Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) recorded a 19 per cent year-on-year increase in trade to Dh454.7 billion ($123.8bn) in 2021, as its proximity to Jebel Ali Port and Al Maktoum International Airport helped the free zone to facilitate the flow of goods during a challenging year.
The free zone, operated by DP World, registered an increase in trade despite ports worldwide facing congestion because of Covid-related lockdowns and other restrictions, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Jafza also recorded an increase of nearly 19 per cent in the number of new companies registered in 2021, bringing the total to more than 9,000.
More than 25 per cent of new companies were in retail and general trading, the highest representation in Jafza.
This was followed by companies in the electronics and electrical sector with a nearly 10 per cent increase, and the vehicle and transport sector which had a more than 9 per cent rise in numbers.
Sectors in the free zone that recorded "significant improvements in trade" include the electrical and machinery sector, followed by construction materials, consumer electronics, and auto parts and spares.
The trade growth is especially significant "considering the challenges that reshaped global supply chains", said Abdulla bin Damithan, chief executive and managing director of DP World UAE and Jafza.
"Even as the pandemic disrupted trade operations, we succeeded in maintaining business continuity for our clients and us because of our investments in technology and advanced infrastructure," he said.
"These enabled smooth operations and placed us ahead of our competition. Building on our success, we will continue investing in digital platforms alongside our partners to ensure seamless cargo flows.”
The UAE has been boosting its trade volumes as it rebounded strongly from the pandemic-induced slowdown on the back of government measures and higher oil prices.
The country's non-oil trade rose 17 per cent to about Dh1.053 trillion in the first half of the year, from the same period in 2021, according to government data.
This is the first time the country's non-oil trade exceeded Dh1tn, the data showed.
In June, Jafza also opened Yiwu Market, the first smart free zone market in the Middle East, which was set up in line with the UAE's aim to facilitate trade by easing supply chain shortages after the pandemic.
Catering to the retail and wholesale industries, it is part of the first phase of the Dubai Traders Market, a 550-hectare marketplace within Jafza.
Jafza also offers Dubai Trade, an integrated e-platform for traders and logistics companies, which allows them to access data from the global supply chain.
The digital service provides information related to various commodities from production sources and offers instant quotes to help cargo owners secure the best deals.
DP World, one of the world's largest port operators, posted a record profit in the first half of 2022, driven by growth in cargo.
Profit attributable to owners of the company, before separately disclosed items, increased 52 per cent in the first six months to June to $721 million from $475m in the first half of 2021.
The company handled 39.5 million TEU (twenty foot equivalent units) across its global portfolio of container terminals in the first half of this year, up more than 2 per cent annually, as global trade picked up.