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REPORT: Seaports could become ‘obsolete’ - Sulayem

Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World has warned that new technologies in logistics could make seaports obsolete in the future.
 Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World.
Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World.

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The use of drones and high speed transport systems such as the Hyperloop to move and deliver cargo could radically impact large ports like Jebel Ali, Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World warned recently at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Sulayem, who is also chairman of Dubai’s Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, said these advances would make it possible for cargo to go straight to customers, as cargo handlers increasingly adopt smart technological solutions to facilitate trade across the globe.

Sulayem said he foresees a day when seaports either move inland, or become obsolete, as a result of disruptive technology reshaping the cargo industry.

Sulayem added that to meet this threat and counter growing competition, DP World will continue to invest in the latest technology to fully automate its work. Automation, he said, was essential for the movement of cargo quickly and efficiently as global trade expands.

“It used to be said that if you hired two hands you got the brain for free. Today, we live in the age of the brain and we are using people’s brains to transform our business into a smart business,” bin Suleyam said. “Instead of being dockside, our staff is more likely to be found in offices, driving the growth of the business.”

In 2016, Jebel Ali Free Zone and its container port accounted for 20 per cent of Dubai’s GDP. By 2025, this will grow to 50 per cent of Dubai’s GDP. ”Such rapid growth creates challenges but where there are challenges there are opportunities,” bin Sulayem noted.

“A crane operator can only work for three hours at a time due to the physical demands of the job. So we decided to automate the work,” said bin Sulayem. “Then we found that many young female UAE nationals wanted to be crane operators. But, when they started work they asked why they had to be in Jebel Ali. So, we decided to build a crane operating centre in Port Rashid that will handle all crane operations at Port Rashid and Jebel Ali.”

DP World, which has operations in 31 countries and more than 60 container terminals, enables trade in 50 per cent of the global economy, bin Sulayem told the summit. Among its operations are the London Gateway, Europe’s largest logistics park in the United Kingdom, and the highly automated Rotterdam World Gateway in Holland. DP World has also invested in 51 start ups as part of its Terminal Infinity innovation strategy, after looking at over 8,000 potential investments in the past two years.

The World Government Summit has convened over 3,000 personalities from 125 countries. The summit aims to explore more than 70 topics through keynote speakers and major interactive sessions, drawing the participation of world leaders, ministers, decision makers, CEOs, innovators, officials, experts, entrepreneurs, academics, and university students. A number of initiatives, reports and studies are set to be launched during the summit and throughout the year. WGS 2016 concludes today (February 10) at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

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