The UAE remains the sole bright spot among global logistics hubs, according to The Netherlands-based TNT Express. Revenues are still marginally positive for TNT's transshipment business out of the Emirates, said Bryan Moulds, the manager of TNT Express in the UAE. Revenue grew 2 per cent compared with the same period last year, making the Emirates the only country to record an increase for the global logistics and freight forwarder.
The increase suggests that even as the global economic crisis has spread across the region, leading to curtailed consumer spending, delayed infrastructure projects and a projected falling population in some parts of the GCC, the Middle East is still emerging as one of the better-off regions worldwide. "The region is reasonably buoyant," said Mr Moulds. "We're trying to be positive about the second half."
The company has a UAE-based fleet of 120 light vehicles, 30 motorcycles and 50 lorries, and also bases several Boeing 747 cargo aeroplanes out of Dubai International Airport. Other TNT Express redistribution hubs including Amsterdam, London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong saw declines in turnover, leading to a global fall in revenues of 13 per cent. Regional data for the cargo industry - including transport by air, road and sea - is mixed, and industry experts say the market is changing almost daily.
Port shipments into Abu Dhabi have been among the biggest gainers, with the number of containers handled at Mina Zayed up by 27 per cent between January and June, Abu Dhabi Terminals said. By contrast, the number of containers handled at Dubai's Jebel Ali port dropped 7 per cent over the same period. In the air cargo market, Middle East airlines posted the best results worldwide even as their volumes fell. Air freight declined by 4.2 per cent in June, against a 16.5 per cent fall worldwide, prolonging a 13-month fall in air cargo volumes.
Instead of stabilising demand, some shippers say they are still facing great swings in business demand. "We're taking things on a day-to-day basis," said Loveen M, the commercial manager of ADSO International Freight Forwarders, which runs a fleet of more than 140 lorries out of Dubai. TNT competes with FedEx, UPS and DHL in offering worldwide courier services, and uses Dubai as its freight forwarding headquarters for the Middle East and Africa, shipping, storing and then redistributing equipment for corporate clients including Volvo, Acer, HP, Rockwell Collins, Halliburton, and Marks and Spencer.
Underscoring its importance as a regional hub, TNT's revenues for UAE-based deliveries account for only 4 per cent of the turnover recorded out of the country office. Instead, its biggest outbound businesses are transport into Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. Incoming shipments, meanwhile, typically come from Germany, the UK, China and the US. Summer shipment volumes typically dip in the Gulf as economic activity slows and residents flock to cooler destinations. This year they grew, Mr Moulds said, and would be followed by the annual rush of shipments during Ramadan, the holy month that is often accompanied by a festival of shopping and late-night eating in the Gulf.
Following a short lull, TNT's regional executives expect deliveries to pick up again in late October, when retailers and the supply chain move products for the Christmas shopping season. email@example.com