Interview : Sheikh Yousef Al Abdullah Al Sabah Al Nasser Al Sabah
How would you characterise the development of port infrastructure in Kuwait compared to other countries in the Gulf?
SHEIKH YOUSEF AL ABDULLAH AL SABAH AL NASSER AL SABAH: We are in the development phase of the New Kuwait 2035 strategy, which seeks to transform the country into a financial and commercial hub in the region. In order to serve our neighbours, we need to develop our ports to enable greater container throughput. We also need to increase throughput for general cargo, such as machinery, pipes, and raw and construction material.
The region has experienced significant port infrastructure developments in various countries. The region has also witnessed overall population growth, which has led to increased port activity. Moreover, population growth has resulted in growing demand for daily consumable items to be imported from different parts of the world to the region, which has created an increasing need for the development of port infrastructure in all GCC countries. In fact, the consumer market drives the majority of cargo port activity in Kuwait, followed by cargo related to government projects, which make up around 20% to 25% of total port activities. Lastly, similar to many other countries in the Gulf, Kuwait’s economic strategy includes reducing its reliance on oil in the years to come. Since port activities reflect a country’s macroeconomic performance, Kuwait’s ports are expected to play a key role in handling more diverse shipments going forward.
What upcoming infrastructure development projects could help transform Kuwait into a regional transport and logistics hub?
AL SABAH: Net profits from our ports are equivalent to approximately 35% of total KPA revenue. Therefore, the best investment for us is to continue developing economically viable port infrastructure projects that increase the prospects of high returns.
Developing current port infrastructure complements the new projects we are developing. Although we have to invest in existing port infrastructure to increase overall efficiency by replacing water systems and mechanical systems, we are also investing in brand new development projects, such as the Mubarak Al Kabeer Port on the largest island in the country’s coastal chain, Boubyan Island. The major $1.6bn container seaport project is expected to allow the Kuwaiti economy better access to previously untapped markets, particularly in Asia. For example, since Hong Kong and Singapore are both cargo and shipment hubs for the Asian region, access to these countries also means access to Japan, Indonesia and China. Furthermore, Kuwait could benefit from the experiences of these countries with regards to general and bulk cargo.
Additionally, cargo shipments to former USSR countries located to the north-east of Kuwait are expected to be facilitated by the Mubarak Al Kabeer Port. Once the necessary infrastructure has been set in place, Kuwait could serve as the principal passageway for the transport of goods from markets across Asia to the rest of the Gulf region, as well as to countries of the former USSR.
Other projects in the pipeline include the development of logistic cities around Kuwait, such as the one we are planning next to Doha Port. Our goal is to move away from warehousing to provide a complete logistics service. We are also working on developing the Port Community System (PCS), which will integrate all ports and government agencies into one digital portal. The system is expected to operate as a control centre, with the goal of achieving transparency and efficiency in the handling of all port operations. The PCS will also transfer current paperwork clearance to an online digital system, which will eliminate any unnecessary bureaucracy and provide live data to allow operational optimisation.
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