Interview: Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem

To what extent will the US-China trade conflict affect Dubai’s maritime logistics sector?

SULTAN AHMED BIN SULAYEM: The conflict is not likely to affect Dubai in a negative way. We are already the leader in the region, with a strong knowledge economy and culture of innovation, and we will continue to develop our logistics infrastructure. The US-China dispute is about rebalancing their trade relationship, which has a wide-ranging impact across the world. For the US this has been about creating a fairer trading environment, which I see as a negotiation. The same developments have occurred in Canada, Mexico and the EU, which all ultimately led to trade agreements.

How can Dubai maintain its edge over regional competitors in the medium and long term?

BIN SULAYEM: Countries such as Saudi Arabia are now also looking to become maritime logistics hubs in the GCC. However, other countries and markets have their own needs and logistics solutions to help businesses connect with local, regional and international markets. This is a win-win for all involved. In terms of Dubai’s position in the future, we will continue to push for the development and improvement of our facilities, to ensure our economy remains highly competitive.

What can Dubai do to position itself as an international centre for arbitration?

BIN SULAYEM: Although courts such as those in London and New York are more established, Dubai has evolved over the past couple of decades. The development of legal services is one way that we can expand our economy and the range of services on offer. By creating the regulatory environment and a legal framework needed for such activity to take place, the government is laying the foundations for Dubai to become an international location for arbitration. We have already succeeded in attracting distinctive legal competencies that will support the emirate’s endeavours, and the Federal Arbitration Law passed in June 2018 will further facilitate our development as a legal centre.

Which regions are likely to be the fastest-growing markets for DP World over the next few years?

BIN SULAYEM: Africa and South America will remain our key focus areas as they have the demographic potential to develop further. In Africa alone there are over 220m people in 16 landlocked countries, representing 30% of the continent’s total population. We are already able to provide integrated logistics for nations such as Rwanda and Mali, connecting them to international markets through gateways such as DP World Dakar in Senegal.

There is great potential for a Brazilian trade bridge with Dubai and onto the subcontinent. In addition, the northern passage route across Russia could significantly enhance trade efficiency between north-west Europe and north-east Asia. The Belt and Road Initiative also brings new opportunities for Dubai to become a key hub between MENA and Asia.

In what ways will Virgin Hyperloop One enhance the global logistics network?

BIN SULAYEM: Hyperloop has already seen commitments from governments across the world, with projects under way in India, the Middle East, the US and Europe. Although none of these projects are exclusively cargo systems, the benefits of a Hyperloop system extend beyond passenger journeys.

A Hyperloop-enabled supply chain can reduce finished goods inventory by 25%, cut warehouse space by 25% and shrink inventory lead times. This can total more than the savings in transport costs, especially for high-value and time-sensitive products. The market for express and parcel freight is set to reach $516bn by 2025, but it is limited by air transport capacity. We are getting closer to creating a modern and revolutionised global transport sector, and Dubai will play a key role.