Interview: Shareef Hashim Al Hashmi
To what extent will sustainable practices contribute to Abu Dhabi’s economic development?
SHAREEF HASHIM AL HASHMI: The UAE’s theme for 2020 is “2020: Towards the next 50”. The vision behind this theme is to lay the foundations for the next 50 years of sustainable economic and social development. In this context, Abu Dhabi Airports has prepared a master plan with sustainability as a key aspect of future development, in addition to other existing priorities. These include efficient internal structures and operations, as well as accessibility. As younger generations are entering the workforce and becoming more and more active in the economy, they are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on companies’ long-term sustainability and corporate social responsibility strategies.
How have design and technology at the Midfield Terminal Building (MTB) been future-proofed?
AL HASHMI: The MTB has been designed with a longterm perspective in mind. For example, the inside structure of the airport can be reconfigured every 15 to 20 years, making it easy to repurpose and reuse. The MTB is also completely digitised and can adapt to new disruptive technologies every three to five years. We are fully enabled for 5G, which means that large amounts of data can be consumed and shared within the airport. This is an essential aspect of our strategy, and we have a dedicated unit within Abu Dhabi Airports that works to ensure a seamless passenger journey for better customer experience.
Additionally, there is a full building information management model in place that allows us to learn key information on each individual asset, such as when a motor was installed, how much it cost or when it last received maintenance. The main advantage that this brings to the table is that it enables a much more efficient and effective use of our human resources. Given the 742,000-sq-metre size of the airport, this is a highly valuable means of optimising our internal operations.
To what degree will MTB impact overall freight and cargo activity throughout the emirate?
AL HASHMI: In parallel with the MTB, we are also engaged in the construction of the East Midfield site – an all-inclusive logistics park that already has a central utilities plant, a fuel farm and the necessary road infrastructure. DHL was the first partner to set up shop at East Midfield. An important aspect that has been emphasised is ensuring the shortest possible transit time at cargo facilities. This is particularly important as the e-commerce segment continues to grow, and, in this regard, Abu Dhabi has a clear advantage given its central strategic location between the East and West.
Another important aspect to boost Abu Dhabi’s cargo activity will be enhancing collaboration with free zones. Abu Dhabi Airports has received approval to begin the construction of the Al Falah Free Zone. The opportunity here is significant, given Abu Dhabi’s position between Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and considering its ambitions to become a leader in the region in terms of transportation and the distribution of fresh produce, pharmaceuticals and high-value products.
What strategies is Abu Dhabi Airports considering in order to increase its international presence?
AL HASHMI: There are a number of interesting opportunities in the global air infrastructure sector, specifically within the operations and management of airports. To this end, Abu Dhabi Airports is looking at such opportunities in Romania, Indonesia and other promising markets in Africa, with a well-defined business and commercial strategy in mind.
Africa is particularly interesting, as many opportunities for growth remain unexplored. In the case of Romania, we are looking to provide its growing air infrastructure segment with operating optimisation mechanisms. Similarly, Indonesia provides an array of opportunities across the archipelago on islands that are rapidly developing their air infrastructure capabilities.