Interview: Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi

Where do you see opportunities for ports and logistics operators to contribute to the localisation of supply chains and attract investment?

MOHAMED JUMA AL SHAMISI: Reduced access to products during the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to re-evaluate their approach to the production and distribution of goods beyond the traditional far-sourcing model. We have seen a shift in global supply chains towards the more robust near-shore and on-shore sourcing of strategic goods and supplies. In this context, due to its strategic location at the crossroads between east and west, the UAE expects to benefit from the near-sourcing trend. Furthermore, the way port operators respond to this opportunity is expected to determine the extent to which countries can leverage near-sourcing opportunities.

Despite how the benefits of proximity tend to outweigh the associated costs, businesses are likely to try to reduce expenditures by partnering with integrated hubs. Additionally, when supported by their proximity to well-established sea, land, air and rail connections – such as the AD Ports Group-operated Khalifa Port, the emirate’s primary centre for handling container traffic – specialised regional centres become even more valuable to businesses.

What role do you envisage for Abu Dhabi in global and regional supply chains, and to what extent are collaborative approaches necessary?

AL SHAMISI: Abu Dhabi enjoys robust connectivity via two major ports and five international airports located within a 90-minute drive of each other. Furthermore, the implementation of Etihad Rail, a 900-km railway linking the seven emirates, is projected to save the country an estimated Dh8bn ($2.2bn) in road maintenance costs. As such, the emirate is playing a central role in supporting global and regional supply chains in key sectors. Abu Dhabi’s investment attractiveness is expected to be strengthened further by a prolonged period of investment to boost the emirate’s industrial capacity.

The Abu Dhabi Industrial Strategy has set a target to double the size of the manufacturing sector to Dh170bn ($46.3bn) by 2031. Backed by a Dh10bn ($2.7bn) public investment, the recently launched Abu Dhabi Industrial Strategy aims to increase access to financing, improve the ease of doing business and attract foreign direct investment across key industrial sectors. Our company contributes to this objective through strategic global partnerships, and leveraging internal expertise and resources to support the development of innovative hub ports in major markets. By doing so, we aim to enhance the efficiency of global trade routes and supply chains.

Which challenges and opportunities does the push to adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards present?

AL SHAMISI: By encouraging the adoption of ESG goals and commitments, Abu Dhabi aims to build more sustainable, diverse and equitable communities. Because of the ecosystem overseen by port operators, there are opportunities for ESG initiatives, ranging from improving the lives of citizens, protecting the environment, and encouraging transparency and good governance.

The successful implementation of ESG initiatives has emerged as a practical solution to many of the prevailing challenges that the port industry faces, including climate change, the increasing need to attract diverse talent to the field and the adoption of digital technologies to enhance operations. To address such issues, AD Ports Group has undertaken a number of ESG-related programmes, including the relocation of coral reefs to protect biodiversity; the promotion of women’s professional development through education and workplace opportunities; and increased investment in health and safety policies.