RAK's Saqr Port bounces back
Exports increasing Gulf recovery drives demand for construction inputs Ivan Gale Industrial activity in Ras al Khaimah is returning to levels seen before the global downturn, as its exports rise on renewed demand across the Gulf. Cargo volumes at Ras al Khaimah's Saqr Port, the Middle East's largest bulk-handling facility, are up as much as 40 per cent this summer from last year, port officials have reported.
The port, a major handler of rock and cement exports as well as significant quantities of materials imports for the emirate's ceramics and glass factories, is near its capacity of 2.5 million tonnes a month, compared with lows of 1.7 million tonnes last year. Last year, volume at Saqr Port declined by 10.2 per cent, to 27.4 million tonnes, from 2008. "In 2009, there was a slight dip when the boom ended," said Capt Colin Crookshank, the general manager and harbour master at Saqr Port Authority. "We feel we've ridden that storm pretty well. We are seeing a definite increase in throughput."
The lack of oil and gas resources in northern sections of the UAE has driven Ras al Khaimah to cultivate other industries. It is home to major concerns such as RAK Ceramics, the world's largest manufacturer of ceramics and porcelain tiles, and Guardian RAK, which produces an estimated 700 tonnes of glass daily. These companies are major importers of production materials such as feldspar and gypsum, as well as energy feedstocks such as coal.
Ras al Khaimah's mountains have also been mined to provide construction materials throughout the Gulf, which is mostly flat, sandy terrain. Ras al Khaimah has exported aggregate, limestone, clinker and cement to famous projects in Dubai such as Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah, and while construction has slowed, demand for building materials has recovered in Kuwait and Qatar. In Abu Dhabi, one of the major projects being served by RAK materials is the development of three offshore islands for oil production.
Saqr Port attained a volume record in 2008, handling 30.5 million tonnes of bulk commodities. Exports, which account for most of its business, included 16.9 million tonnes of aggregate and 4.5 million tonnes of limestone in 2008. In the same year, clinker, a component of cement, accounted for the biggest share of imported material passing through the port. This year, renewed demand could push volumes back to 2008 levels, officials said. This could put pressure on the Ras al Khaimah Government to make a decision about a proposed Dh400 million (US$108.9m) port expansion that would include dredging the basin to accommodate deeper-draft vessels. That project is on hold, Capt Crookshank said.
"The feasibility studies have all been done now. It's really down to funds," he said. Ras al Khaimah's other ports accommodate a variety of uses, including the berthing of recreational boats, ship repairs and livestock importation. Some of the emirate's ports were formerly managed by other agencies, but the Government moved recently to consolidate control of nearly all of the ports under the Saqr Port Authority, which is overseeing hundreds of millions of dirhams of improvements.
The upgrades include an investment of almost Dh550m in the RAK Maritime City free zone, located adjacent to Saqr Port, as well as Dh50m for Al Jeer port near Oman's Musandam border. At its City Port, located within the city centre, the port authority instituted a ban on importing bulk materials. That move is an effort to improve air quality for residents. email@example.com
Published: October 1, 2010 04:00 AM