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$33 billion Middle East port expansion underway

$33 billion Middle East port expansion underway

Dubai: Massive economic growth is driving major seaport expansion in the Middle East worth in excess of $33 billion to handle record volumes of containers and bulk cargoes, say leading maritime industry observers.

"The emergence of strong and diversified maritime companies and operators is making the Middle East, and the Arabian Gulf in particular, one of the most dynamic and vibrant international maritime centres in the world," said Christopher Hayman, Managing Director of Seatrade, organisers of Seatrade Middle East Maritime 2008.

Seatrade Middle East Maritime - the region's premier maritime sector forum - runs from 14-16 December at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

According to the most up-to-date data on new seaport developments or expansions from research company Proleads, which monitors all major regional construction, there are currently around 50 such projects valued at more than $33 billion across the Middle East with individual budgets ranging from $10 million to $5.5 billion.

The region is home to one of the world's largest container ports in Dubai's Jebel Ali, which currently handles around 11 million twenty-foot equivalent container units a year. If growth continues at the same pace as today, Jebel Ali expects to increase capacity to 80 million twenty-foot equivalent units by 2030. The port is already expected to add a further five million units by early next year.

Countries throughout the region are also planning dramatic increases in their capacity to handle containers and cargo according to the Proleads data.  The biggest seaport being planned is Qatar's New Mesaieed Port ($5.5 billion), heading a top ten of new or expansion port projects.
The others are: King Abdullah Economic City Seaport, Saudi Arabia ($5 billion); Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone, Abu Dhabi ($2.5 billion); Sirte Port, Libya ($2 billion); Ras Laffan Port, Qatar ($1.2 billion); Duqm Port, Oman ($1.1 billion); Bubiyan Island, Kuwait ($1 billion); Ras Al Zour Port, Saudi Arabia ($700 million); Red Sea Gateway Terminal, Jeddah Islamic Port, Saudi Arabia ($450 million); and Port Sultan Qaboos, Oman ($400 million).

"Middle East optimism in the maritime industry is founded on increasing demand for oil and gas worldwide, the vital role the region plays as a strategic trading hub as the link between Europe and the Far East, and the continuing strength and vibrancy of regional economies," Hayman said.

Middle East port operators are not only expanding in the region. Dubai's DP World, the fourth largest port and terminal operator worldwide, is expanding operations across the Indian subcontinent, Far East, Europe, the Americas, Australia as well as the Middle East.

DP World, which is supporting and exhibiting at Seatrade Middle East Maritime, handled more than 43.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units across its portfolio of 42 terminals in 22 countries in 2007, an increase of 18% over the previous year. Growth in the UAE ports matched the 19% average set by the Middle East, Europe and Africa region.

The Seatrade Middle East Maritime exhibition and conference is held every two years and has evolved into one of the world's fastest-growing maritime events and now ranks among the industry's Top 10 largest. In 2006 the event was the biggest yet with record attendance of 6,000 trade participants from 63 countries - 45% from outside the region. In 2008, participation is expected to increase by 30%.

Among those attending this year's event will be ship owners and operators, ship managers, fleet operations managers, marine superintendents, purchasing officers, technical officers, naval architects, charterers, legal service providers, port authorities and operators, harbour masters and consultants.  [6/7/08]