REDRAW THE MAPS

Saudi Arabia 2016 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: KING ABDULLAH PORT

King Abdullah Port started operations in 2014 with expansions set to continue until 2025 to reach a capacity of 20 million TEUs per year, making it one of the world's top 10 ports.

With a total GDP of $746.25 billion in 2014, Saudi Arabia's economy is the largest in the region and among the top 20 in the world. However, the capacity of Saudi ports do not reflect this, resulting in freight destined for Saudi Arabia being shipped toward more established locations, such as Dubai's Jebel Ali Port. In order to regain lost imports, the Saudi Ports Authority (SPA) has developed a new port set to become one of the top-10 ports in the world.

Part of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), the King Abdullah Port (KAP) is a new gateway for Saudi Arabia and a catalyst for domestic economic growth and job creation that will become a model for global ports. Lying in the middle of the world's largest trade routes that link Europe to Asia, the port boasts a competitive advantage as it allows East-West transhipment seven days faster than its local competitors. With the emergence of China and India, the Gulf region has become an increasingly attractive hub, and the Red Sea is expected to become the heart of international trade. In 2014, 6,000 vessels sailed the sea between the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, carrying 42 million TEUs, representing 24% of global trade.

Transhipment operations at KAP started in September 2013; however, the facility became fully operational in January 2014 when import and export activities kicked off. After the opening of its fourth berth, the port can now handle 2.7 million TEUs per year, and it is on track to reach an annual capacity of 4.5 million TEUs by the end of 2016. According to the master plan, its capacity will stand at 10.6 million TEUs by 2020, with that figure planned to increase ultimately to 20 million TEUs capacity by 2025. Additionally, in its final stage, it will handle 1.5 million container equivalent units (CEUs) for RoRo vehicles as well as 15 million tons for bulk cargo. Once completed, this world-class port will be the largest in the region, covering an area of 13.8sqkm with a storage area of 300,000sqm. Its high-tech superstructures along with the most advanced Port Community System (PCS) will enable KAP to provide ultimate port services. Its employees have attended intensive training programs to gain expertise in handling these latest technologies. Its 18m deep-water wharfs and the world's largest cranes with an outreach of 25 containers are designed to handle the world's largest ships. In October 2015, MSC Maya, the world's largest vessel, docked at KAP, positioning Saudi Arabia among the elite group of countries able to offer top maritime transport and logistic services to mega container ships. In addition, three of its berths can cater simultaneously for the world's biggest vessels.

KAEC's Industrial Valley, the region's largest industrial hub and expected to be completed in 2020, will encircle the port, offering a fully integrated logistics and industrial solution to transporting companies. The port's master plan includes the construction of the largest multi-modal terminal in the Kingdom, which will provide uninterrupted access to the Saudi Land Bridge freight railway and to the national highway network, ensuring unparalleled connectivity between sea and land. KAP will link to all the country's provinces and, pending the completion of new infrastructure projects, to other Gulf countries. Finally, a dedicated Hajj terminal, featuring hotels, medical facilities, and other amenities will receive more than 500,000 pilgrims every year. From there, the new Haramain high-speed railway project will take pilgrims to the two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.

KAP is the first port in Saudi Arabia fully owned and developed by the private sector. Ports Development Company (PDC), a joint venture between Saudi Binladin Group and Emaar Economic City Company, is developing the megaproject and managing it on a commercial basis, under the supervision of the Saudi Ports Authority, which started a process of privatization back in 1997.

The construction of KAP is part of SPA's plan to enrich Saudi's ports system in its bid to enhance the competitiveness of the country's maritime transport and logistics services.