To assist in this process, the UAE is strengthening its position as a regional logistics hub providing a buffer for neighbouring countries seeking to secure their supply lines in the future, he said.
Larsen was speaking to Seatrade Maritime News with his colleague, Capt Ammar Al Shaiba, Managing Director of Zayed Port and Acting CEO of Ports Operating Company, in a wide-ranging interview conducted by Seatrade Chairman, Chris Hayman. Topics covered during the discussion included the commercial impact of Covid-19 on AD Ports Group business strategy, how the port had set up exemplary systems relating to personnel welfare, seafarer support and transfers, and the recruitment and training of next generation seafarers and port operations personnel at the highly acclaimed Abu Dhabi Maritime Academy.
Larsen revealed the remarkable adaptability of shippers in the region, who had adopted alternative inflows of essential products, including food, pharmaceuticals, and PPE, by different means, including air freight. He mentioned the port’s new regional feeder service, which had provided another valuable option for shippers.
However, he said that some of shippers’ more radical strategies to secure supply lines, such as chartering entire ships, would likely prove to be short-term. A chartered ship, he pointed out, would have no existing concessions at ports and would therefore be susceptible to maximum handling delays.
He revealed that the UAE intends to provide a regional hub for cargoes, including the components required for developing industries across the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia. The country has three airports, all close to ports, he said, and a well-established storage and warehousing capability. In 2023, the Etihad Rail project will start to provide intermodal connections for shippers and cargo receivers across the GCC region, opening up an entirely new range of transport options.
Despite the Covid-related challenges, Larsen said that the UAE’s shipping partnerships and local infrastructure had ensured that there were no major bottlenecks or long queues of vessels outside ports. Nevertheless, he noted that the region’s supply chain had been disrupted and could take up to another year to return to normal.
On the welfare of seafarers and shore-based personnel, Capt Ammar outlined some of the initiatives which had helped to ensure robust performance in this challenging area. The port authority wasted no time in adopting a prioritised strategy of ensuring the welfare of shore-based employees, port workers, and most importantly, visiting seafarers.
The introduction of digital systems, Capt Ammar revealed, had been central to the company’s policy on personnel welfare. Up to 10,000 seafarers could be tested and vaccinated across the port’s he said, and unlike many other ports around the world, seafarers and their papers could be processed, transferred, and relocated as necessary. The country’s airports were also open for seafarer transfers provided appropriate tests had been carried out.
Capt Ammar responded to a question from Hayman about how the next generation of young people might now view a career in shipping and logistics. The ex-seafarer proclaimed that the pandemic had brought global supply chains and the importance of effective shipping and logistics right into the spotlight. Young people in the region were excited and enthusiastic about being involved in the sector, he said, and were keen to enroll on courses at the Abu Dhabi Maritime Academy, a leading training institute in the region.
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