Interview: Ahmed bin Sulayem
What are the next steps the UAE can take to improve the competitiveness of the Customs framework?
AHMED BIN SULAYEM: With the Smart Government initiative, all Customs procedures have already gone paperless and we are constantly reaping the benefits. We are building a sustainable, safe and integrated marine environment offering a wide range of services in insurance, finance, supply, law, brokerage, operation, maintenance and employment. We are pivoting towards coastal trade of small and medium-sized vessels, so we are working on better tuning our regulations to ensure safety for small ships. We also plan to upgrade the environmental regulations and adopt best international practices of sustainability to reduce our ecological footprint, while simultaneously increasing efficiency.
Infrastructural upgrades are also imperative. The ongoing Etihad Rail project will allow us to have a truly intermodal operation, and Port Rashid is being upgraded to handle higher capacity vessels and a larger number of cruise ships, bringing another avenue to the tourism market. The Maritime Sector Strategy was formulated to promote the sector in the long term through the adoption of standards of sustainability and safety.
As Dubai’s shipping industry expands, what potential bottlenecks may need to be addressed?
SULAYEM: We expect 2014 to be challenging as shipping lines are still not offering comfortable freight rates. We have been cutting costs and improving efficiency to protect ourselves from this uncertainty, but we continue to be prepared to handle expanding business. This has been made possible by Dubai’s transition under the Smart City initiative. It will be crucial to continue to boost the logistics and trade sector to maintain Dubai’s economic growth in the long term, where the UAE and Dubai have already succeeded in providing seamless people and cargo movement throughout the emirate and the wider region. The initiatives aimed at protecting the water environment and promoting maritime safety and security have had remarkable success in reducing maritime accidents rates, violations and pollution, while also prompting an effective emergency response. We are still working to provide full supervision for all operations while monitoring and regulating the compliance of these activities with local and international regulations, namely with the federal law related to environment protection and development and the rules issued by the International Maritime Organisation.
How will the introduction of Port Khalifa affect the growth of the transportation and logistics sector?
SULAYEM: We are the largest business community in Dubai. Business can only be done where inter-related industries meet at the same place, so the free zone in Dubai would not have been successful without its relationship with business downtown. We need to take advantage of this by adding value to products locally, rather than being just a waypoint between Africa, Asia and Europe. World Expo 2020 presents a great opportunity for the country to showcase both its geographic positioning and access to the world’s fastest-growing markets. Khalifa Port is enabling us to handle diverse trade as it provides the UAE with a much-needed port.
To what extent have there been changes to the range of activities within Dubai’s maritime sector?
SULAYEM: Within the sector, insurance is a rapidly growing business. We plan to support Emiratisation by attracting local talent, while adopting effective policies for optimal investment in the human element. The Maritime Sector Strategy for 2015, the result of a cooperation between Dubai Maritime City Authority and 30 government entities, is expected to provide 42,000 jobs – 3.8% of Dubai’s GDP. This strategy will lay a strong foundation for the creation of a safe and developed maritime sector. Increased economic diversity promises infinite prospects for growth. We will see growth in logistics, repairs, dry docking, conversion, surveying and salvage. Additionally, we will be equipped to support retail, tourism, storage, construction and more.
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