May. 27, 2020


Dr. Noura Al Dhaheri

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Dr. Noura Al Dhaheri

CEO, Maqta Gateway

A wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports, Maqta Gateway is the developer and operator of the first port community system in the UAE.

BIO

Dr. Noura Al Dhaheri is the CEO of Maqta Gateway, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports. Al Dhaheri has led Maqta Gateway since its launch in 2014. Before joining Abu Dhabi Ports, she worked as a research assistant at the United Arab Emirates University. During her undergraduate studies, she received various prestigious awards for her outstanding contribution to the field of information technology, including the Best Pipe Inspection Robot award presented by Schlumberger. Al Dhaheri has a BSc degree in software engineering and an MSc in engineering systems and management from the United Arab Emirates University. She completed her PhD at Masdar Institute and MIT.


What was the process of developing a port community system (PCS) for Abu Dhabi?
Maqta Gateway was established by Abu Dhabi Ports after it became clear that Abu Dhabi could benefit from an advanced PCS. To build such a system, we carried out extensive research and feasibility studies. We also brought in consultants to study Abu Dhabi's trade community's needs. Our research led us to review the use of PCS throughout the major ports in Asia and Europe. Interestingly, PCSs have been in use for around 30 years, so there was substantial precedent upon which to draw. In fact, our initial studies actually took longer to complete than the actual implementation of the software component of the PCS. When we decided on a model with which to proceed, it became apparent to us that our PCS was going to be one of the biggest on record. Typically, most PCSs concentrate on the type of transport—for example, seagoing containerized cargo. Our PCS design is bigger in scope because we decided to cover sea, land, and air transport, and industrial zones and free zones. This allowed us to provide end-to-end visibility. Early in the design phase, it became apparent that we needed to follow international standards as closely as possible, and we consulted our stakeholders and customers throughout the process. Consequently, as of 2018, 80% of customer suggestions we gathered have been implemented. Ultimately, our overarching goal is to bring more trade to Abu Dhabi, and I believe we are in the process of accomplishing this goal.

Considering that many private companies use their own systems to coordinate with their shipping partners, how can a PCS ensure it remains the dominant arbiter in the marketplace?
Maqta is not promoting PCS itself. We are promoting trade facilitation. To be successful in this endeavor, we must ensure that we are adaptable and that our service offering remains integrated. Our trade facilities are unique because of the level of engagement with government stakeholders. Having Maqta play a role of an intermediary enables private businesses to overcome obstacles. This is something that existing market players cannot provide. Interestingly, World Bank statistics showed between 11% and 15% of trade value is lost due to red tape. If you are a small customer and you want an interface application to access the PCS, we can provide it. If you are a big player and you need access to our PCS to exchange messages, we can oversee this integration as well.

What drove the decision to develop your own proprietary blockchain, Silsal, and what are some of its unique offerings?
The motivation to develop the Silsal blockchain technology was driven by trade needs. By listening to the needs of our trade community, we realized they had specific requirements with regards to markets, security, integration, and other matters. Having experience within this market allowed us to approach this technology from a favorable position. One of the areas that we chose to focus on first was digital identity. Blockchain, by design, is supposed to bring security to a network; however, by accessing a network simply with a password, you are not maximizing security. Therefore, our solution was to integrate digital identity with a smart contract system that can create customized rules and authorize temporary users. This solution, by itself, brings unprecedented level of security. It will be interesting to see where blockchain can take the blue economy in the coming years.

What is the significance of your MoU with NYU Abu Dhabi?
Maqta Gateway's MoU with NYU Abu Dhabi seeks to explore a wide range of technologies, including AI. The substance of the MoU fits within the broader context of delivering economic growth at the port across six strategic areas, one of which is applying new technology. We have already begun adopting our own machine learning technology, which will help standardize routine jobs that are time-intensive.

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