Abu Dhabi: New port to improve logistics

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The transport and logistics sector is about to get a major boost, with a new port and cargo handling facility set to ease congestion and encourage long-term industrial development.

Operations commenced at Abu Dhabi’s newest port in early September, giving the emirate one of the largest and the most modern maritime cargo handling facilities in the region. The Khalifa Port Container Terminal – located 40 minutes’ drive to the northeast of the capital – has been developed by the Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC). Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT) will operate the facility.

Initially, the port will be able to handle 2.5m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year, with the next stage of development set to increase the total to 5m and ultimately 15m by 2030. Further developments will expand the scope of Khalifa Port for general cargo and the roll-on/roll-off trucking freight trade. In the near term, though, the port will have a handling capacity of 12m tonnes of general cargo, which is expected to rise to 35m tonnes by 2030.

According to Mohamed Al Shamisi, the executive vice-president of ADPC’s ports’ unit, the semi-automated cargo handling facilities will not only make for quick loading and unloading of vessels, it will also speed up movement along the entire logistics chain. Al Shamisi noted that the automated procedures should increase efficiency, as well as provide greater access to global markets for local trucking companies and clearing agents

The integration of Khalifa Port with the rest of the emirate’s transport system is one of its main advantages. The port sits astride main highways connecting to Dubai, the Northern Emirates and Oman, and is located near international airports in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The port will also be situated on the main line of the broad-gauge rail network due for completion in the second half of the decade, giving direct access to markets across the Gulf.

“Rail infrastructure is crucial for the future development of the emirate’s industries,” Tony Douglas, the CEO of ADPC, told OBG. “All successful global ports have multimodal land transport, and the future rail links to the Western Region will help leverage the petrochemical strengths in that area.”

The port received its first ship − the 294-metre Taiwanese-owned Dynamic Evergreen − on July 18. The ship served as a dry run for the port and its operators, allowing a full test of the facility from the time a vessel enters the outer basin through to the unloading its cargo.

The port has come online at just the right time, with its predecessor – the Mina Zayed Terminal – just about to reach full capacity. In 2011, the terminal handled 767,000 TEUs, a 47% increase on the previous year. However, Mina Zayed has a maximum handling capacity of 800,000 containers a year, a figure it will hit this year. “The timing of the new Khalifa Port is ideal,” said Douglas. “The need for additional maritime infrastructure in Abu Dhabi is clear, and additional capacity is mandatory in order to fulfil the objectives outlined by Vision 2030.”

As Khalifa Port comes on-line, the terminal at Mina Zayed will transition to handling cruise liner passengers, serving as the emirate’s main maritime tourism gateway.

In addition to serving Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning freight handling needs, Khalifa Port Container Terminal will also be the supply lynchpin for the emirate’s newest and largest manufacturing centre, the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD). The ADPC is developing KIZAD – intended to be one of the cornerstones of Abu Dhabi’s industrialisation and economic diversification programme – on a 417–sq-km site just inland from the port.

Emirate’s Aluminium, which is already operating out of KIZAD, is set to be joined by a range of medium and heavy industries in clusters dedicated to engineered metal products, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, logistics and food, among others.

The timing of the port’s launch means that it is beginning operations just as KIZAD starts to really get off the ground. With the exception of the main rail line, the transport links are also in place.

Having the rail network in place would be a significant value enhancer for the Khalifa Port, speeding up freight transfer and allowing for the movement of higher volumes of cargo than could be managed by road. The first segment of the UAE’s network is scheduled to be operational by 2014, a year ADPC managers will be eyeing with anticipation, though for the moment their own launch has likely been the focus of their attention.

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