to the trade community across sea, land and air.

Late last year, Maqta Gateway collaborated with Abu Dhabi Customs to launch MAMAR, which seamlessly integrates trade services under one single-window platform and facilitates trade for Abu Dhabi across seaports, land and air.

The company has also been testing an international blockchain solution, SILSAL, in co-operation with MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, which aims to provide a seamless and secure link between stakeholders across the trade community.

Do you see automation as a key trend in the ports sector?
Firstly, it is important to highlight that Abu Dhabi Ports was at the vanguard of the movement towards automation in the trade and logistics sectors with Khalifa Port Container Terminal becoming the first semi-automated and technologically advanced container terminal in the Middle East.

Moving forward, we view automation and AI in maritime systems and the increasing application of technology at ports as an exciting global trend.

In particular, we see huge potential for security-enabling technologies such as blockchain and increasingly advanced digital platforms that offer unprecedented connectivity and efficiency. Our digital entity, Maqta Gateway, has made remarkable progress in spearheading these applications for the region.

How can ports and container terminals make blockchain and AI work for them?
Blockchain’s fastest-growing application is actually in trade. The technology is crucial to ensuring the safe and secure transmission of data across multiple parties through the distributed ledger system.

Over the past few years, Abu Dhabi Ports has made significant strides in harnessing innovative digital solutions. Take SILSAL, for example — we are the first UAE entity to test a blockchain solution with an international partner.

Finally, what’s your broad outlook for the maritime sector in the UAE?
We believe that technology will continue to define the future of the trade and logistics sectors, and we are optimistic about the transformation underway across these sectors in the UAE and the GCC.

According to our latest research and the feedback we received from our stakeholders during our recent Partners’ Forum, the GCC’s trade and logistics sectors are more prepared to incorporate automation and smart solutions compared to the global industry; it also confirmed that blockchain technology, the internet of things and artificial intelligence are the top three innovations shaping the future of our industry.
Source: Gulf News

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