Breakbulk trade is a “silent contributor” to DP World UAE's business and its volume is expected to increase by 10 per cent to 15 per cent this year across the company’s portfolio of terminals amid global disruptions to container trade.
The ports operator has experienced an increase in non-container trade volume, be it bulk or breakbulk, not only at its flagship Jebel Ali Port, but across its portfolio of terminals that includes Port Rashid and Mina Al Hamriya in Dubai, Abdulla bin Damithan, chief executive and managing director of DP World UAE and Jafza, told the Breakbulk conference on Tuesday.
Breakbulk cargo refers to goods that are packed but not stowed in containers onboard a ship while bulk cargo refers to products that are loosely packed.
Breakbulk cargo volumes grew at an average of 20 to 30 per cent across DP World UAE's terminals to reach a total of about 9 million metric tonnes last year, with companies bringing goods including frozen chicken and citrus from as far away as Brazil and South Africa.
“Even though this industry is a silent contributor to our business and has been growing steadily over the past few years, it does not receive due attention and credit,” Mr Damithan said.
The shift from container trade to breakbulk makes it “one of the promising sectors in the UAE”. However, the industry requires “more focus on digitalisation, automation and optimising of resources”, he said.
There is an urgent need to employ technology to further boost the sector’s growth, he added.
Many cargo owners struggled to find containers to move their goods to keep pace with demand and overcome labour disruptions as the Covid-19 pandemic closed borders and led to movement restrictions.
The acute supply-chain bottlenecks worsened during the holiday season in December when the surge in demand was met by severe delivery delays. The supply chain disruptions led to congestion at ports, a shortage in shipping containers and a sharp rise in the cost of shipping goods.
The disruptions will continue to linger for years until the backlog of cargo is cleared, Sultan bin Sulayem, group chairman of DP World, said earlier this month.