While Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ port throughput will grow at 7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to 35million TEUs in the six years to 2020, capacity is expected to jump from 30million to 45million TEUs, keeping capacity utilisation in the 70 to 80% band during the period, the UAE’s top port official said last week.
Addressing the Global Liner Shipping conference in Dubai and citing over $36billion of port developments in the GCC, Mohammad Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of DP World UAE Region said: “Regional port infrastructure will keep pace with the increasing demand.”
The bearish trend in oil prices is likely to impact GCC economies but shipping lines and trade will benefit from cheaper bunkers, he added.
Global vessel capacity grew by 6.3% in 2014, to 18.37million TEUs, he said, while the orderbook stood at 3.39m teu as of mid-January.
“Vessels of 18,000 to 20,000 TEUs are expected to lead the orderbook in the coming months,” he said.
He saw freight rates growing marginally by 0.4% this year, while bunker prices had fallen to a six-year low of $242.
Despite Jebel Ali’s success as a transhipment hub, which originally flowed from its gateway success, he said Dubai’s increasing population and consumption would mean growing origin and destination cargo in future.
As if to underline this success, Jebel Ali port volumes have been growing at the rate of 13% CAGR in 1979 to 2014, the year it opened until today. Some 12,200 vessels called Jebel Ali last year, and 15.2million TEU were handled. Around 180 shipping lines call the port in 90 weekly services.
There is no doubt that Jebel Ali will continue to add capacity at pace. Future blueprints include four larger fingers reaching out beyond the existing Terminal 2 into the sea, continuing Dubai’s penchant for man-made port infrastructure.
Terminal 3 came online in November, with an additional 2million TEU capacity, and 2million TEU more is due later this year.
DP World also seeks to offer its customers value-added services, like hull-cleaning when the vessel is alongside, bunker services and waste and sludge collection, tank container cleaning facilities, cargo conversion and value-added logistics services.
In nurturing the supply-chain envisaged when the UAE adds rail to sea, air and road in around 2018, he said the keys to success would be adequate storage facilities, and equipment upgrades as well as unit increases to deal with increasing volumes.
“Collaboration between logistics and the port industries is the key to achieving efficiencies across the supply chain,” he said.
The constant pressure to perform does not come without cost.
“Our industry has been challenging for many years. We seek stability and then new things are popping up. We are living in a very changing world. There are sleepless nights for some of us, over whether we can cope and deal with it,” he added.
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