Khalifa Port will be officially opened on December 12, 2012 amidst expectations that over the next few years the UAE will become a vital link in the chain which connects emerging and more established markets
Since shipping activities in the region are growing year on year by 6-7 per cent, the 417-square kilometre Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (Kizad) has been projected as the hub for manufacturing, logistics and trade across a number of sectors with its enormous size and strategically planned approach, Mohammad Al Shamsi, executive vice-president, at Ports Unit of Abu Dhabi Port Company (ADPC), told Gulf News in an interview.
Dramatic shift in maritime trade
“The forecast from Drewry, a specialist research and advisory organisation for the maritime sector, is that container trade in the developed world will grow by 1-1.5 per cent over the next few years. By contrast container trade in emerging markets - and that includes the Middle East – will grow around 6-7 per cent,” Al Shamsi said.
He pointed out that this is a dramatic shift in the geography of trade and it will mean a dramatic shift in strategy from the shipping companies. They will simply have to focus on these faster growing markets
Al Shamsi said that the UAE is also among the top 20 exporters  of liner goods by value, as well as in imports of containerized cargo.
“A well-established port and transport infrastructure is critical to drive the economic competitiveness of any nation by promoting cross-border trade and enhancing investment inflows,” he said.
He added that ports and shipping are perhaps the world’s first truly global industry, connecting countries, businesses and people, ports have played a key role in driving international trade.
“Over the years, the growth of the UAE as a global trading destination also owes to its investments in expanding the port infrastructure. Today, according to the World Shipping Council, two of the world’s Top 50 container ports are in the UAE, with Dubai featuring among the Top 10,” said Al Shamsi.
He clarified that in the past few decades, ports in the UAE have recorded the highest share of volume in the GCC region.
Of the 35 ports in the GCC, Port Rashid, Port Zayed and Khalifa Port have accounted for nearly 59 per cent of the volume in the region, he pointed out.
UAE handles 61% of cargo
According to Al Shamsi, more than 61 per cent of cargoes coming to the GCC states are via UAE Seaports. This has turned the UAE into a regional and international hub, benefitting from the shift of trade between East and West.
“We began planning for Khalifa Port in 2006 ... The port has undergone extensive and very stringent testing procedures to ensure it operates as per world-class port standards,” he said.
Al Shamsi said that ports in the UAE and the GCC do not stand alone. They are being complemented by the development of logistics hubs. Jebel Ali port, for example, is surrounded by the Jebel Ali Free Zone. The Khalifa Port  is side by side with the Kizad industrial zone, he pointed out.
“The two ports plus their industrial zones can provide complete solutions to the shipping industry and trade. And they can, by the way, complement each other.
He highlighted that when the infrastructure for the first phase of the port is completed in the fourth quarter of this year, it will have an initial capacity to handle 2 million TEUs of container traffic and 12 million tonnes of general cargo annually, making it a strong destination port.
“Khalifa Port is a huge investment by Abu Dhabi , offering customers from the region and other parts of the world a one-stop shop for container business, providing bespoke solutions that meet and exceed their expectations. We look forward to building to full capacity over several phases in the future,” Al Shamsi said.
According to Al Shamsi, Khalifa Port will have the capacity to handle 15 million TEUs and 35 million tonnes of general cargo by 2030. The Dh26.5 billion project is the flagship of (ADPC) and the new port will have a capacity for 2 million containers and 12 million tonnes of general cargo.
He said: “It is very satisfying to see Khalifa Port fully open with its magnificent infrastructure. As an Emirati, I feel great pride in my nation’s achievement and in ADPC for completing the first phase of the giant complex. This is just the beginning, however. We look forward to exciting expansion in the future, should in response to market demand.”