A CONTINUOUS PROCESS

Dubai 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman of DP World Group and CEO/Chairman of the Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation, on global economic trends, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, and investing in India.

HE Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem
BIOGRAPHY
HE Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem’s expertise and visionary leadership spearheaded the rapid expansion of Dubai’s infrastructure, including ports and free zones, contributing significantly to the growth of the UAE. He was also a leader in developing the infrastructure supporting Dubai’s successful tourism industry, among various other sectors. Highlights of his three-decade business career include: leading marine terminal operator DP World’s expansion internationally, including the acquisition of the P&O group for $6.8 billion in March 2006, which propelled it to be among the largest global trade enablers in the world; overseeing the rapid development of (Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) into an unrivaled business park of more than 7,300 companies; establishing and leading Nakheel, a real estate and tourism property development firm that has created many iconic Dubai projects.

Now that the UAE has become one of the region's leading innovation hubs, what comes next?

Innovation is a continuous process and we must continue to support new practices and technologies to maintain and increase our reputation for excellence. It is not a question of what comes next, it's about aspiring to world-class standards and performance and increasing efficiencies through innovation for this generation and those that come after us. That ingrained culture and mindset is what will differentiate us from the rest of the world in the years to come.

What opportunities does the new PPP law, which came into force in November 2015, offer for both the public and private sectors?

The opportunities to develop economies through partnerships enable private-sector expertise to be added to government programs for the wider benefit, particularly in infrastructure and construction. It gives government entities the freedom to define appropriate tender processes outside the constraints of existing tender laws that are not appropriate for PPPs and is a positive step forward for the development of a PPP market in Dubai. Government entities have more freedom and flexibility to specify tender and contract conditions on a case-by-case basis. The overriding award criteria is the “most financially and technically advantageous bid,” with discretion to specify details. This is another example of our leadership amending regulations to suit the future needs of Dubai and providing more freedom for business to operate.

What role can the UAE play in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative?

As an enabler of global trade, DP World is always interested in opportunities that come our way. We are already helping Kazakhstan develop the Khorgos Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Inland Container Depot (ICD), as well as the Port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea. These infrastructure projects will help develop the “One Belt, One Road” concept, linking China to European markets through Asia. Today, goods from China take an average of 42 days to reach Europe by sea. With the new logistics and transport infrastructure in Kazakhstan, this is reduced to an average of 13 days. Elsewhere, DP World and our partners are investing $1.9 billion in China port terminals until 2020 and we already operate three ports there in Qingdao, Tianjin, and Yantai. We also recently signed an agreement with our partners in Qingdao to exchange information and grow business between our ports. In building a global portfolio of more than 77 marine and inland terminals, we have established long-standing relationships with customers, many of whom are looking to the New Silk Road as new areas of opportunity. The experience gained from our Jebel Ali port with its free zone and our other terminals around the world will fuel the development of the New Silk Road at a remarkable pace.

DP World has already invested $1.2 billion in India and is the only foreign operator with six port concessions in the country and an approximate 30% market share. Following DP World's announcement that it will invest a further $1 billion over the next few years, what will this investment cover?

This will cover expansion in brownfield container terminals, long-term greenfield container concessions, inland container depots (ICDs), and the expansion of existing inter-modal rail services for rolling stock. We already employ 3,000 people at our terminals in India and they are locally recruited and trained. As a market leader in Indian container terminal operations we have the largest portfolio of investments in ports along the Indian coastline, including Gujarat (Mundra, 2003), Maharashtra (Nhava Sheva, 1999 and 2012), Kerala (Cochin, 2005), Tamil Nadu (Chennai, 2001), and Andhra Pradesh (Vishakapatnam, 2002). We have also created rail connections to the hinterlands and have a national rail license from the government to operate seven container trains.