Around-the-clock customs services and new cranes and other industrial vehicles costing Dh20 million (US$5.4m) are being added at Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed Port to relieve the strain of surging demand. The port is at overcapacity, leading to delays of up to several weeks for customers to receive cargo. Container vessels have had to wait for as long as two weeks before being allowed to berth. Importers are also abusing a two-week grace period for free yard storage, leading to a glut of 34,000 containers awaiting pickup that has further strained facilities, according to officials.
Short-term measures are being implemented to alleviate the bottleneck until the port begins a phased shutdown in 2011, with activities moving to the Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone under construction in Taweelah near the Dubai border. Customs officials say they are tackling the problem at Mina Zayed. The agency already has stepped up efforts to clear cargo and increased its hours of operation from 12 to 17 a day. Next week, customs will become a 24-hour operation, said Saeed Ahmad al Muhairi, the general manager of the General Administration of Customs under the Department of Finance.
"We are doing this because there is a lot of movement [of vessels travelling] from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and it is getting really busy. We have to be open 24 hours," he said. Millions of dirhams worth of equipment will also be added at the terminals, which are managed by DP World. During next year, Mina Zayed will receive 11 rubber-tyre gantry cranes, which move containers between stacks and will enable the port to maximise its yard space.
Other container-moving equipment such as top-loaders and terminal tractors were also to be added at the port next year, said Mohammed al Mannaei, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Terminals. "We are also trying to force the customer to clear their cargo to give us additional space." These improvements will increase Mina Zayed's container handling capacity by 43 per cent, to one million containers per year.
Although a relatively small port for the region, its congestion problems are shared with many of its neighbours. Like many Gulf economies, Abu Dhabi's growing population heavily relies on imported consumer goods, while demand also has surged for heavy construction equipment to operate on major residential projects such as those on Yas and Saadiyat islands. Yesterday, DP World said it had overcome congestion at Jebel Ali port that began this summer. It accomplished this by adding yard capacity, helping shippers to better manage berthing times, and raising storage fees to force traders to move containers out.
"We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding," said Mohammed al Muallem, a senior vice president and managing director at DP World. firstname.lastname@example.org