Prince William watches Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port tackle illegal wildlife trade

Duke observes customs officers at work as a shipping container is inspected for contraband

Prince William visits Jebel Ali Port in Dubai

Prince William visits Jebel Ali Port in Dubai
Powered by automated translation

As it happened: Prince William's visit to the UAE

Prince William stepped out dockside at Jebel Ali Port just after midday on Thursday as part of his landmark tour of the Emirates.

About 10 per cent of the world’s global container traffic passes through the vast Dubai port and trying to establish which one harbours illegal goods can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

It is a sprawling complex of cranes, docks, and rows and rows of shipping containers as far as the eye can see.

The Duke of Cambridge visited to see how customs officers tackle the illegal trade in wildlife, which is among the world’s five most lucrative crimes and is often run by highly organised criminal gangs.

First, a container was taken off the stacks to be X-rayed. Officers demonstrated how the port’s artificial intelligence systems – known as “cargoes” – are used to identify suspicious shipments.

How long do you have to scan the container, Prince William asked. Just a few minutes was the answer.

Prince William visits UAE - in pictures

The container was taken for a further check, with papers examined before the hold was searched for contraband. The Duke of Cambridge watched on as eagle-eyed officers discovered trafficked tusks hidden in the container.

Their demonstration showed the scale of the task facing officers for a cause dear to Prince William’s heart.

United for Wildlife, which he established in 2014, has been working in the region to help stop the illegal wildlife trade. DP World, the operator of Jebel Ali Port, is an important United for Wildlife task force member and seeks to raise awareness about the issue.

“We are taking extensive measures to tackle the issue including collaboration with United for Wildlife and technology companies to … improve detection of illegal wildlife cargo,” said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman and chief executive of DP World.

“We are deeply honoured by Prince William’s visit and his unwavering support to this cause, and hope that organisations, governments, transport companies and influencers mobilise to raise awareness of the devastation such trade causes around the world.”

Efforts are increasing in the UAE and the region to counter the trade. Dubai International Airport has joined the United for Wildlife “transport taskforce” and the organisation has launched a Middle East and North Africa chapter.

Rules that have already been introduced are also making an impact. Conservationists said in December that a ban on unregulated private zoos and the illegal sale of wildlife was making an impact five years on from its introduction.

Updated: February 11, 2022, 4:42 AM