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Ras Al Khaimah | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Capt. Cliff Brand, Group General Manager of RAK Ports, on developments at RAK Maritime City, a strategic plan for ports for 2030, and RAK Ports' competitive advantages.

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.

What have been the results so far from the Maritime City free zone?

It has been a lengthy process. Currently, RAK Maritime City, as far as land with dedicated berths is concerned, is almost full. We do have another 3.5 million sqm of land for which we have signed MoUs with two entities. One is with Zuari for a fertilizer factory, while the other is with the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) for the construction of a 4,200-MW power station. Both projects involve an investment over AED1 billion each. Both projects are in the early stages, though we expect to see the first half of the power station come on stream sometime in 2021 and Zuari to come on stream the same year. We are establishing contacts with China to attract FDI to boost our tenants and restore business partners in that part of the world.

How do all ports in Ras Al Khaimah work together?

We have asked ourselves the same question a number of times, which is why we have engaged with McKinsey consultants to assist us with a strategic 2030 plan. As a result, there is a strong possibility that our two ports to the south, RAK City Center port and Al Hamra Port, will be repurposed or seeds will be sown to repurpose these ports to be more in line with what is going on around them. Saqr Port is a successful port, and it will continue to be a bulk and container port. RAK Maritime City is a successful free zone and will continue to expand and reclaim land in order to feed that expansion if need be. On the other hand, RAK City Center Port, while still profitable, is not as lucrative as these other two ports. Therefore, we will perhaps look at repurposing it from its current warehousing and offshore vessel services to residential, retail, and so on, similar to developments that are taking place all over the world.

What are the main bottlenecks in Ras Al Khaimah's logistics sector?

One of the bottlenecks is the fact that we were not bringing containers through the port. That has now changed, and we are doing that as we speak. Apart from that, there are no real bottlenecks as trade was moving in and out through ports in our neighboring Emirates successfully by road. If anything, perhaps rail would have been an advantage. There were plans to have a rail-air deal at one point in order to transport bulk products, especially into Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, it was shelved for a number of reasons, possibly when there was a cut back on infrastructure projects during the fall in oil prices.

How does RAK Ports stand out compared to the other ports in the UAE?

RAK Ports only competes with the likes of Ajman, Dubai, and other ports within the reach of Ras Al Khaimah when it comes to unitized cargo. We do not compete with the non-bulk because this is the largest bulk port in the Middle East and North Africa. However, in containers we do have competition, which is why we partnered with Hutchinson Ports. We hope to attract the volumes that go to our neighboring ports by being more competitive as far as price is concerned, also by being more efficient and customer focused. Al Hamra Port in the south of the Emirate is predominantly a shipyard, and its main competitor is Al Hamriya Port in Dubai. We carry out small vessel and leisure vessel repairs; however, we do compete with it in terms of ease of doing business, efficiency, and the fact that there is an overspill from it. This port is due to be repurposed as well because it sits within a high-end residential area and hotels. There is a great deal of development going on in that area with regards to tourism.