Abu Dhabi Ports presented one of its best annual results to date in 2016. What were the major accomplishments for the company's development over this period?
Last year we had quite a successful run. At the time we closed our books, our performance for 2016 reflected a 152% increase in our net profit, 15% increase in revenue, and a 90% increase in our earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA); our customs contribution jumped to 70%. We contributed 3% to non-oil GDP in 2015, and we expect the number to increase for 2016 once we obtain the results. We handled 1.54 million TEUs in 2016, reaching a total of more than 5 million since the inception of Khalifa Port in late 2012. We handled more than 17.8 million tons of general cargo and bulk, hitting the highest record in the Emirate, with a 16% increase. Cruise passenger traffic is also estimated to grow by 8% in 2016/2017, with over 250,000 cruises from 137 ship calls. We opened a new cruise beach destination in Sir Bani Yas Island and also completed the second phase of the warehouses in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) by adding an additional 64 warehouses. We leased more than 2.1sqkm in 2016. Furthermore, we continued to put Khalifa Port and Abu Dhabi on the map of global trade through a major agreement we signed with the Chinese company COSCO under the One Belt, One Road initiative, which has selected Khalifa Port to be its hub in the region.
Abu Dhabi has its eyes set on the exporting industries as a driver of economic growth. As the manager of the leading export hub in the country, how is Abu Dhabi Ports contributing?
Responding to the rising demand from both foreign direct and existing investors wanting to establish and grow their manufacturing and industrial business in UAE free zones, we have launched Khalifa Port Free Trade Zone, the largest free zone in the region with a total size of 100sqkm. We are currently in the process of leasing plots but this will take some time between signing the agreement and having factories up and running. We already signed a couple of agreements that will see 15-20 factories or logistics providers up and running, and when this area is fully built, the real contribution to GDP will be visible.
What would you like to attract to KIZAD that could take it to the next level when it is fully operational?
The beauty of KIZAD is that we made it in clusters that we defined according to Abu Dhabi's needs and the parameters of Vision 2030. KIZAD has highly targeted sectors coming into its facilities. On top of that, there are some sector-centric enablers such as EMAL for aluminum, Borouge for plastic and polymers, and other companies alike. We have already established the high-end players as anchors for other companies, so we are expecting the middle and low stream players related to these industries to follow suit. The plan is to have sectorial clusters and we are marketing all of these clusters in parallel. All of these industries are part of a bigger vision of what Abu Dhabi and the UAE needs in terms of industry and logistical providers.
The popularity of Khalifa Port has facilitated its prompt expansion. What have been the major advances in this regard?
The port is fairly new with just about four years of operations, but it has already stirred high demand. We recently expanded it by 1km and are also deepening the channel and the basin from 16.5m to 18.5m to cater to the biggest ships sailing today and in the foreseeable future. We added 1km of quay wall and the adjacent land, which is a substantial area as well. The agreement we signed with COSCO was also a motive for this expansion, as the deal will add 3.6 million TEUs per annum.