The GCC countries are expected to spend billions of dollars to expand their seaports in the coming five years to keep abreast with increasing demand, booming businesses, maritime experts taking part in the opening of Khalifa Port told Gulf News on Wednesday. The UAE ports have the highest cargo activity in the region as they handle more than 60 per cent of the cargoes being shipped to the region, said Sultan Al Jaber, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC).
A report issued by Al Markaz report recently showed that Abu Dhabi has the most ambitious port projects, “GCC ports are also positioning themselves to meet future demand  from underdeveloped neighbours Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and East Africa when they come out from economic and political crises,” the report said.
A Qatari official who didn’t want to be named told Gulf News that Qatar, the top exporter of liquefied natural gas, will spend 26 billion Qatari riyals (Dh26.2 billion, $7 billion) on a port with a planned volume of 6 million containers, due to open in 2016. The report also revealed that Dubai is the foremost GCC port by container volume and is ranked at the ninth place among the top 10 world container ports .
Al Jaber pointed out that there is a shift in shipping and trade activities towards emerging markets.
“There is a shift in the direction and nature of trade with the emerging markets. This has helped the regional ports and provided them with substantial opportunities as trade, business and shipping hubs,” said Hesham Al Mutairi, director of Kuwaiti Port Company.
“This prompts us to ramp-up our ports capacity to be strategic hubs. We require upgrading our ways of doing business particularly in terms of customs. We have to upgrade also our seaports to be in line with our development in other sectors,” he added.
More than 35 ports of in the GCC will be adding space for as many as 60 million standard containers over ten years, more than doubling capacity from the current 50 million boxes,” said Al Mutairi.
Al Jaber said that the UAE is ideally placed as a trade platform between Asia and the Far East on one hand and the West, Central Europe, and Africa on the other, making it a favourable geographic location as it provides strong opportunity to establish one of the world’s most important shipping and logistics hubs in the world.
Captain Mousa Murad, General Manager of Port of Fujairah, told Gulf News that the development of Khalifa Port  is another pillar and is an landmark in the UAE’s economy.
“The port will help accommodate future shipping activities and will help provide many job opportunities as the Etihad Railway is under construction. With the completion of Phase II of Etihad Rail, the whole UAE Ports will be connected together from the Western Region (Al Gharbia) to Khalifa Port, to Jebel Ali and to Fujairah,” concluded Murad.