Interview: Sheikh Yousef Al Abdullah Al Sabah Al Nasser Al Sabah

How can the logistics sector serve as an economic driver for Kuwait moving forward?

SHEIKH YOUSEF AL ABDULLAH AL SABAH AL NASSER AL SABAH: We must adapt to current economic demand for the sector to successfully continue generating income for the nation. The planned Kuwait Logistics City is one such example of serving existing demand. At present, only 40% of the plots of land available for logistics use in Kuwait are being utilised for rental purposes. We must move away from the old understanding of storage as merely being standalone warehouses, to a more modern concept whereby warehousing provides a full logistics solution. The Logistics City plan involves repurposing ill-allocated land for the development of fully integrated warehouses that provide automated storage solutions, thereby reducing the need for individual businesses to provide their own software and manpower.

As a country which relies on imports for a vast majority of goods and services, this concept of a logistics hub would be beneficial for companies that wish to expand but lack land, as well as for foreign firms looking to take advantage of Kuwait’s new foreign ownership laws. Domestic small and medium-sized enterprises that lack the capacity to conduct their logistics activities internally would benefit, too. Plans are also being made to include office and showroom rental space within logistics facilities to fully integrate businesses and reduce transport and logistics times.

In what ways will expansion of Kuwait’s ports increase the scope of economic activity in them?

SHEIKH YOUSEF: Current port redevelopment initiatives include expansion works at Shuwaikh Port, Shuaiba Port and Doha Port, as well as the establishment of a new land port at Shuaiba. As an independent entity set up to maximise the profits brought in from maritime fees, the Kuwait Ports Authority’s current focus is to address gaps which are hampering the sector’s ability to accommodate increased economic activity. As things stand today, Kuwait’s major ports can accommodate up to mid-sized Panamax cargo vessels, while requests have been made by the world’s major global shipping lines for quite some time to accommodate larger, post-Panamax vessels. This would require bigger berths and a larger number of cranes available per ship, both of which are issues currently being addressed.

Automation is also key to improving efficiency at Kuwait’s ports. Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port was the first semi-automated port in the GCC, and I believe that Kuwait’s ports would stand to benefit from the reduction in human error and the increased efficiency that automation brings. Through these simultaneous increases in operational capacity and efficiency, cargo volumes will rise as costs are reduced.

How might the planned trans-Gulf railway reshape Kuwait’s maritime role in the Middle East?

SHEIKH YOUSEF: The trans-Gulf railway, which has long been planned but has faced numerous delays to its development schedule, would be uniformly beneficial to all GCC nations. It would serve to improve contingency planning should issues arise at any GCC point of entry, and would also reduce transport time when operating at full capacity. For example, the railway would allow for a container to come into Jeddah Seaport and be transported to Kuwait’s dry ports within 24 hours, with tariffs and Customs being paid at the point of entry to ensure a seamless transfer. This is especially beneficial when transporting goods between cities and nations in the Gulf and along the Red Sea. The region would also benefit from increased trans-shipment activity, as rail links could expedite the process of transferring containers between two vessels linking Asia with Europe and the Americas. It is my hope that the coordination of transport linkages and the synchronisation of standards and procedures will continue to take place in the nations of the GCC.