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Thu 15 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Project cargo on the rise

Cranes, construction and more cranes. To an outsider, this could mean the manifestation of progress a young and dynamic UAE is going through.

Cranes, construction and more cranes. To an outsider, this could mean the manifestation of progress a young and dynamic UAE is going through.

To an outsider with a transport and logistics background, however, this could mean big business.

Thanks to the continuing boom in its economy, the UAE has now seemingly become one major construction site. And the ripple effect of the construction phenomena has extended to project cargo.

In freight terms, project cargo means the movement of goods that are too big or too wide for a standard container. Traditionally, project cargo dealt with moving heavy equipment for the oil and gas sector. Now, although still considered a niche market, project cargo has grown from strength to strength in this region, mainly because of the increased demand brought about by the diversity of projects.

One of the major reasons Barloworld Logistics acquired Swift Freight International is the company's consistency and capability in providing logical logistics solutions, including in moving heavy duty cargo.

Although very young in the business of project cargo, or Project Management & Handling as we call it, Swift has dealt with the most challenging of challenges, such as moving equipment for the Palm Island in Jumeirah. We also manage continuous assignments from loyal clients like leading engineering company ABB Group, by moving power transformers of various tonnage, measurements and dimensions from outside the country to manufacturing plants mostly in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

And looking at the line-up of the UAE's projects, such as Dubai Logistics City, Dubai Maritime City and Al Reem Island, among others, it is not difficult to understand the country's huge market potential for the transport logistics sector.

But even though Swift has a dedicated fleet capable of handling oversized cargo, challenges are as abundant as opportunities in this industry.

For example, being situated in the Middle East, we have to overcome unique climatic conditions, such as sandstorms and extreme heat. Added to this is the difficulty of meeting the timelines of the client. Indeed, project cargo is a massive undertaking that requires significant forwarding expertise.

In recent years, Africa and the Indian subcontinent have become important destinations for project cargo and we see more and more companies setting up in the country to take advantage of the strategic location of Dubai as transshipment hub.

As the industry continues to grow bigger and branches out into new markets, the needs of the clients have also become more sophisticated.

Beyond heavy-lift resource equipment, value-add services are expected. At Swift, we have clients who require delivery from origin to job site with export packing, customs clearance, and trade documentation. In other instances, clients require warehousing and charters insurance, among other services.

In today's global marketplace, the key to survival for logistics service providers is to go further than ensuring clients' technological advancement, sophisticated logistics capabilities, and precise timing.

My idea of maximising the benefits of the project cargo industry boils down to more than coordinating movements from origin to destination - what matters is the continuous nurturing of new relationships while exploring different distribution channels throughout the world.

Warren Erfmann is chief executive officer, Barloworld Logistics Middle East & Asia. Issa Baluch is away this month.

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