Mohammed Sharaf, chief executive officer of DP World, reveals the passion and power behind the world’s third largest ports operator.
When did DP World begin its operations in the UAE and what equipment did it initially own?
Formally established in September 2005, DP World emerged from the corporate integration of Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Ports International (DPI) to become the third largest port operator in the world. The company began in the UAE in 1972 when Mina (Port) Rashid was completed. By 1978, the number of berths had increased to 35, including five berths large and deep enough to handle the (then) largest container vessels. In 1976, the late ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Rashid bin Said Al Maktoum gave instructions for an even more ambitious project: the construction of the world’s largest man-made harbour at Jebel Ali, to be completed in 1979. Then the port boasted five quay cranes. Today, the current two terminals are equipped with 79 giant gantry quay cranes, and more than 200 rubber tyred gantries (RTGs) and rail mounted gantries (RMGs). When complete, the new Terminal 3 will be capable of receiving the next generation mega container ships that can carry as much as 18,000 TEU, and support the continued growth of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
DP World recently decided to open its Senegal operations. Why is the company interested in the African nation?
We believe Africa has enormous potential. Around three quarters of our business is from the developing world and a similar proportion is cargo destined for, or originating from, the markets we serve – so as they grow, we grow. This is very much the case with our terminal in Senegal in which we have invested significantly since we took over operations at the end of 2007. Late last year we officially opened the expansion and upgrading of Terminal à Conteneur, which is now West Africa’s largest and most modern container terminal. The development more than doubled the terminal’s capacity from 300,000 TEU to over 600,000 TEU. DP World Dakar provides access to landlocked Saharan African countries and being a crossroads for major sea and air routes, Senegal is well positioned to be the entry point to West Africa.
How is the London Gateway development in the UK progressing?
London Gateway is progressing extremely well. Our commitment there underlines that we are not just solely focused on investing in emerging markets. London Gateway will open for business in the fourth quarter of 2013 with an initial capacity of 1.6 million TEU. The project has already created more than 600 jobs since January 2010 when major construction work started at the site. Additionally, it will create an extra 1000 new jobs for the UK. 700 new construction jobs and 300 new port jobs will be created in the coming months. Estimates predict that as many as 36,000 jobs will be created in the long term from the project, providing some £3.2 billion to the UK economy each year. This makes the London Gateway the biggest job creation project in the UK.
DP World has recently had to deal with worker unrest in its Australian operations. Why do you think this is so?
Negotiations for what is a routine three year Enterprise Agreement (EA) cycle are well underway with the Maritime Union of Australia following a number of in-principle agreements reached early in January that opened the way for settlement. We look forward to completing the EA on a mutually acceptable basis shortly.
DP World continually keeps breaking records with handling container ships. Is this trend likely to continue and how big do you think container vessels will get?
Productivity is extremely important to our customers and therefore to us. A ship at anchor is costing the shipping line money and so we invest in equipment, training and technology to move their cargo as quickly as we can. And that investment will continue. The shipping lines are purchasing bigger and bigger vessels and we as an industry need to meet those changing demands by working more efficiently and providing the capacity where it is needed. As to how large container vessels will get there are reportedly vessels planned with capacity for 22,000 – 24,000 TEU. Giants of the sea indeed!
What is DP World’s interest in the Canadian Port of Nanaimo?
DP World Vancouver is partnering with the Port of Nanaimo to operate the general cargo terminals. Vancouver Island is one of the world’s highest population, non-road connected islands without any lo-lo (lift-on, lift-off) container terminal facilities, instead relying on inefficient ro-ro (roll on, roll off) services. The short sea container shipping project will ensure greater connectivity for trade to and from Vancouver Island while maximising environmental benefits.