Ports in Sharjah will be able to handle a total of more than four million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) by the end of the year, following the ongoing expansion work, said a senior official at port operator, Gultainer Company.
Expansion work at the Khorfakkan Container Terminal is scheduled to be complete by the end of the first half of 2009 and will add one million TEUs to the existing four million TEUs.
The expansion work at the Sharjah Container Terminal of Port Khalid will increase the existing capacity by more than 20 per cent.
"Both projects are going ahead as scheduled and we expect their completion to effectively boost our capacity and efficiency at both ports," Keith Nuttal, Commercial Manager at Gulftainer Company told Emirates Business.
The project will increase Khorfakkan Container Terminal's existing 1,460 metres of quay by 440 metres. The new quay will be protected by an 800-metre breakwater.
For the SCT, an additional berth is being created at right angles to the current terminal, overall draft will be improved to 12.5 metres and additional storage area of 30,000 square metres will be constructed.
"We have had a few problems of congestion due to problems at neighbouring ports, but it is not a permanent problem. This expansion program will help absorb growing demand for capacity in the region," said Nuttal.
He said while the current global financial crisis had the potential to affect volumes, he was optimistic that throughput at both ports will remain healthy throughout the coming years due to availability of liquidity in the region.
While speaking at the Middle East Ports Development 2009 conference yesterday, Keith said the region this year could see an influx of vessels from other markets suffering from low trade volumes.
"There is still enough trade volume between this region and other emerging economies in Asia and Africa. Shipping lines are most likely to deploy some of their vessels in this region to offset low volumes in their home markets," said Keith.
"The UAE acts as a relay and hub for the wider Gulf/ East Africa/South Asia region, and will continue to be a dynamic major business hub despite challenges and downturns in other parts of the world. So, if trade witches to this region, there will be more competition, bigger ships, and bigger feeders, all of which will affect the region's ports."
Keith said current conditions had forced liners to use larger container ships of 10,000 TEUs and above so as to support consolidation among traders and also help cut down costs.
The total volume of containers handled by ports in Sharjah stood at 2.4 million TEU in 2008, indicating a 25 per cent increase in volumes.
According to Sharjah Sea ports and Customs department, growth in the container handling was mainly attributed to additional activity at the Khorfakkan Container Terminal which alone handled more than two million TEUs in 2008. The Sharjah Container Terminal also saw a steady increase in container handling during this period.
Rashid Al Leem, Director General of the Sharjah Seaports and Customs Department, has attributed this growth to the enormous development in infrastructure at both the ports, especially the expansion of the Khorfakkan Sea Port.