FAIR WINDS

UAE, Dubai 2013 | MARITIME | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of the Board at DP World, on the ever-expanding marine shipping industry and its role in advancing global trade.

HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem
BIOGRAPHY
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of the Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation, and Chairman of DP World has comprehensively spearheaded the rapid expansion of Dubai’s infrastructure. He was also central in developing the infrastructure supporting Dubai’s tourism industry. Some highlights of his business career include: Leading DP World’s international expansion, including the purchase of the P&O group for $6.8 billion, rendering it the fourth largest global port operator in the world. Overseeing the rapid development of the Jebel Ali Free Zone and establishing its global arm, Jafza International. Establishing and leading Nakheel, a key real estate and tourism property development firm. Establishing and leading Istithmar World, a major investment house with a portfolio of investments in diverse sectors. Pioneering the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).

How significant will operations at London Gateway and Embraport be to the company's overall portfolio?

DP World operates more than 65 marine terminals across six continents including new developments underway in India, Africa, Europe, South America and the Middle East. London Gateway and Embraport represent DP World's commitment to invest in line with customer and market demands, wherever they may be. These two projects, on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean trade route, embody our focus on emerging markets with continued involvement in more mature markets. The significance of London Gateway cannot be over-emphasized. It is one of the newest and brightest stars among the world's deep-sea port and logistics centers with the port's initial capacity of 1.6 million TEUs when it opens in 4Q2013, and a logistics park of some 9.25 million square feet—Europe's largest, located on London's doorstep and the heart of the continent's largest economic zone. As a hub, it will benefit UK business by allowing importers and exporters to take advantage of a more cost-effective, greener way of getting the nation's goods to consumers, adding an estimated £3.2 billion to the economy each year, taking around 2,000 trucks a day off the road, and thus reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 148,000 tons and creating 12,000 jobs directly. Embraport is built adjacent to Porto de Santos, Brazil's largest container terminal, 90% of whose cargo is destined for São Paulo, Brazil's most populous city, some 80 kilometers away. When it opens in 2013 with an initial capacity of 1 million TEUs, it will play a significant role as a contributor to the world's sixth largest economy by delivering DP World's signature productivity gains and increased competitiveness. It will also strengthen our position as a gateway to South America in partnership with our other terminals in Buenos Aires in the south, Callao on the west coast and Paramaribo in the northeast of the continent.

What does the strength of being globally present mean in terms of providing the widest range of solutions?

Connectivity is the hallmark of global trade, around 90% of which is carried by sea. With our extensive network of facilities globally, we are able to offer traders and shipping lines the widest choice of logistics solutions supported by our proven efficiency and customer service. Our vision is to create sustainable value through global growth, service and excellence, and we aim to be where our customers need us to be.

What has been the development strategy of DP World in the region over past years in light of the tremendous growth in the UAE?

DP World's development strategy is underpinned by a global approach to a local business environment. Our focus on exceptional service, innovation, and commitment to our people and our customers has helped retain our position as the Middle East's leading port operator for more than a quarter of a century. The fact that our Dubai ports handled more than 100 million TEUs between January 2003 and January 2013 reflects the role our ports have played in supporting the tremendous growth experienced by the UAE. We continue to invest in Jebel Ali for the future. In June, we added 1 million TEUs by extending the quay wall of Container Terminal 2 (T2) by 400 meters. Across the harbor the brand new 4 million TEUs Container Terminal 3 (T3) is on schedule for opening in 2014, taking the capacity at Jebel Ali to 19 million TEU.

“Our vision is to create sustainable value through global growth, service and excellence."

Why have volumes fallen in the Asia-Pacific and India subcontinent, the Americas, and Australia?

In fact, volumes grew in 2012, including in the second half. We handled a record 56 million TEUs globally, with the Asia Pacific and Indian Subcontinent region up 6%, and the Americas and Australia region up 4%. Volumes in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe region fell by 2% due to the challenging climate in Europe.

What other services does DP World provide in order to offer a complete service?

As a market leader in the global marine terminal industry, DP World provides a range of services designed to enhance customers' supply chain efficiencies, including bringing together container, general cargo, bulk, and other terminals, free zones, intermodal, logistics facilities, customs services, infrastructure developments and consultancy services. We also operate two cruise terminals in Mina Rashid, Dubai and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

How strategically important is India for the company's operations?

We have a long-term commitment to India, and it is a very important part of our global network. We were delighted to have bid successfully to build a new 800,000 TEU terminal adjacent to our existing facility at Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, the subcontinent's busiest container gateway. We were the port's first private partner in 1997 with Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal (NSICT), and together with the port we have played a key role in serving India's growing trade over more than a decade. Our new development, which comes barely two years after the inauguration of the brand new port we built at Vallarpadam, Cochin, reflects the trust India places in our ability to support its development plans.

What kind of an impact has increased security and counter-piracy tactics had on operations at DP World?

Piracy has had no direct impact on our business. However, it adds a huge economic cost in trade, and an enormous humanitarian cost in attacked and captive seafarers and their families. DP World has taken the lead, in partnership with the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to bring governments and industry together to focus international attention on the issue through our counter-piracy conferences held annually since 2011. During this period piracy in the Gulf of Aden has dropped notably, and we continued our efforts with the third conference in September 2013.

What is your outlook for shipping volumes in China, Europe, and the Middle East in 2013?

As a publicly listed company, we do not make forecasts. Various commentators are suggesting something of a slowdown this year. Drewry Shipping Consultants have reported continued low levels of cargo growth in the trade lane between Asia and the Mediterranean in 2Q. Westbound containerised exports were at 1.24 million TEU, 7% up on the same period of 2012, while eastbound were at 524,000 TEU, still 14% up on 2Q 2012.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) expects international trade growth to remain sluggish at around 3.3% in 2013, suppressed by the Eurozone slowdown. And the IMF has recently reduced its forecast for global growth to 3.1% from 3.3%.

What are your growth targets for 2013-2014?

We are confident about the long-term outlook of our industry and our growth prospects, and are well positioned to deal with the changing economic environment. We remain focused on new capacity to add value to our customers, as we did throughout the recession. We also remain dedicated to improving efficiencies, handling higher margin containers.