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02 December 2023

Cargo delivered through drones? Dubai will be ready for the future: Bin Sulayem

By Bindu Rai

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of DP World and Chairman of the Ports, Customs and Freezone Corporation, spoke on the third day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on 'The Future of Smart Trade'.

Bin Sulayem said: "People ask ‘why are Dubai Ports and Customs at a World Government Summit?’ We are interested in such a summit. DP World has partnerships with many governments. That is our interest. We enable trade."

He continued: "And the future of trade is smart trade. We move cargo faster and with more efficiency by using cutting-edge technology.

"To achieve this, government planning is very important; interaction with governments is crucial for business."

He shared the UAE as an example of effective government planning, saying: "The UAE has the 30 highest GDP in the world today at $400 billion annually.

"We got here with planning. The 70s were characterised by building large infrastructures here. Jebel Ali Ports started. We have seven ports since.

"The 80s were about enabling trade; 90s was the decade of tourism. More hotels means more cargo. For this, ports should be ready.

"In 1990, we had 35,000 tourists. Today we are close to 15 million.

"In year 2000, it was the decade of electronic government. When His Highness announced electronic government, many didn't know what he meant. Now, 2010 became the smart government.

"We are working 24-7. As an entity, we process 19m documents annually, across customs, freezones, airports. That's more than 1.5m documents every month, 50,000 every day. It would be impossible to process this without adapting cutting edge technology."

Bin Sulayem recalled that in 1985, when the government announced the free zone, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai had told him take as much desert they wanted south of Sheikh Zayed Road.

He continued: "No one believed cargo would go in containers; yet, we built a container port. Sheikh Mohammed said there will be an airport to support this. And he made it happen.

"Today, Jebel Ali Free Zone contributes 20 per cent of Dubai GDP. By 2025, it will contribute to 50 per cent of Dubai's annual GDP."

He continued: "We enable trade in 50 per cent of the world economy. We are in 31 countries. We do this by working with governments. We advise governments."

Why is growth in countries important, he asked?

Bin Sulayem replied: "Growth in the GDP of 1 per cent translates to 3 per cent in container traffic."

Looking at future of trade, Bin Sulayem listed five categories:

-Robotics and Automation

-Autonomous vehicles

-Internet of things big data

-Simulation and Virtual Reality

-Advanced Cybersecurity

"Innovation brings challenges," he said. "This age is the age of the brain.

"Today people talk drone cargo transport; maybe we won't need sea ports. Cargo will go to end-user without ports, some say.

"No matter what the future, we will be ready for it in Dubai and DP World."