STRENGTH THROUGH DIVERSITY

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Capt. Cliff Brand, Group General Manager of RAK Ports, on streamlining management, expansion strategies, and thriving during low oil prices.

Capt. Cliff Brand
BIOGRAPHY
After an early career in the British Merchant Navy in which he progressed to Master aboard bulk carriers, AHTS, and other specialist vessels in the offshore oil and gas industry, Cliff Brand joined the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch as an Accident Investigator. In 2004 he took up the post of Maritime Administrator for the Government of Gibraltar, becoming Chief Executive of Gibraltar Port Authority. He was appointed Marine Director for the Ports Development Company in Jeddah Saudi Arabia before taking up his current post as Group General Manager of RAK Ports. Brand is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a Younger Brother of Trinity House.

In 2010 all the ports in RAK were brought under the umbrella of the Saqr Port Authority. What was the reasoning behind this?

This was to streamline the management and increase efficiency and profitability. Saqr Port and RAK Maritime City were already profitable but the other ports needed to be improved.

What is the importance of Saqr Port for RAK and the wider region?

The port was constructed in 1975 to serve RAK's quarries. Today, it is the biggest bulk port in the MENA region by far and throughput is about 55 million tons per year. Around 80% of that is composed of aggregate products and the remaining 20% falls into the other products category. These are being exported to various parts of the world, including the Gulf, but mainly to areas with a high level of ongoing infrastructure projects, like Kuwait, Qatar for the World Cup, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and India, amongst others. We also import products, such as coal, to serve the industries here in the northern Emirates, and all the fuel for the northern Emirates' petrol stations. Our business is predominantly the export of commodities derived primarily from the quarries here in RAK.

What regulatory changes should be made to boost RAK's maritime industry?

RAK's maritime industry already has a bright future. I do not see any need to change the regulatory procedures as everything runs smoothly. Saqr Port, RAK Maritime City, and the other ports are operating profitably but we are definitely exploring various diversification options, especially in light of the downturn in oil prices.

Can you outline the Emirate's port facilities and their expansion prospects?

We have five ports. Next door to Saqr Port we have RAK Maritime City, a free zone from which we lease parcels of land to major companies. Then we have Ras Al Khaimah Port as an extension of RAK Maritime City, which is for vessel repairs, warehouse storage, and part of it is a free trade zone. Al Jazeera Port is predominantly for shipyard repair, cargo, and cross quay work. Then we have Al Jeer Port, which is currently dormant, though we expect to open that in the next few months for marine, leisure, and small cargo vessels. With Al Jeer Port, we embarked on an expansion program to develop one or two deepwater berths. The output of the quarries justifies expanding the capacity and catering to much larger ships. We also seek to revitalize the container industry by bringing the import and export of containers back to RAK and hope that will come to fruition in the next 12 months. At RAK Maritime City we have made an agreement with a company to construct a large fertilizer plant. It will import the product, manufacture, and then export. We also explore the possibility of a refinery and a large tank farm with various partners at the moment. RAK Maritime City sits on 6 million sqm of land. 3 million sqm of that land is surrounded by exclusive access to the quayside, which is full, while the other 3 million is earmarked for large projects, tank farms, refineries, fertilizer plants, and a power station.

What are your prospects for the year ahead?

As far as RAK Ports is concerned, it will be another successful year, and we will achieve the targets that we have set for ourselves. We predict growth this year to be 3 or 4% higher than 2015. Over the last 10 years growth at this particular 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.