Interview: Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed
With a growing number of ports throughout the region, how does Bahrain plan to maintain its competitive advantage as a trans-shipment centre?
KAMAL BIN AHMED MOHAMMED: With operations at Bahrain’s newest port – the Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP) – now under way, the country has been able to clearly demonstrate that it has the potential to be a trans-shipment hub for the Northern Gulf region. Over the past few years, we have witnessed significant growth in Bahrain’s maritime activity, and KBSP has been a crucial component in attracting increased trade volumes to the country.
To further strengthen the kingdom’s position as a trans-shipment hub for the Northern Gulf markets, namely the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, Iran and other Northern Gulf states, the Bahrain Logistics Zone (BLZ) was established. The BLZ, located in close proximity to the KBSP, offers logistics organisations an excellent location for providing services to the growing economies of the Gulf region.
KBSP, which began operations in April 2009, is some 13 km away from the Bahrain International Airport and it is linked to the Mina Salman Port, via a 5-km causeway. The port is located on 110 ha of reclaimed land and has a 1800-metre quay. To further bolster the KBSP’s logistical capabilities, dredging work is currently under way to deepen the existing approach channel from 13.6 metres to 15 metres chart datum (CD). This will enable the port to attract the biggest vessels currently navigating in the region’s territorial waters, many of which – the port authorities hope – will dock at Bahrain’s port.
Recently, as per Royal Decree No. 70 of 2012, the responsibilities for ports and maritime affairs were brought under the Ministry of Transportation. This is in keeping with the government’s strategic objective to streamline the transportation activities of the kingdom by placing them all under the oversight of one umbrella organisation.
It is anticipated that the reorganised ministry will bolster Bahrain’s transportation sector and enable it to compete more effectively on a global level. This, of course, would ultimately be a benefit for the economy of the kingdom as a whole.
What transport infrastructure priorities should the government address, and how do you see public–private partnerships (PPP) playing a role?
AHMED: A key transport infrastructure priority over the near-to-medium term is the GCC Railway project. The railway, which is set to carry both passengers and freight, is to run from Kuwait City in the State of Kuwait to Muscat in Oman, also serving the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar and the UAE.
Establishing the GCC railway will help to further the basic objectives of the GCC, which are to effect coordination, integration and inter-connection between member states in all fields. The GCC Railway, by providing an efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective transport alternative, is expected to contribute significantly to the region’s economic growth, development and prosperity.
We are currently discussing with our counterparts in the Saudi Arabia the possibility of working with the private sector to adopt the build-operate-transfer model (BOT) for the section of the railway between our two countries. To further expedite the process, we conducted a meeting in February 2012 with interested private sector companies attending, to discuss this opportunity in further detail.
In terms of air transportation, works are currently under way to expand the Bahrain International Airport over the near term, with plans for a new international airport in the longer run. These include an upgrade of the current facilities as well as an expansion, allowing for an increase in both passenger and freight capacity. We are also improving public transportation with the introduction of a revised bus network, new buses operated by a new international operator, and a complete overhaul of bus shelters.
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