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All change, please...

With the first cargo jets to take off from the new DWC facility in Q3, the countdown to the opening is underway.
COMMENT, Business Trends

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The last month or so has seen significant changes at the mammoth Dubai World Central (DWC) development, with Dubai Logistics City and DWC Aviation City being combined to create a powerful free zone unit that will complement the activities of Al Maktoum International Airport.

With the first cargo jets primed to take off from the new facility in the third quarter of 2008, the countdown to the grand opening of the new airport is now certainly underway.

There was also change at the top of the tree, as hardened industry veteran Michael Proffitt gave way as Dubai Logistics City's CEO to Abdulla Al Qurashi, who is set to overlook the birth of the project.

According to DWC, Proffitt will stay on as a senior adviser to the entity, although the company has been reluctant to further clarify his fairly sudden departure.

It seems unclear what his new role will entail, although Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai City of Aviation Corporation - Dubai World Central, hinted during a statement that Proffitt would have a role in promoting the project internationally.

However, amid what might be seen as a certain degree of executive confusion, there is no doubt that excitement about the opening of Dubai Logistics City is certainly hotting up, and the new leadership seems determined to ensure the success of the mega-project.

Over 150 firms have either signed up for or reserved land in the entity and the plots they have been allocated range from 30,000m2 to 150,000m2.

So why are all these companies flocking to such an untried and untested facility? There are, of course, many reasons, but one of the major factors was outlined by Al Qurashi in a recent interview with Logistics Middle East's sister magazine, Air Cargo Middle East & India.

"Each continent has its own transportation needs and while Dubai caters to the growing Middle East, African and Asian markets, it merely acts as a trading gateway to a consumer population of around two billion, all within three to four hours flying time," he told our reporters.

Access to a market of this size, while not quite unprecedented, certainly presents significant opportunities for the host of regional and international companies in Dubai Logistics City, some of which have already broken ground on what are set to be some state-of-the-art facilities.

With industry giants of the ilk of DHL, Panalpina, Kuehne + Nagel and Aramex already settling into their new bases, the room is certainly available for future players to make their mark on the global supply chain industry.

In addition, seven companies have also signed up for plots at Dubai Aviation City, with their specialities ranging from maintenance repair and overhaul to fixed-base operations.

So despite the restructuring and the brief blip in its leadership, the new free zone has certainly seen tangible success in terms of subscribers.

Having said that, it does seem unclear as to the exact date that operations will be launched, and there are worries in some quarters that construction on some projects might be running behind schedule - perhaps understandable in a venture of this size.

But as the clock ticks down to the opening of Al Maktoum International and Dubai Logistics City, Logistics Middle East stands ready to provide you with all the details of one of the region's most exciting infrastructural developments.

If you have any comments to make on this month's issue, we would love to hear from you. Please send your views to robeel.haq@itp.com.

Robeel Haq is the group editor of ITP Business' transport magazines.

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