MOVING WHERE IT MATTERS

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | TRANSPORT | REVIEW

An unsung success story of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah's transportation industry and infrastructure continue to develop at a steady pace.

As the UAE works to improve and expand all aspects of its already world-class infrastructure, Ras Al Khaimah is taking a leading role. With a number of new projects coming online, Ras Al Khaimah's transportation infrastructure and industry are developing by leaps and bounds, promising to facilitate growth across the emirate's various industries. As its transportation infrastructure continues to develop, Ras Al Khaimah will become a truly multimodal hub for the efficient movement of people and goods of all kinds.

Sea Transport

Ras Al Khaimah's ports are some of the most important pieces of its transportation infrastructure, and they represent an integral piece of its continued economic wellbeing. There are five ports in the Emirate: RAK Maritime City, Ras Al Khaimah Port, Saqr Port, Al Jeer Port, and Al Jazeera Port. Each one brings to bear a specific set of strengths for industries and businesses operating out of the UAE. In 2010, all the ports in RAK were brought together under the Saqr Port Authority. The shift was part of an effort to improve the overall efficiency and profitability of the system.

One of the most important bulk-handling ports inthe region, Saqr Port handles a sizable majority of the cargo that makes its way in and out of Ras Al Khaimah every year. Many of the cement and raw materials necessary for the construction industry move through the port, and its proximity to the Emirate's growing quarrying sector gives it a natural advantage for utilization by firms operating in this sector. The total throughput of the port is roughly 55 million tons a year, of which 80% are aggregate products. As trade with Iran begins to pick up as international sanctions are lifted, the port is expected to become even busier, ferrying construction materials and other exports into the Iranian market. The port can accommodate vessels with drafts up to 12.2m and has 42,000sqm of covered warehouses; more than 840,000sqm of open storage; eight bulk-handling berths, three container-handling berths and one general purpose berth; 14 mobile cranes, two mobile ship loaders, three dockside mobile loaders; and a fleet of mobile harbor cranes and fork lifts.

RAK Maritime City combines port infrastructure with free zone industrial space, providing firms with a combination of assets designed to fulfill as many of their operational requirements as they can in the most efficient way possible. The port can accommodate vessels with draft of 6.5m; has a dedicated harbor and 5km of new quay wall; plots that begin at 25,000sqm; berth lengths of more than 100m; and 8 million sqm of space available for lease.

Ras Al Khaimah Port sits at the center of Ras Al Khaimah City. The port can accommodate vessels with drafts up to 5.5m; has a harbor area of more than 325,000sqm; eight berths, one RO/RO berth and layup berths; 100m crane capacity; 860m of quays; a passenger terminal that includes all the requisite facilities; 60,000sqm of open storage; and 28,000sqft of covered warehouses, including two cold store units with 1,510sqm of available space each.

Strategically positioned on Ras Al Khaimah's border with Oman, Al Jeer Port provides the Emirate with a leisure-oriented port that is also capable of handling some commercial goods and livestock. Able to accept vessels with berths up to 3.5m, the port has 41 covered warehouses, 266 marina berths, and hosts a sailing club and the Royal Yachting Association. As the port is a point of entry for livestock coming into the GCC, it therefore includes both a quarantine and incinerator facility.

The ship repair and construction hub of Ras Al Khaimah's shipping industry, Al Jazeera port sits at the southern end of the Emirate. Boasting 12 dry berths and synchronized lifting docks with a 1,100 ton capacity, the port hosts a variety of private repair and construction firms specializing in commercial and leisure vessels. The port can accommodate vessels with drafts up to 5.5m; stretches across 105,000sqm; has 55,000sqm of open storage space; 7,000sqm of covered warehouse space; and nine jetties stretching more than a kilometer.
In an exclusive interview with TBY, Capt. Cliff Brand, Group General Manager of RAK Ports, discussed his outlook on the year ahead for RAK's port system. “We predict growth this year to be 3 or 4% higher than 2015,” said Brand. “Over the last 10 years, growth at [Saqr Port] has more than doubled, but we can only grow within the current constraints. When we complete our new berths and boost capacity, growth will speed up again.” According to global ratings agency Fitch, an expansion of Saqr Port scheduled to be completed in 2017 has the potential to expand GDP growth beyond the 4.8% being currently forecast.

Roads

Three federal highway systems bring traffic from RAK to the emirates in the south. The E11 is the largest of these systems, and its more than 560km of roadway bisect nearly the entire country, connecting Emiratis to Saudi Arabia on one end and Oman on the other. The road is a key commercial artery for RAK and the UAE, and it parallels the E311, also known as the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd. Both of these routes are important trade routes servicing a number of different free zones, industrial zones, and airports. The E18, the third major transportation channel in the Emirate, stretches from the heart of RAK City, passing the airport and leading into Fujairah and Ajman.

In April 2016, the second phase of a road project connecting Ras Al Khaimah with Umm Al Quwain was completed. The project, which cost approximately AED142 million, is part of a three-phase effort aimed at increasing connectivity across the northern Emirates. The second phase is expected to reduce traffic along the major corridors connecting Ras Al Khaimah with Umm Al Quwain, according to The National. The third phase will link the second phase sites to the RAK Ring Road, further connecting the Northern Emirates and helping to create a wholly integrated roadway infrastructure.

The number of road users has remained steady in the last few years, and in 2016 the Ministry of the Interior reported that 15,984 drivers licenses were renewed and 9,357 new licenses were issued. In an effort to curb an uptick in traffic violations, traffic police in RAK have recently purchased a sophisticated set of TruCAM laser-operated speed guns. The new devices are intended to help reduce the number of unsafe speeding, tailgating, and road rage incidents, according to officials quoted in the Khaleej Times.

Air Transport

Though the construction materials industry translates, by necessity, into a dominant sea transport sector, air transport has been growing in recent years. In September, Egypt Air began flying commercial cargo flights to Ras Al Khaimah International Airport. Additionally, Air India operates a number of weekly flights out of the Emirate and hopes to expand operations. The strategic location of RAK and its consistent overall performance continue to attract regional and international carriers. In an exclusive interview with TBY, Melwin D'Silva, Regional Manager Gulf, Middle East & Africa for Air India, discussed the dynamism and opportunity in the Emirate's air transportation sector, observing that the authorities are keen to facilitate smooth operations. “Everyone is available at the top level and any issues are immediately taken care of,” said D'Silva. After taking into account RAK International Airport's location, infrastructure, and the pro-growth attitude of the authorities, D'Silva noted, “the future of Ras Al Khaimah is great.” Officials hope that RAK International Airport will help spur growth in the tourism sector. As Ras Al Khaimah continues to develop its nascent tourist destinations, air transport is poised to expand. The Emirate's air travel infrastructure and services are growing, and more is being done to ensure the Emirate can compete with some of its more high profile neighbors to the south.

Public Transportation

Though some improvements have been made in RAK's public transportation system, a number of weaknesses still hamper the fledgling network. A lack of dispersion across the Emirate's rural areas has made it difficult for some to avail themselves of the system, and when they are able to access it costs can be prohibitively expensive.

Progress is being made, however, and there are plans in the works to bring 38 new air-conditioned bus stops to RAK, almost quintupling the total number of air-conditioned stops in the emirate. The stops will be solar powered and relatively self-sustaining, giving Emiratis a cool, reliable place to wait for their bus. A program aimed at encouraging reading among public transportation users has also been introduced in certain RAK buses. Two buses are set to receive up to 180 books, and every passenger is expected to receive a book, according to the Department of Economic Development. Materials will be available in Arabic, English, and Urdu.

Additionally, the RAK Transport Authority is announcing a number of services aimed at easing the difficulty of commutes, including a taxi sharing service for rural areas and the addition of 50 new taxis across the Emirate.