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28 November 2023

Jebel Ali port volumes better global average

Jebel Ali port handles about 11 million TEUs a year. (EB FILE)

By Sunil Kumar Singh

The Jebel Ali port in Dubai has done pretty well despite the slowdown and its throughput has underperformed the global decline in port volumes, according to a maritime analyst.

"Overall, Jebel Ali port has done much better than the global port throughput. Globally, ports have lost on average about 20 to 25 per cent of their throughput, but the port in Dubai lost much lesser last year," Professor Asaf Ashar, Director, National Ports and Waterways Institute, University of New Orleans, told Emirates Business.

He said the port, one of the largest and modern ports in the world, is handling about 11 million TEUs a year, which is a very good number in today's economic environment.

Comparing Jebel Ali port with the one at New York, he said Dubai is a major trans-shipment hub with about 50 per cent of the traffic in Dubai port is transshipped. This means the cargo or containers do not remain in Dubai but go to other markets in the Gulf, he said during his recent visit to Abu Dhabi for an event.

However, he said more and more big ports are coming up in the region triggering increasing competition among regional ports to attract container and shipping traffic.

"This increased competition may lead to a decline in throughput, as Dubai might lose some of its transshipment traffic to direct calls at other ports in the region, unless the port keeps on upgrading its facilities," he said.

Although the Jebel Ali port is well equipped to handle the competition, like the port in New York, it needs to keep on constantly enhancing its technologies and port management strategies to maintain pole position, he said.

"There is a need to add better and more modern technologies to facilitate modern transshipment facilities and to handle larger ships at port in Dubai that would enable it to maintain qualitative advantage over competing ports," he said.

He said many places in the Gulf and the Middle East are building mega terminals. This means, a big vessel coming from Asia (the region's main trading partner) might start calling directly at these ports instead of coming to Dubai.

In this case, there will be lesser need for transshipment from Dubai, which may be substituted by direct calls to other big ports in the region.

Asked on how he assesses Dubai's capability to meet the competition, he said: "Dubai has good chances of maintaining and enhancing its superior advantage. It is adopting new technologies, and applying new management practices, building up new terminals, and facilitating faster turnaround of ships. But it has to constantly upgrade its modernisation programme and enhance capacity."

"A transshipment port is in many ways different from a gateway port, and will always have more potential for volatility in its business model. Gateway ports by their nature have a captive market," said Iain Rawlinson, Chief Commercial Officer, APM Terminals Bahrain, that manages and operates Bahrain's Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP), a transshipment port.


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