Interview: Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem

What countries and regions are being targeted for maritime investment and why?

SULTAN AHMED BIN SULAYEM: India is one of our major partners with vast economic potential, and we have the global industry experience to help them unlock it. We have already invested $1.2bn in the expansion of the Nhava Sheva Gateway Terminal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai. We are also seeking opportunities worth over $1bn that would cover ports and associated logistics, inland container depots and expansion of existing intermodal rail services for rolling stock.

China is also a major part of our operations. The “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the development of manufacturing operations away from seaports to central and western cities offer major investment opportunities by connecting cities and continents.

We are also involved in operations throughout Europe, as well as advising Kazakhstan on the development of the Khorgos-East Gate Special Economic Zone and the Port of Aktau. Russia is another market for us with long-term growth prospects, and we have a joint venture with the Russian Direct Investment Fund, one of the country’s biggest infrastructure investors, setting up DP World Russia with the aim of identifying and exploiting new terminal and port facilities.

How are public-private partnerships (PPPs) helping to promote Dubai as a trading hub?

BIN SULAYEM: Among our recent PPPs the highlight has been with Dubai Multi Commodities Centre to promote the emirate to companies interested in expanding into the MENA region and exploring mobile-government initiatives. We also collaborated with Lloyd’s Register in setting up a joint applied technology cluster to drive research and develop mid- to high-level technology for current and future industry needs. Likewise, our partnership with the Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime aims to establish common regulations for promoting the maritime licensing system. Lastly, DMCA has allied with Det Norske Veritas to promote research in shipping technology dealing with environmental, safety and quality concerns.

What are the major challenges associated with supply chains in emerging markets?

BIN SULAYEM: The challenges include underdeveloped infrastructure, including IT and the lack of specialised technology solutions. This sometimes impacts data collection resulting in the need to resort to manual processes. In addition, crossing international and domestic borders in developing regions in Asia, Africa and South America can be time consuming due to extensive regulations, changing policies and inefficient processes, which require the help of third-party logistics providers to resolve. These specialised businesses may not be easily available in emerging countries. Other challenges include varying geography and environment; limited or unreliable access to energy and power; social and political conditions; and cultural sensitivities.

In what specific areas do you see opportunities for investors in the maritime industries sector?

BIN SULAYEM: The sector consists of over 5500 companies performing over 13,000 activities, and its contribution to Dubai’s economy continues to grow. From 2011 to 2015, the local industry grew by 25%, and it now accounts for 7% of the emirate’s GDP. Moreover, over 76,000 maritime jobs now support Dubai’s growing economy. Through its strategic initiatives, the UAE continues to consolidate its position as a trading corridor between the East and the West. We are poised to witness the recovery of the dry bulk sector and gradual growth of trade. Additionally, with the launch of the Dubai Maritime Sector Strategy in 2012 we have been aiming for sustainable development through infrastructure and business-friendly regulations. In line with the Dubai Maritime Vision 2030, we intend to establish Dubai as the world’s leading shipping destination.