x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Delays at Jebel Ali Port slowing trade

A bottleneck at the country's largest port is having a ripple effect throughout the economy.

Heavy delays at Jebel Ali Port, the UAE's largest container terminal, are having a ripple effect throughout the country's logistics network, leading to increased delays. Logistics firms first warned customers in early August of "serious berthing delays" of up to 90 hours at Jebel Ali, the UAE's largest port, that are expected to continue through to the end of the month. The delays have affected ships carrying goods from Asia and Europe to offload in the Dubai port, which acts as a gateway for the country's road, air and sea transportation network. The impact of the congestion has resulted in a slowdown of goods reaching Sharjah and Abu Dhabi ports through smaller feeder vessels from Jebel Ali.

The volume of containers handled in Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed Port fell 17 per cent in July, to 23,438 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), with officials attributing it to a delay in feeder craft arriving from Jebel Ali. DP World, which manages Jebel Ali, acknowledged that its flagship asset has been "under some pressure recently", and said its operations would be back to normal shortly. "This is the result of a combination of factors, including congestion in ports in the region and beyond, which means most vessels are delayed arriving, and also that containers are left here longer, causing pressure on the terminal itself," said a company spokesman. "In addition, for various reasons, including bad weather, there was a delay in the delivery of new generation cranes to our new terminal, Terminal 2."

The delays have also seen goods arriving later in Sharjah Container Terminal, while some mainline vessels have opted to avoid the delays of Jebel Ali by offloading goods at Khor Fakkan, Sharjah's container terminal on the east coast. Danzas, an international logistics company, sent a notice to customers warning them of the constraints. "The terminal is operating at near full capacity resulting in delayed operations," the company said. Mainline vessels, the large ships that can carry up to 8,000 containers at a time, are having to wait between 24 to 30 hours to offload their goods at Jebel Ali. Smaller craft, called feeder vessels, are having to wait even longer, as much as 90 hours.

Road transport firms have been forced to scramble as a result of the delays. Dirk Van Doorn, Middle East business and product development manager for DHL Express, said many delivery vans commissioned to pick up goods at Jebel Ali were forced to return without its intended cargo. The delays are also thought to have impacted the sea-air cargo trade, in which goods from Asia are offloaded from ships in Jebel Ali to be flown to their final destinations in Europe. Faced with intense demand, DP World has outlined expansive plans to grow its capacity to up to 80 million TEUs. The company said additional cranes will begin arriving this week.

"At the same time, we have been expanding our workforce and training new staff," the company said. By February 2009, the company said its Terminal 2 will be able to handle 5 million TEUs annually, taking total capacity at Jebel Ali to around 14 million TEUs. @Email:igale@thenational.ae