PUSH FOR GROWTH

Abu Dhabi 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Martijn Van De Linde, CEO of Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT), on its past achievements, adding value to the Abu Dhabi economy, and developing the export industry.

Martijn Van De Linde
BIOGRAPHY
Martijn Van De Linde was appointed CEO of Abu Dhabi Terminals in 2010. He has over 17 years of international port management experience. Before joining ADT, he was Chief CEO of the Port of Salalah, Oman, held the post of Vice President of Global Operations, APM Terminals, and was Terminal Manager for the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia.

What have been ADT's major contributions in promoting Abu Dhabi as a trade hub?

The growth ADT experienced over the past 10 years and the opening of a new port in this zone enabled trade to grow in Abu Dhabi in an unprecedented way. In only a decade, Abu Dhabi went from facing difficulties to accommodating a competent global network and the establishment of 63 international connections from one single zone. This, along with the improvement in the cost of logistics, transit times, and ease of doing business, has been our major contribution to the local economy. We have also been able to triple our business from 2010 to 2016, which reflects a positive impact from a local perspective. We have created a number of interesting jobs for the local labor market, we introduced state-of-the-art technologies into our daily operations, and have also hired a growing number of locals.

Which sectors have absorbed the opportunities left by conventional industries?

In 2017 there will be a mixture of 12 logistics, operations, and industrial companies opening up in KIZAD. The industry is diversifying into raw material sectors in industrial, alternative energies, and services industries such as pharmaceuticals. It will still be those key commodities that drive growth on the export side, but with a larger push toward regional logistics as a way of adding value to the Abu Dhabi economy. There are still large investments in the pipeline for paper mills, copper re-barring, and similar downstream metal value adding processes, but there will also be a stronger focus on automation and technology rather than activities that are labor or energy intensive. The best part from an economic perspective is that the industries keep diversifying and, as long as there are options for Abu Dhabi to extend its trade tentacles, good things will come.

ADT signed an agreement to expand and operate Khalifa Port in partnership with Chinese company Cosco Shipping. What does this agreement entail and how will it benefit the operations of the port?

The agreement entails the transition of Khalifa Port into a multi-operator environment such as the ones we have in traditional regulator-operator environments in places like Europe or the United States. In sharp contrast, most Gulf ports are monopolists with a single entity acting as the regulator and the operator at the same time. At Khalifa Port, there will be open competition and that is good news for trade and the industry since it will drive the quality of services up and it will ensure that customers are being offered the right prices. The plan is to add around 80,000TEU capacity to the port and we expect it to be fully operational by mid-2018. This is the second concession that has been secured with Khalifa Port, meaning that there will be a second terminal in this area.

What do you envision for the development of the export industry for the next year?

While the stabilization of oil prices will certainly take some time before it sees the light at the end of the tunnel, there are other economic drivers that will positively impact growth in the UAE. Population growth is one of the main ones, with a higher forecast than any other GCC country positioned at 11%. This will be one of the main variables that will shape the economic future of the country in the short run and will position the UAE ahead of its peers. Also, local companies have found ways to diversify their operations and offer more cost-effective services to counter imbalances caused by lower oil prices. They have done their own checklists and this has been for the benefit of the country as a whole. In an economic slowdown everyone needs to look for internal value and that is happening a great deal at the moment.