Ross Thompson shares his insights on Abu Dhabi Ports’ current strategies and plans for the future
Below is an exclusive interview with Ross Thompson, Chief Commercial & Strategy Officer with Abu Dhabi Ports (ADP).
Given the recent mergers and alliances in the shipping industry, how is ADP strategising and planning for the future?
From our perspective, consolidation was needed in the shipping industry. It was also fairly obvious that it was going to happen.
Ports need to gear up, not just for a singular line but you need to gear up for its entire line alliance partnership.
So if you service, for example COSCO, its not just COSCO that you’ll be servicing because naturally on there ship come their alliance partners with them.
There’s also a tendency for the alliance partners to want to create a hub at one single point, so that’s what we are aiming for.
Can you describe some of the features of the terminal you’re working on with MSC?
Yes, sure, it’s an existing terminal that has 2.5 million TEU of capacity and we are expanding that capacity up to 5.3 million TEU over the next 2 years.
We first made the terminal semi-automated in 2010 and went live in 2012. Now, in this region semi-automation had never been tested. There were fears about the climate as temperatures here are so high and because of dust. Further, labour costs are also very competitive here. You can have manual terminals and still be very competitive. So it was not a proven technology, but we wanted to be a pioneer.
What we found on implementation was that the technology was not affected by the weather or by the dust. The efficiency that we got and the productivity levels that we were able to provide our customers have been pretty market-leading in the region.
Therefore, it makes sense now that we – at what level of technology that we can – implement further automation to enhance our terminals.
So, whilst presently it’s a semi-automated terminal, we’re looking at how much more automation we can put in. Particularly on the landside.
How exactly are you positioning yourself to take advantage of the seamless supply chain of the future?
I think that, that the first thing to say is if we look at our industry, the pace of disruptive technologies accelerating towards us is significant. It’s on the horizon and it’s not beyond the realm of thought that in the very near future you have completely automated supply chain.
There’s lot of complication around that but it can be done. Now, that means that we have to adapt our business and you have to be able to look to the disruptive technologies.
The one thing that has to keep up with the automation in terms of the physical movement is the data flow. The data flow is very, very important.
Abu Dhabi Ports positions itself as a pioneer or early adopter of technology that will: 1) provide a better process for our customers; 2) fit in with the 2030 Abu Dhabi Vision set by our leadership; and 3) really drive where we need to go in terms of culture and as a business.
Then there’s blockchain. We’re working in that direction and we’re announcing it through Maqta Gateway. That’s just one of the steps that we take in order to maintain our position. Blockchain as we see it will be a significant development for the industry. We believe it will bring sufficient benefits.
You’re developing a container freight station with COSCO. What’s the anticipated timeline for that?
11 months. It’ll be pretty much operational in 2019. It’s a similar time frame as the container terminal port in Khalifa.
What COSCO did and what we see as well, is that the value and the value proposition here in Abu Dhabi is not just the ability to take and develop new container terminal facilities, but there is a huge amount of opportunity to develop the logistics sector and the value-added services behind the ports.
Now, Abu Dhabi Ports owns 410 square kilometres of industrial land. It’s the largest industrial zone in the region, and it will be one of the largest industrial zones in the world.
Khalifa Industrial Zone (KIZAD) plays a major role in Abu Dhabi Ports and UAE’s long-term sustainable development strategy.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the upcoming partnerships to promote the zone, because we’ve seen some investment from China?
Yes, the Chinese investment took a lot of the headlines because of the size and scale of it, and because it’s the first industrial zone that’s also recognised by China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.
Last year we signed an agreement for 2.2 square kilometres to be developed by the Jiangsu province, the company they formed was called JOCIC, and they are developing 2.2 square kilometres as we speak.
They have 15 companies lined up from China that will locate within that 2.2 square kilometres.
The real end game though is that they have a second phase of development of 10 square kilometres and that will be a long term and a huge development where we have our Chinese cluster which will not only increase the trade flows between the two countries, but also allow Chinese companies to export and import their goods from all over the world into here.
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