Maritime CEOMiddle EastPorts and Logistics

Abu Dhabi Terminals: Planning long term

Abu Dhabi: The latest statistics gleaned by Maritime CEO suggest there is currently more than $32bn being spent on ports around the Middle East, a phenomenal and slightly frightening amount. The region has been flooded with new berths and quay cranes, like mushrooms sprouting after rain, with many executives adopting the risky ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ approach to container terminal development. It is refreshing then to hear the thoughts of a leading container terminal executive based in Abu Dhabi who tells Maritime CEO that further expansion at his port will be driven solely by market demand.

Martijn van de Linde is the ceo of Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT), the manager and operator of Khalifa Port Container Terminal, an ultra-modern high tech port that opened just shy of two years ago. ADT is a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports Company’s (ADPC).

With phase one of the port just about complete, van de Linde says the next phase will kick off as and when it is needed. “We will let this be driven by market demand,” he says, adding: “We are not going to build it and let them come, we will let it depend on market demands.” Van de Linde notes that based on current organic growth the first phase capacity should fill up by 2018. The second phase will eventually double capacity to 5m teu.

Khalifa’s first phase is now fully committed. The 2.5m teu semi-automated facility has 12 cranes and 1,400 m of deepwater quayside. The last bit of implementation are three more quay cranes, which ADT delayed through to next year so their height could be supersized in line with the ever growing size of new containerships.

The port officially opened on December 12 two years ago. This year it is anticipating growth in the region of 22%.

Growth initially has come from the vibrant Abu Dhabi economy, but going forward the terminal executive expects it to be getting regional cargoes too.

“The tipping point for ports is 1m teu,” van de Linde reckons, “where you transfer from being a local to a regional port.”

He adds: “We are maturing as a port, as a destination, and we will grow into being a sizeable gateway over the next six years.”

Van de Linde is realistic, however, and cautions that his terminal will not be larger than Dubai’s Jebel Ali, just up the road, any time soon.

On regional box port growth, van de Linde is sanguine. Across the Gulf he reckons there is somewhere between 30, to 35m teu being moved.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will continue to be the big gateway markets, he reckons, as other markets are too small to add hub or network capacity.

“There’s a lot going on,” he concedes, admitting, “Some investments in some areas could be questioned but in the UAE and Saudi there is a need for more capacity.”

Offering top service is a key differentiator in the busy box scene in the Middle East. To this end, news yesterday from Khalifa showed truck turnaround time has dropped to 12 minutes, which the terminal claims is a record for the region.

Before taking on the role with Khalifa van de Linde was at Salalah, another fast growing Middle East boxport. Prior to that he was with APM Terminals in The Hague and also the Port of Tanjung Pelepas. [11/11/14]

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