Sea Freight Middle East profiles the region's leading ports, including mega terminal Jebel Ali.
DP World Jebel
There can be no question that the mega terminal in Jebel Ali is the jewel in the crown of Middle Eastern port facilities.
By far the busiest and best-equipped port in the region, it has set new standards and paved the way for much of the development in the surrounding areas and associated maritime industry.
The port at Jebel Ali has the largest man-made harbour in the world, with more than 70 berths and extensive dry dock capability.
The proximity of the Jebel Ali Free Zone (established in 1980), has made the port a magnet and highly competitive port-of-choice for international businesses, who have continued to benefit from the increasing consumer and industrial demands of the flourishing emirate.
The container handling facilities are simply unrivalled in the region. The addition of mega gantry cranes received in 2005 and many more since (bringing the total to a staggering 45) are the largest of their kind in the world and the first of their type to be installed in the Middle East.
Each of these cranes is capable of lifting two 40 foot or four 20 foot containers simultaneously.
For its outstanding performance figures, and world-leading vision DP World scooped the inaugural Supply Chain And Transport Award (SCATA) for Best Port Operator in 2007, winning over industry minds from across the entire freight forwarding industry.
The award recognised considerations such as cost competitiveness, facilitation of ancillary services, and timely and adequate investment in new infrastructure.
In 2007 DP World Jebel Ali grew more than 25%, reaching 9.9m TEU, just shy of the magic 10m mark, expected to be surpassed comfortably in 2008.
This was in large part due to a raft of new vessel calls, as well as the opening of the new second terminal at the port in the second half of last year.
"Last year we expanded the operations of our existing terminals, increasing capacity at key facilities and improving efficiency to help our customers manage their supply chains even more effectively," says Mohammed Sharaf, CEO, DP World.
Jebel Ali's container handling equipment list sets the region's leading terminal apart from the crowd and leaves the competition in its wake.
Sohar, in the Sultanate of Oman, houses a rapidly expanding port.
With current investments exceeding $12 billion, it is one of the world's largest port development projects.
The Port of Sohar is situated just outside the Strait of Hormuz and is capable of receiving ships up to 16 m draught. Its proximity to the booming economies of the Gulf and the Indian subcontinent make the Port of Sohar an attractive logistics hub.
The terminal's trump card is its location: in the Gulf area, but outside the Strait of Hormuz, and close to energy resources.
With the world's shipping lanes close at hand, the port is a perfect first point of entry to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The port is connected by excellent roads to its hinterland, with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Muscat within a circle of 240 km.
Sohar is close to Iran, Pakistan and the booming economy of India. Also the eastern coast of Africa is within reach. Its chemical, metal and logistics clusters provide an excellent production base. Space and manpower are readily available around Sohar.
The local workforce is relatively young, adaptive, willing to learn and familiar with industrial activities, due to the presence of the nearby Sohar Industrial Estate.
The government also offers special arrangements for industries that settle in Sohar.
Oman has a young population and a potential for skilled labour. Education is a top priority in the Sultanate. The International Maritime College of Oman (IMCO plans to train up to 1000 students as operators for the industry and maritime sector).
The port is currently undertaking further dredging that will increase the draft to 18 metres by the end of this year. In addition, the annual throughput capacity of 800,000 will be transformed by new quay development, which will eventually boost capacity to 2.1 million TEU, in a bid to capture a larger slice of the lucrative Gulf transhipment trade.
Last year the port extended the terms of a management joint venture with the Port of Rotterdam through to 2043.
The new agreement will not only run for a further 36 years, but also provides capacity for massive expansion within the Sohar Special Economic Zone.
The port currently occupies a plot of 2000 hectares, but under the terms of the new agreement, it will be able to more than triple its current plot to incorporate an area in excess of 6000 hectares.
"The development of the Port of Sohar, as part of the diversification of the economy of the Sultanate has been a success."
"The know-how and experience of the Port of Rotterdam has resulted in this unprecedented Industrial Port development," explained HE Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, Minister of National Economy, Deputy Chairman of the Energy Resources and Financial Affairs Council.
Aqaba Container Terminal
Aqaba - the sea port of Jordan - is strategically located at the cross roads of four countries and three continents.
Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) is the only Jordanian container port facility. It is the major gateway for the Jordanian market, as well as for transit cargo moving to and from other countries in the region.
The port is investing US$500m over 25 years, and is aligning itself with the ultra-modern facilities in the region.
Last year the APM Terminals managed port took delivery of gantry cranes and RTGs worth $30 million. The berth has been extended by an additional 450 - 500 metres, whilst ongoing development of the RTG yards takes place early this year.
In 2007 14 RTGs and two new gantry cranes were added to the equipment list.
From a modest starting point of only 7.7 moves per hour in 2003 the terminal has boosted its hourly capacity to over 28 moves per hour and now runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Whilst current annual capacity stands at 750,000 TEUs, the management's grand plan is to advance this beyond the 3.1 million mark.
Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT), has registered an increase in container handling exceeding 2% in 2007 compared to 2006, Sea Freight Middle East can reveal.
The registered increase came after a slow start in container handling at the port during the first half of last year.
"Although the percentage recorded in container handling in 2007 was less than what was achieved the years before, nevertheless, we are proud of last year's achievements, toped by the improvements in container handling," says Amin Kawar, chief commercial officer of ACT.
It is worth mentioning that ACT has also witnessed growth in the volume of exported cargo during 2007.
ACT has benefitted from the addition of two new marine routes linking the Port of Aqaba directly with the Far East regions, early last year.
The new routes will improve the efficiency of marine trade with the booming exporting economies of East Asia.
KhalifaBin Salman Port
The news that APM Terminals received approval to operate the Bahrain's Khalifa Bin Salman Port under a concession that will see its influence in the Kingdom's maritime industry run to 2033 will not have escaped many readers.
The far-reaching concession will cover the entire port operations including management of the container terminal, conventional cargo handling and all marine services.
Whilst the current port at Mina Salman is above par with regional performance, notching up around 10% growth across all operations, and a very healthy 15% on the container side, the terminal management firm is aiming its sights much higher in the years to come.
The major goals APM Terminals have set themselves involve recapturing Bahrain's heritage as a principal transhipment hub in the Northern Gulf, and the team are confident that this is well within their grasp despite increasingly tough regional competition.
"We've worked very closely with the government and it has been agreed that in terms of international branding the Khalifa Bin Salman (KBS) facility will be billed and marketed as the Bahrain Gateway at KBS," explains Iain Rawlinson general manager, sales and marketing at APM Terminals Bahrain.
"The reason for this is that obviously this is a gateway into the Kingdom, but also we think it should be regaining capacity as the gateway into the Northern Gulf. Historically, Bahrain was a major regional trading hub and we see this as the major attraction as a location going forward."
"The model we see involves capitalising on Bahrain's geographical location. We see this port as an ideal hub for transhipment."
"A great deal of Saudi, Kuwaiti and Iranian ports are well placed to receive cargo transhipped from Bahrain," says Rawlinson.
The projected capacity during phase one at the Bahrain Gateway will be 1.1m TEU, which is small when you consider the size of the overall regional market, but it's very significant when the Bahrian domestic market size is factored into the equation.
"The national market is about 230,000 TEU annually, which means we'll have a lot of capacity for growth," says Rawlinson.
Khorfakkan Container Terminal
Gulftainer managed Khorfakkan Container Terminal (KCT) in Sharjah is gearing up for the next decade with enthusiasm.
The natural deepwater port is being massively expanded, with further phase two developments, originally scheduled for 2008, having been brought forward and undertaken last year. KCT benefits from a superb geographical position in the context of today's huge container trades.
Located on Sharjah's Indian Ocean coast, it is close to the main east-west shipping lanes, and outside the sensitive Straits of Hormuz.
Leading shipping lines, including United Arab Shipping Co, DSR Senator, CMA, NSCSA and Hanjin have been quick to realise the cost and time savings that can be gained by using Khorfakkan as a hub port for transhipment traffic into the Gulf, subcontinent and East Africa.
2007 volumes at the Gulftainer UAE container terminals in both Khorfakkan and Sharjah reached 2,173,867 TEU, up 8% on 2006.
The multi-million dollar upgrade project will increase KCT's present 1460 metres of quay by another 440 metres. An 800-metre breakwater will protect the additional quay.
This has been located and constructed to give maximum protection to the new berth while at the same time providing the easiest possible access for 8000-plus TEU capacity ships, which in turn, will speed up their turn around times.
When the new Phase 2 berth is complete, and around the end of 2008, six new ship to shore Super Post Panamax gantries will be installed.
These units will be backed up by sophisticated ground equipment including new rubber tyred gantries (RTGs) and road trains. The new ship to shore gantries will bring the total number in the port to 20.
KCT continues to set records and is widely considered to be one of the fastest container terminals in the region with regular productivity of over 50 moves per hour achieved per gantry, ensuring that shipping lines are not delayed, and can keep to schedule.
KCT has proved itself a vital gateway into UAE markets allowing other options to shipping line customers who may otherwise be locked into the landside infrastructural challenges posed by use of other ports.
The terminal offers quick access to the Gulftainer managed Sharjah Inland Container Depot (SICD), located on the border of Sharjah and Dubai, away from congestion bottlenecks but close to the Emirates. Containers to and from KCT are handled at the ICD and distributed by road.
The port is coming into its own at a time when there are more infrastructural and price pressures on companies operating in the region than ever before.
Khorfakkan continues to offer a cost effective distribution system through the KCT gateway allowing invaluable alternatives to the clogged arterial roads in other parts of the UAE.