For half a century Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed port has fulfilled the Founding Father’s vision of his nation as a strategic location on the global shipping map.
And 50 years following Sheikh Zayed’s initial aspiration to establish agile infrastructure and vital trade routes to secure supply chains for the UAE and the wider world, those 21 berths form part of Abu Dhabi Ports Cluster, which also includes flagship facility Khalifa Port.
In turn a crucial cog of AD Ports Group, the Cluster now manages and operates more than 10 ports and terminals in the country.
Mina Port is also home to Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, increasing tourism for the emirate.
Meanwhile, almost 10 years since its inauguration, Khalifa Port is one of the world’s fastest-growing ports, located on one of the largest and most important global trade routes.
It offers 25 major shipping lines, direct links to 70-plus international destinations and is a recognised gateway to international markets via multi-modal connectivity.
Saif Al Mazrouie, chief executive officer, Ports Cluster, says: “Our contribution as ports to supply chain resiliency played a pivotal role in assuring the citizens of the UAE of the continued flow of medical supplies and vaccines throughout the Covid-19 crises.
“As a global trade enabler, we are proud to weather the logistical challenges by maintaining international shipping and logistics lines operational to ensure the flow of essential goods and medical supplies to the UAE and the world at large.”
Significant milestones for Khalifa Port include the 2019 welcoming of its first 20,000 twenty feet equivalent unit (TEU) container vessel, while two years later it was ranked 56 on Lloyd’s List’s One Hundred Container Ports; one of few ports to achieve double-digit volume growth.
This year Khalifa Port has been ranked in the top five of the global Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), developed by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence.
In 2021, meanwhile, the Ports Cluster processed 45 million metric tons of general and bulk cargo and 3.4m TEU - and surpassed 37,000 vessel calls per year; that’s one vessel every four minutes, at a time when the world was dealing with the strains of a global pandemic.
Adding to last years strong news, Abu Dhabi Terminals announced partnership with Microsoft to realise enhanced container tracking and autonomous shuttle capabilities across its terminal at Khalifa Port, while CSP Abu Dhabi became the first Middle East terminal to trial and adopt an autonomous port truck system.
With the Ports Cluster focused on achieving sustainable growth, forging partnerships with local and international market leaders is one way to meet growing and diverse customer needs while solidifying Abu Dhabi as a global trade and logistics hub.
Global partnerships with some of the world’s leading titans of industry, along with its world-class integrated trade and logistics solutions, have enabled the organisation to cultivate unique opportunities for sustainable growth in the emirate; those market leaders include Adnoc, Cosco Shipping Ports of Hong Kong, France's CMA CGM Group, Europe's MSC Shipping, and Autoterminal Barcelona.
AD Ports Group, meanwhile, became increasingly prominent on the world logistics stage when it joined 19 world-leading port authorities in signing a unique virtual declaration to collaborate and keep trade flows open during the Covid-19 crisis.
In practical terms, that sees member ports working together by allowing merchant ships to berth and execute cargo operations to maintain the global supply chain, thereby fulfilling President Sheikh Mohamed’s message of re-assurance and security to citizens and residents at the height of the pandemic.
With plans for infrastructure expansion, investment in Logistics 4.0 technologies, and new market connectivity already well advanced, the Ports Cluster is increasingly ideally positioned to bring Abu Dhabi to the forefront of global business.
Embracing latest innovations and technology extends across other aspects of the business operation, including automation in transportation.
“As a regional leader driving the application of digital technologies within the maritime and logistics industries, we established the region’s first semi-automated container terminal at Khalifa Port in 2012 by introducing automated ship-to-shore cranes and remote-controlled gantry cranes,” says Mr Al Mazrouie.
“Adding to our contribution towards the autonomous vessel market, we have launched the first autonomous port truck system in the Middle East at CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal in Khalifa Port.
“Cutting-edge technology, including 42 automated stacking cranes, aerial drones, a 360 sensory system and an automated Terminal Operation System, makes Khalifa Port one of the world’s most technologically advanced ports.”
Abu Dhabi Ports Cluster intends to remain aligned to the UAE leadership’s vision in supporting the economic and social development of the UAE and adhering to the UAE 2021 Vision and Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 by being “at the heart of the future” to fully connect cities and industry through a safe and sustainable railway network, in addition to developing transport solutions to link the UAE.
This will see an emerging Etihad Rail facility at Khalifa Port enhance the efficiency of its infrastructure as well as enable increased capacity in a more economical and reliable way; one train will be able to carry the load of 300 trucks.
The agreement reaffirms AD Ports Group’s strategy to develop the emirate’s maritime trade and promote economic diversification.
The link will significantly enhance port capacity and strengthen the UAE’s position as a leading global logistics and commercial hub; it is estimated Khalifa Port’s total handling capacity will increase to 11m TEU over the next three years.
It is, perhaps, no wonder this dedication and hard work - from loading bays to the leadership - has brought awards recognition.
Mr Al Mazrouie recently secured gold in the Stevie International Business Awards as Executive of the Year, in the transportation category, while the Ports Cluster grabbed gold in the same awards (Achievement in Growth category) for consistent expansion to scale capacity. Overall, AD Ports Group won 17 awards in the Stevie’s 2022 iteration.
Another of Sheikh Zayed’s passions was the natural environment, something Abu Dhabi Ports Cluster also takes “very seriously”.
“We continuously develop innovative environmental solutions that work with our ecosystems to help preserve the natural beauty of our extensive coastlines,” says Mr Al Mazrouie.
“Through close coordination with local agencies such as Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, we have relocated hundreds of corals from the northern revetment to the eastern breakwater of Khalifa Port, and placed it adjacent to Ras Ghanada reef, one of the most diverse and vibrant coral reef communities in the Arabian Gulf.
“The relocation of more than 500 corals has been a success and will contribute towards protecting and cultivating our diverse marine life for generations to come.”