There are noteworthy developments across the global ports sector right now. CEO Insight profiles three ports which are leading the way on how to do it right, in the process acting as drivers of economic development for the regions they serve.
Dublin Port is fast becoming known as Europe's western gateway, capitalising upon, while at the same time helping to bolster further, Ireland’s status as a premium global destination for FDI. Moreover, it is looking to leverage its credentials to take advantage of uncertainty surrounding the UK post-Brexit, positioning itself as a viable alternative to UK ports.
Meanwhile, SOHAR Port and Freezone in Oman in the Middle East, the happy result of a union between the Sultanate of Oman and the Port of Rotterdam, has experienced explosive growth in a short space of time to help it become one of the true gateways to the Gulf region.
Finally, Antigua Port’s development narrative is nothing short of inspirational, whereby ongoing comprehensive upgrade work is helping to cement its status as the gateway to the Eastern Caribbean and beyond.
Various flagship developments at both Dublin Port and in the city itself have helped to make it a port of global rather than simply regional renown, such that those as far afield as the US, China and Hong Kong, as well as counties closer to home such as France and Germany, have really started to sit up and take notice of what it has to offer. This spells great news for the wider country, since it reflects many of the regions Ireland has significant trading relationships with.
"Dublin Port handles almost half of Ireland's trade, has a focus on the unitised cargo sector, and is enjoying a growing status as a cruise liner port."
Technology is king in commerce these days, and Ireland is tech central when it comes to playing host to tech companies of international renown such as Google, Facebook, Accenture and Airbnb. In fact, so much tech business is conducted in the city, and so many US tech companies call the city home, that the Port has earned itself the unofficial moniker of “silicon docks”.
Dublin Port handles almost half of Ireland's trade, has a focus on the unitised cargo sector, and is enjoying a growing status as a cruise liner port. In addition, it offers multi-modal services with connections to transhipment ports such as Rotterdam, and provides comprehensive liquid bulk, dry bulk, oil bunkering and break bulk facilities, as well as excellent strategic transport links to the wider Dublin and national region. In addition, a commitment to the World Ports Climate Initiative pays testament to the Port’s sustainable credentials, since the Initiative acknowledges the unique capacity of ports such as Dublin as key hubs in global supply chains, and asks that they commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions while continuing their role as transportation and economic centres.
While its main activity centres around the unitised cargo sector, where the lift-on, lift-off and roll-on, roll-off elements account for over 80% of trade, Dublin Port also runs ferry services to Wales, the Isle of Man and England. In addition, the port acts as a docking area for cruise liners, assisted by its “Cruise Ireland” initiative, such that, cumulatively, the port handles almost 2 million tourists a year.
The ambitions of this western gateway to Europe are perfectly embodied in the form of the Dublin Port Masterplan which details how best to develop in harmony with all stakeholders. These self-funded comprehensive expansion plans testify to a level of confidence worthy of a major international trade hub, and are being implemented under the watchful eye of the the state-owned Dublin Port Company, which is responsible for operating, managing, controlling and developing the Port.
SOHAR Port and Freezone, Oman
SOHAR’s premium strategic location and unrivalled backing from European port behemoth, Rotterdam, has helped it to attract over $25 billion of global investment.
Investors are drawn to and reassured by the prevailing expertise, economies of scale, infrastructure and connections, as well as further credentials in respect of innovation, accessibility, sustainability and the safety and supervision aspect. Moreover, it has already gained a reputation for itself as supremely efficient on the customs side of things, thanks to innovations like fast scanning. Equally, the worldly-wise SOHAR management team fully recognises the malignant threat posed by the modern scourge that is cybercrime, and is constantly watchful as a result.
In operational terms, SOHAR Port's three main clusters are petrochemicals, logistics and metals, while a new dedicated terminal for the handling of agricultural bulk will shortly come on stream too. As to the future for the Port and Freezone, the current growth strategy is likely to continue to be adhered to. This has seen a range of companies drawn by the abundance of land, skilled labour pool and low energy costs which prevail. It is no doubt the reason why a deal was recently struck to house one of the largest rare earth metal plants in the world, or why an arrangement has been made for final assembly of 200,000 of the world’s biggest auto brands. Meanwhile, further developments will see an expansion of Orpic's refinery.
St. John’s Port, Antigua
In St. Johns Harbour, Antigua, there is currently under way a transformational rebuilding and redevelopment of the Deep Water Harbour Port as part of Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s Government’s "Renewing the Inland from the Coastline" initiative, pointing to a recognition of the Port’s capacity to develop the country and catalyse its economic prospects, and to create a safer and more efficient operating environment.
The Port upgrade will further strengthen Antigua's claim to be the pan-regional commercial, and tourism hub, and ties in with the investment and growth strategy of the nation, enhancing existing strategic positioning, which will have significant positive knock-on effects in terms of attracting major developers and investors looking for the best opportunities and ROI in the region. Moreover, new innovations and technology have been embraced in the upgrade to improve efficiency, safety and the user experience.
As to the nature of the upgrade and sequence of construction, work will likely be done in three sections to ensure the Port can continue to operate without interruption to the existing services offered. CEO, Darwin Telemaque’s vision is to leverage the Port's potential so that it moves beyond simply handling cargo and acts to more directly contribute to social improvement and economic growth through the services it offers. Here, improved efficiency and engagement with the private sector will act to engender increased trust from the shipping lines, and so increase economies of scale that will benefit importers in Antigua, who can therefore become more profitable, transfer cost savings to end users, and ultimately positively impact the economic and social prospects for the country. Specifically, a duty-free logistics park could serve as the commercial maritime focal point for the whole region.
In terms of financial backing, Chinese investment and involvement in the project has been of paramount importance to ensure the rebuilt facility is fit for purpose for the next half century in the form of the $225m investment from the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, which equates to funding, manpower and technical expertise, perfectly encapsulates the increasingly strong links between the two countries, and should act to reassure future investors that this is quite possibly the most striking regeneration story in the whole Caribbean region.