Interview: Cliff Brand
Can RAK’s port activities be further diversified from the current concentrations?
CLIFF BRAND: The scope for diversifying RAK’s port activities varies from port to port. In the case of Saqr Port, there are limited options for diversification, if any at all. The port and RAK quarries rely on one another, and demand for quarried products will be high for the foreseeable future. As such, Saqr Port will remain a major bulk port for as long as there is quarried product to export and import. RAK Maritime City is a landlord/tenant port and diversification opportunities are limited there, as are options at Al Jeer Port, which concentrates on leisure, small vessel cargo and livestock. In the cases of Ras Al Khaimah Port and Al Jazeera Port, diversification is possible and there are many options available, particularly within the cruise and leisure industries.
What effect will Etihad Rail have on commercial activities at RAK Ports, and how is the ports strategy developing to accommodate this?
BRAND: Etihad Rail will benefit all players in RAK and will provide an additional transport option, as far as RAK Ports is concerned. Current planning on port strategy takes into account the impact that the new rail freight link will have and also looks to the infrastructure requirements that will inevitably result once it is completed. However, it is too early to start developing strategies in this regard.
How will rail expansion alter the dynamics of RAK’s logistics segment? Will aggregate shipping continue to depend on trucking?
BRAND: The rail expansion will have an impact on the entire logistics industry in RAK, creating a more streamlined and efficient transport system that will generally benefit industry. The majority of aggregate for both import and export from and to RAK currently travels by road. When the rail link arrives, it is inevitable that a percentage of the aggregate will be shifted to the rail segment, provided rail transport is cost competitive. However, some 20% of the emirate’s product is exported to other countries and will remain unaffected by the connection to the rail freight network
How significantly does the maritime economy drive growth in the emirate? Do you see room for maritime sub-sectors to emerge?
BRAND: The maritime economy plays a part in the growth of RAK, and an increase in construction activity in the Middle East and the Far East has resulted in increased demand for aggregate and other products, which leads to greater demand for bulk shipping and other shipping services. Generally, it is the commodity and service sectors that drive the maritime economy, as can be seen from the effects declining oil prices are currently having on that segment of the maritime industry.
Conversely, greater demand for bulk products and other services has a positive effect on RAK’s economy. In relation to the emergence of maritime sub-sectors, again this is dependant on the success of the economy in RAK. If the demand for commodity and service products grows, this will inevitably result in the emergence of maritime sub-sectors.
How concerned are you that there will be a significant decline in maritime activity after Dubai Expo 2020 and FIFA World Cup in 2022 in Doha?
BRAND: Both of these events are expected to have some effect on the throughput of Saqr Port in particular; however, RAK quarries are fulfilling foreign demand for their products and this will more than cover the gap resulting from any decrease in demand from Dubai and Doha. As such, the port is expected to remain a major bulk port in the MENA region beyond the dates and events in question.
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