The port of Jebel Ali will continue to witness relatively strong growth in cargo throughput this year, despite a crunch in volumes at major ports across the globe, a top official at DP World said.
The Middle East's largest port saw an 11 per cent increase in throughput last year, but with its new facilities enabling to handle all new generation mega-size container vessels, volumes are expected to grow further this year.
The newly-built Terminal 2 at Jebel Ali port on Friday received the largest container vessel in the world, MSC Daniela, with a capacity of 14,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) on its way back from Europe to Asia.
The vessel, which was delivered last month to its owners, Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), is 366 meters long and has a gross tonnage of 135,000 dwt (deadweight tonnes.)
"Volumes at Jebel Ali port will continue to grow as long as the regional economy remains healthy. Most analysts and partners have told us that there will be trade growth in this region,"
Mohammed Al Muallem, DP World's Senior Vice-
President and Managing Director for UAE, told Emirates Business.
Al Muallem pointed out that for a new mega vessel to call at Jebel Ali port, unload and upload huge volumes, was an indication in its self that trade within the region is still healthy.
He said Terminal 2 of Jebel Ali port will be fully operational at the end of this month, adding a capacity of five million TEUs to the existing nine million TEUs and helping to ease previous problems related to congestion.
The new terminal can also handle future generation vessels beyond a capacity of 16,000 TEUs, according to Al Muallem.
"Being a major hub in the global shipping industry, we will continue to streamline services that will add value to our relationship with traders and partners. We are investing in new facilities to ensure fast handling of cargo at the port," said Al Muallem.
He noted that the current handling and storage tariffs were being studied in light with the needs of traders and changing economic situations, but did not confirm recent reports about imminent adjustments in tariffs.
Al Muallem said the process of shifting container operations from Rashid port to Jebel Ali port has been completed. He added that the port was being used as a depot for storage.
According to Roberto Manghina, Trade Manager at MSC, the strength of Middle East economy as well as consistency in business continue to contribute to the company's overall growth.
"For the past 13 years since we started our operations, the Middle East region has remained fundamental to our East-West trade because there is extra value in relation to people and consistency of the business," said Manghina.
MSC already has seven different owned feeder vessels of various sizes operating in the region, calling at ports such Jebel Ali, Dammam, Doha and Bander Abbas.
The company's new vessel, MSC Daniela, cost about $220 million (Dh808m) and is expected to allow owners economies of scale given its capacity to carry almost double the number of containers carried by other vessels at almost the same running.
Manghina said the vessel would also be mainly involved with carrying refers given its ability to accommodate 140-foot reefers at one time.
MSC will take delivery of another 10 vessels of the same size this year and expects its overall capacity to increase from the current 1.4 million TEUs to about 2.2 million TEUs by the end of 2010, following delivery of about 60 vessels of various sizes currently on order.
"Although the market situation is different from what we anticipated at the time of placing the orders, we will bring in any new tonnage but continue to restructure our services by putting more capacity where the market is vibrant," Manghani said.
He said unlike the current practice among some liners, MSC would not lay up any of its 400 vessels as a cost cutting measure.
He said as part of its service restructuring exercise, capacity has been taken from Europe into South Africa, adding 6,700 TEUs to the service. The company has also recently upgraded its services in Australia, South America and the US.
Manghina said the company was exploring the possibility of placing more orders in order to take advantage of the falling prices for newbuilds at major shipyards.