Abu Dhabi’s Maritime Sector


Abu Dhabi's maritime year was dominated by the looming presence of Khalifa Port, the so-called “Gateway to Abu Dhabi.

Khalifa Port and its associated industrial zone, Kizad, dominated the shipping sector in 2013. Though inaugurated in mid-December 2012, its regionally exclusive semi-automated container terminal began operations in September, taking pressure off Mina Zayed port. By the end of that year it had already processed 250,000 TEUs of cargo. The port’s first ship alone had 12,000 TEUs. Its annual capacity is already at 2.5 million TEUs, and it is capable of receiving 12 million tons of bulk cargo a year. In subsequent phases, additional capacity will be added, and by 2030 a total of 15 million TEUs or 35 million tons of cargo is expected. By 3Q2013, there had been over 9,000 vessel movements into Abu Dhabi. The new port deals with bulk liquids such as oil fuel and vegetable oil, dry bulk such as grain or cement, and roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) general TEU containers.

The port is located 60 kilometers from downtown Abu Dhabi and enjoys solid connections by road and, in the future, rail. Mina Zayed continued also to function in its capacity as a major port, concentrating on general cargo and cruise liner shipping. Opened in 1972, its aging infrastructure was under acute strain due to insufficient capacity. The port handled approximately 770,000 TEU containers in 2011, but volume has been reduced since Khalifa became operational and shipping activity transferred there. Mina Zayed has also been designated to serve cruise liner shipping, given its location at the heart of the capital, and this is proving to be a successful segment for the economy. The ADTCA is working to promote the city as a winter cruise season base with dedicated berths in Mina Zayed. Major lines appreciate the capital’s potential as a destination, including Costa Cruises, Cunard, and Fred Olsen Lines, and 88 vessels arrived in the 2012 to 2013 season, 14 more than in the previous year. “It is a very purpose-driven sector in the economy that wasn’t there before,” explains Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT) CEO Martijn Van De Linde, in conversation with TBY, citing hotels, resorts, Ferrari World and Saadiyat Island as principal attractions. The 180,000 guests that arrived last season represent a more than fivefold increase on the meager 35,000 that came in 2006/2007.

Four port terminals are being developed at Dalma, for fishing, cargo, ro-ro, and passengers, while a beach on the island is being considered for hosting cruise ships. The island’s history of pearl fishing is another possible attraction for tourists. In addition, Shahama has leisure and watersport activity facilities being realized at a seafront property. Outside of the cruise segment, an array of other ports in the Emirate are being established or expanded, including Sila North, Sir Bani Yas Logistics, Mugharrag, Musaffah, and Al Dhafra. These ports, in conjunction with Khalifa and Mina Zayed, will contribute to accomplishing Abu Dhabi’s ambition of performing an efficient, globally respected logistics and cargo function. The initial phase’s linking of significant industrial centers will go some way toward hooking up the port infrastructure of the capital and its sister metropolis. This emphasis on improved communications within the country will boost logistics and therefore shipping, bringing the UAE and Abu Dhabi yet closer to the realization of their ambitious visions.