Interview: Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti
What measures is the ministry pursuing to increase existing capacity and improve storage capabilities at Qatar’s seaports?
JASSIM SAIF AHMED AL SULAITI: The Ministry of Transport and Qatar Ports Management Company have coordinated a number of improvements for the import of goods at Doha Port that have increased throughput at existing facilities. These will be further augmented with the opening in January 2016 of a new port in Al Ruwais that will cater to regional trade, as well as the opening in the third quarter 2015 of general cargo and “roll-on, roll-off” facilities at Hamad Port in Mesaieed, which will cater to non-containerised goods and the import of vehicles and construction equipment.
The development plan for Al Ruwais Port will provide an immediate increase in port capacity and seeks to ease the entry and exit of ships, cargo and travellers. It will also provide support to the existing Doha Port while operations are transferred to Hamad Port in Mesaieed. The expansion and development of Al Ruwais took place in three phases, including container berths, general cargo berths, dry and cold stores, and warehouses. All marine works and service facilities have been completed. Engineering and construction works, spread across 261,224 metres, started in June 2010, which included dredging a 3-km channel to a depth of five metres, the port basin to seven metres and the marina and fishing harbour to 2.5 metres.
What is the New Port Project Steering Committee planning for phases II and III of Hamad Port?
AL SULAITI: The New Port Project Steering Committee has announced that master planning for phases II and III is likely to take 12-18 months. From a local perspective, the creation of an integrated logistics park next to Hamad Port, together with the building of container terminals 2 and 3, will provide additional terminal handling capacity that caters to peak periods of local demand, particularly in the run-up to 2022. The two new container terminals will lift Hamad Port’s total capacity above 6m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), compared to roughly 400,000 TEUs at Doha Port. The widening and deepening of the 21-km access channel will require additional construction, but is not expected to affect the opening of the new port.
All of these projects, plus connections to the Qatar and GCC freight rail network and intermodal rail yard, and the completion of the expressway interchanges, will facilitate cost-effective cargo handling and value-added business opportunities that will help position Hamad Port as a regional cargo-handling hub. In addition, the Um Alhoul special economic zone adjacent to the port will act as a self-contained development with industrial and residential facilities. The zone will be an important gateway into Qatar, providing an economic hub around the new port for manufacturing, logistics, and trade across a number of industrial sectors, and in turn fostering synergy between imports and exports. These aspects all fall in line with Hamad Port’s key objectives: to achieve greater operational and cost efficiencies, and to facilitate the growth and diversification of the Qatari economy while transforming Qatar into a regional trading centre.
How will the partial privatisation of surface transport help ease traffic congestion in Qatar? What is the ideal transportation mix in Doha?
AL SULAITI: Currently, taxi transport services are semi-privatised, and the government is considering privatising bus transport services, while rail and metro services remain under state authority. There is as yet no timeline in place for privatising public bus transport, but we believe the privatisation will bring efficiency and improved quality of service to passengers.
We are currently in the process of defining strategic goals for the country’s transport sector, which will outline the ideal modal split between private cars and public transport. Looking at regional practices and travel behaviour in Qatar, we are seeking to achieve a 20% share for public transport in the longer term.
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