When Mina Zayed started operating in 1972, six months before the union of the emirates, oil prices were soaring, while the UAE was only at the beginning of its subsequent boom. The port played a major role in the transformation of Abu Dhabi's economy, and opened up new horizons for business, creating links to the global economy. The country's economic expansion has continued ever since.
Over the past 40-plus years, the UAE has worked to diversify the economy to make the capital and the country a global player, building upon rich natural resources. Mina Zayed has been one of the strategic hubs for this transformation, connecting the Arabian Gulf with the Indian subcontinent and beyond.
Today, Abu Dhabi's first port is at capacity and no longer able to keep up with the rapid pace of growth. The official opening yesterday of the new Khalifa Port, located between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will further contribute to the development of the nation.
Khalifa Port will immediately be handling 2.5 million containers a year, and 12 million tonnes of general cargo. By 2030, this capacity is expected to grow to 15 million containers and 35 million tonnes.
The long-term plan is to move heavy cargo traffic away from the capital city to the newly established Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, or Kizad. At a development conference yesterday, Mohammed Al Tunaiji, assistant undersecretary for economic policy at the Ministry of Economy, said: "GCC countries are looking eastward more than they are looking westward these days." An eastward orientation is, of course, consonant with the global economic shift towards Asia and its emerging economic powerhouses.
Infrastructure such as Kizad will facilitate this transition, and create employment opportunities.Long-term planning for economic growth includes many other national projects such as the nuclear programme, the Fujairah pipeline and offshore terminal, Etihad Rail and the expansion of Abu Dhabi airport.
The long-term goal is to integrate Abu Dhabi's growth with the overall development of the emirates, and in particular Dubai, which has its own world-class airports and cargo port at Jebel Ali.
Thanks in part to that infrastructure, the UAE has shown a remarkable recovery from the 2008-9 economic crisis, but it will take years before these major infrastructure projects reach their full potential. Khalifa Port and Kizad, and other similar projects, are a down payment on the UAE's future.