Wilhelmsen Ships Service has seen an upswing in the movement of cargo at its logistics facility at Jebel Ali for the last few months, according to a top official.
"In the first half of last year, the turnaround time at our third party freight logistics facility at Jebel Ali had slowed down for the cargo that is shipped into the UAE. This means the cargo [that mainly included consumer electronics and tea] being stored in the warehouse longer than in the past, which is an indication that companies were buying or selling less than in the past," Knut Brathagen, Vice-President, Africa, Middle East & Black Sea, Wilhelmsen Ships Service, told Emirates Business
"However, for the last three or four months, we are seeing an upswing in the movements again, and the volume being distributed elsewhere has increased. This means companies or importers are claiming their shipment from the warehouse faster than earlier," said Brathagen.
He said increased turnaround time and number of handling movements is an indication that consumer confidence is increasing throughout the region and Africa.
However, he said: "Only 30 per cent of what we store in our warehouse in Jebel Ali has the UAE as final destination. The rest of the cargo is for delivery outside the UAE."
Wilhelmsen Ships Service is owned by Wilhelmsen Maritime Services, which in turn is owned by Wilh. Wilhelmsen group, a global shipping, logistics and maritime services firm listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
Along with improved turnaround, the import of these goods has also gone up, he said. "Though the increase in volumes are below what it was during the pre-slowdown days, we are optimistic that the upswing will continue in 2010 as we are seeing improved consumer confidence, which is a sign of recovery," he said.
Wilhelmsen Ships Services has four business streams namely, ship agency and bunkers, marine products, maritime logistics and technical services. Under its maritime logistics business stream, it provides third-party logistics services like warehouses. In the UAE, it has warehouses at Jebel Ali where goods like consumer electronics and tea are stored. It also has warehouses in Fujairah where it stores its own products like chemicals and spare parts for regional distribution.
"We handled around 2400 ships in Fujairah last year, providing them with marine husbandry, marine product, technical services and spare parts," he said.
Asked on the challenges and opportunities in the maritime logistics in the UAE and the region, he said: "We will continue to see challenges with regards to shipowners liquidity. Additionally, we are seeing stiff competition among operators for every tonne of cargo available in the market. As regards this region, we see growth year-on-year when it comes to increase in tonnage or number of vessels being owned or operated by local companies. We are seeing a growth in the number of tankers, dry cargo vessels, container vessels and chemical vessels in the region driven by increased investments in the oil and gas sector throughout the area."
He said the UAE is one of the biggest business centres. "Its geographical location makes it an attractive hub for shipping as well as aviation. The rise in oil prices would encourage all the GCC countries to maintain their investments in infrastructure, which is important to maintain the cargo flow. The UAE contributes to around 50 per cent of our maritime logistics sales revenue in the Middle East," he said.
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