Interview: Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem

How are new technologies improving the efficiency and security of the maritime sector’s supply chain?

SULTAN AHMED BIN SULAYEM: By 2027 blockchain could store up to 10% of global GDP. However, it is only part of a much bigger picture in which technology will address future trends in the sector through innovation like artificial intelligence, 3D printing, automation, internet of things, big data and driverless vehicles and robotics are evolving rapidly to meet the evolution of on-demand logistics. By 2050 global freight transport will have quadrupled, with express delivery for high-priority shipments reaching $516bn by 2025. E-commerce is set to grow to $4trn globally by 2020, driving a dramatic shift in both consumer and business behaviour. Demand for air freighted high-priority goods is set to double over the next 20 years, straining already overburdened air, road and rail infrastructure. That said, digital supply chains can reduce network process and procurement costs by 50% and 20%, respectively, and also increase revenue by 10%, according to data from the Centre for Global Enterprise. Taking these trends into account, we began to invest in Hyperloop technology, which we believe has the potential to revolutionise the supply chain in manufacturing. Our vision for DP World Cargospeed systems is to deliver on-demand freight at the speed of flight and at the cost of trucking. A four-day truck journey could be reduced to 16 hours and connect to other modes of transport, including ships, planes and autonomous vehicles. Hyperloop-enabled supply chains could dramatically impact bottom lines by reducing both finished goods inventory and required warehouse space by 25%. This would add up to far more than savings in transportation costs, especially for high-value and time-sensitive products.

How is Dubai prepared to mitigate the effects of a potential trade war between the US and China?

BIN SULAYEM: History has taught us that trade is resilient. We may see short-term effects, but fair trade and free trade issues between countries have been with us for millennia, and global organisations such as the World Trade Organisation were created to resolve them. For Dubai, as a part of the global economy, diversification of our economic structure across different sectors has been the long-term vision of our leaders, which has reaped dividends over time and will continue to do so.

What role do you see the cruise segment playing in Dubai’s maritime industry going forward?

BIN SULAYEM: The cruise business will continue to contribute to Dubai’s leading position in global tourism, which is one of the main foundations of our economy. The Mina Rashid Cruise Terminal is spread across 2m sq metres and is equipped to handle seven mega cruise vessels and 25,000 passengers simultaneously. In addition, the Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal at Mina Rashid is the world’s largest covered cruise facility, capable of handling 14,000 cruise passengers per day. The ongoing expansion plans will enable Mina Rashid to include a recreational area, strengthening Dubai’s position as the leading regional cruise hub and integrating the Mina Rashid waterfront into the local community.

What opportunities are there for further maritime development and expansion in Africa?

BIN SULAYEM: The potential for development in Africa is enormous. Today, six out of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, and the continent is increasingly moving into the limelight as a investment destination. We have a large footprint with operations in Senegal, Egypt, Mozambique, Djibouti, Algeria and Somaliland, where we are developing a multi-purpose port project at Berbera. We have also secured a 25-year concession to develop and operate a new logistics centre in Kigali, Rwanda. We continue to seek opportunities in Africa, where there is significant structural growth potential with investments under way in Egypt, Senegal and Rwanda to expand our capacity in the region.