Mena-EU sea trade shows strong potential for 8% y-o-y growth next decade

Shipping container volumes between Europe and the Middle East have the potential to increase by up to 8 per cent per year over the next decade if consumer demand for EU goods continues to grow in the Mena Region, Badr Jafar, Chief Executive Officer of Crescent Enterprises and Managing Director of the Crescent Group, stated today during the opening panel session of the Mena-EU Business Salon in Sharjah, an event held to identify new opportunities to strengthen commercial ties and catalyse mutually-beneficial cooperative projects between the two regions.

The forum welcomed H.E. Abdul Rahim Hassan Naqi, Secretary General of the Federation of GCC Chambers, Abdullah Al Saleh, Under Secretary for UAE Ministry of Economy and Marek Kloczko, Board Member of EUROCHAMBERS.

Crescent Enterprises’ subsidiary Gulftainer, the largest privately-owned container terminal operator in the world in terms of operated volumes, has continued to achieve significant growth both in its expansion and operational output, within the last few years alone. In 2013, Gulftainer has seen container traffic between Europe and its six terminals in the Middle East increase by 5 per cent. With this impressive growth, the company is confident that over the next decade, the number of TEU (twenty-foot equivalent) containers moving between the two regions could increase by 8 per cent year-on-year, driven by the continued improvements in export markets for EU goods in Africa and Asia.

“The EU and Mena Regions are already major trading partners, and as one area recovers from an economic downturn and the other emerges as a new economic powerhouse, it creates numerous opportunities for both new and existing sea trade between the two regions,” said Badr Jafar, who is also Gulftainer’s Vice Chairman.

“The UAE, specifically, has considerable geographic and logistical advantages in capturing this trade. We sit at the heart of one of the fastest growing trade routes between Africa and Asia, both of which offer significant market opportunities for EU goods, and through our ports and logistics operations has proven to be a very viable hub for trade operations on a global scale as well.”

Jafar said: “The EU is the GCC’s single most important trading partner, accounting for almost 15 per cent of total trade or a value of €130 billion annually. Equally, the GCC is an important element of the EU’s trade as its fifth largest market globally. This relationship and growth in these figures are likely to increase as we witness the continued diversification of GCC economies and improvements in key African markets for goods which, by necessity, will have to transit through the region, primarily by sea.”

In closing, Jafar expounded beyond the current state of trade operations and discussed the importance of how the private sectors within the two regions can learn from one another in other areas as well such as access to capital, productivity, and corporate governance; and through understanding the similarities and differences of each, can foster the necessary, future development of private sector Mena-EU business relationships.

The Mena-EU Business Salon, hosted by the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and held in partnership with the GCC Federation of Chambers, Arab Chamber Federation and the EU Chambers Federation, is a two-day programme bringing together leaders and senior executives from the EU and Mena Regions to form an understanding of the current economic challenges and opportunities, as well as to discuss prospective ways in propelling mutually-beneficial cooperation projects between the two regions.

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