VIEW ON THE HORIZON

UAE, Dubai 2012 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Arif Obaid Al Dehail, CEO of the Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation (Trakhees), on the functions of the company, accreditation in Dubai's ports and free zones, and growth forecasts.

Arif Obaid Al Dehail
BIOGRAPHY
After graduating in geo-economics in 1989, Arif Obaid Al Dehail joined Dubai Ports Authority in Port Rashid in 1991. Through his career with Dubai Ports, he acquired several professional achievements in ports and shipping from Singapore Ports Authority and the University of Delaware and port planning and management in New Orleans, Louisiana. Since then, he has held different leading positions at DP World, such as Senior Vice-President of Global Operations and Engineering, Acting Senior Vice-President for the Africa Region, and Assistant Managing Director of DP World, UAE Region. In January 2012, he accepted the position of CEO of the Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation (Trakhees).

What was the motivation behind the establishment of Trakhees?

Trakhees is an Arabic word that means “permits." Trakhees was established by the Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) in 2008 following the decree issued by HH The Ruler of Dubai with the aim of integrating licensing and regulatory compliance functions within special development zones in Dubai. Trakhees was established with an objective to handle all commercial licensing, construction and environmental permit requirements of the stakeholders and investors, to ensure community compliance within the applicable development projects.

Where is the main focus of your work?

We operate through three main divisions: the Civil Engineering Division (CED), the Environmental Health and Safety Division (EHS), and the Commercial Licensing Division (CLD). Prior to the formation of Trakhees, CED and EHS were traditionally supporting the development and regulatory functions for Dubai Ports, Jebel Ali Free (Jafza), Nakheel, and other developments under the umbrella of Dubai World. The CED is primarily responsible for regulating construction activities within the Special Development Zones (SDZs), which involves approvals of master plans, development control regulations, building and modification proposal reviews, and related permits. The CLD governs and undertakes the issuance of commercial licensing and governmental services to retail and commercial establishments within its jurisdiction. EHS controls, regulates and enforces rules and regulations related to all aspects of environment, health, safety, and fire protection for all ongoing and completed construction projects, supervising the ports and maritime industry projects in addition to assuring food safety and community compliance. Concession agreements are in place with Jafza, DP World, Port Rashid, and Hamriya Port.

How would you characterize the recent progression of the private development market?

We consider 2009 our baseline year; we do not incorporate data from the period before the recession, as the market was behaving erratically. In 2011, many new projects were developed, especially from Nakheel. I also believe that there are many promising projects at the conceptual stage. Our figures and market monitoring confirm over 10% growth when comparing 2011 to 2010. In the second quarter of 2012, we expect double-digit growth. Recently launched projects are reliable indicators that the market is picking up.

What is the significance of the Trakhees Accreditation Program?

The accreditation program accredits Private Client Fiduciary Services (PCFS) businesses and covers all areas from building and construction to food safety. We have released a number of detailed guidelines and code books covering all accredited areas. For a successful project, the consultant and contractor must meet the established criteria. The accreditation program was initiated to ensure the quality and performance of both design and construction in all projects under its jurisdiction. These programs are designed to move the processes from quality control to quality assurance and for accredited personnel to be well versed in the contents of the regulations so as to help them comply with the authority's requirements. This will ensure a smooth interaction that will lead to better communication and speedy construction, which would also avoid any consequences arising from violating the Authority's rules and regulations. Certificates and accreditation ID cards are issued to the participants based on certain requirements, and the companies understand our process and procedures, which in-turn greatly eases the processional relationship. Other governing authorities in the region have initiated numerous process improvement efforts and initiatives, which actually began with Trakhees.

What do you hope to bring to your new role from your previous work with DP World?

I had the opportunity to refine several processes here, and improvement is my priority. In the past I have dealt with the ports and shipping industry and the current line of profession with no major difference in strategy, wherein people who work in the operations are decision makers as well. I am proud of my membership in DP World and the experience I obtained at the company. My expertise is in process engineering, and currently as CEO of Trakhees, I have been meeting with key stakeholders, requesting feedback, and refining our processes to meet customer needs effectively.