MAGIC OF THREE

UAE, Sharjah 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Khaled Bin Abdullah Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Seaports and Customs, on the specializations of Sharjah's three ports, the incorporation of technology, and the outlook for maritime connectivity.

 HE Khaled Bin Abdullah Al Qasimi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Khaled Bin Abdullah Al Qasimi is the Chairman of the Department of Seaports and Customs, Sharjah International Airport Freezone, and Hamriyah Free Zone Authority.

How has the volume of commodities entering through the ports of Sharjah evolved since 2015?

Cargo volumes barring container and vehicle trade has seen steady growth in the last few years, in part due to the diversification we have achieved in bulk agricultural products and industrial commodities such as furnace slag, fly ash, and steel billets. Our customers' satisfaction with the services at our ports ensures that we get repeat business. At the macro level, the IMF forecasts the real GDP of the UAE to rise to 3.4% in 2018, and we believe that will be the case going forward until 2020

What are the comparative advantages of Sharjah's ports compared to other ports in the country?

Sharjah's geography makes it the only Emirate with ports on both coasts of the UAE. The maritime infrastructure in Sharjah comprises three deepwater ports, each with their own signature traits. Port Khalid is a multipurpose port that has traditionally supported the offshore service industry and is the principal hub for such activities while remaining the port handling UAE bound containerized cargo and traditional break bulk cargoes. Khorfakkan Port is the leading transshipment port for containers, and its position is further enhanced as a result of its strategic location outside the Arabian Gulf. Hamriyah Port serves the need for an industrial port handling raw materials for the food industry, steel, and the building material sector, in addition to being a major player in the oil storage and distribution sector. This way, each of our ports plays a part in making Sharjah a unique maritime hub for the region.

What role do technology and innovation play at the Department of Seaports and Customs?

Technology provides the source of innovation and we incorporate cutting-edge technology in our services such as customs clearance, documentation, and handling of unitized cargoes. The purpose of innovation and adoption of technology is not to follow the crowd but to ensure that our customers truly gain tangible benefits and are not just satisfied but are delighted with our services.

How would you characterize the role of the ports for the successful development of Sharjah's economy?

Ports, being the gateway to international trade, provide the necessary connectivity in an interconnected global market. Several thousand tons of goods and commodities move through our ports, connecting us with all the countries of the world. In addition, there are several ancillary services associated with the port that thrive as a result of our ports, such as transportation, ship agents, freight forwarders, ship repair companies, and offshore support services, all of which contribute to the economy and the GDP of the Emirate. Our ports do not just support the economy of Sharjah, but that of the UAE in general.

What expansion and developments plans do you expect for the future of the three ports of Sharjah?

Sharjah is fortunate to have two ports within the Arabian Gulf and one outside the Gulf to the east of the UAE on the Indian Ocean. Port infrastructure, investments with long-term horizons, require regular and sustainable additions that may not be headline-grabbing news. Construction of additional berths at Port Khalid is underway as we speak, which will be commissioned by the end of the year. We have carried out a study for the expansion of the main harbor at Hamriyah and will be taking a decision in this regard very soon.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

I have a positive outlook on the economy; the UAE has been able to sustain positive growth in GDP in spite of low oil prices, which goes to show that the diversification of the economy into other sectors is paying off. I see further turnaround in the coming year based on the growth seen around the globe.