Ranging from a needle to over 100-tonne machinery - Dubai’s Jebel Ali port has been handling goods worth trillions of dirhams every year.

The seaport functions 24x7, under fair or inclement weather conditions, on normal days or through Covid-driven lockdown. The port is operational throughout the year to ensure a smooth supply of goods ranging from heavy industrial machinery to basic food items and medicines to the UAE residents and people worldwide.

Established in 1979 on the directives of late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Jebel Ali Port is now the largest in the region and 12th globally and home to over 8,700 companies. DP World, the Dubai-based global port, currently operates four terminals at Jebel Ali Port, which contributes 33 per cent to Dubai’s economy.

In 2020, Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade reached Dh1.18 trillion, with most of it being transported in and out of Jebel Ali Port. And emirate is expected to witness even bigger trade volume and value this year, driven by post-pandemic recovery.

“During Covid-19, most places were closed and only a few facilities remained open such as hospitals, police and Jebel Ali port in Dubai. We were working more during the pandemic. We were working from home but committees were established that worked 24 hours to ensure the supply of food and medicines. Ports such as Jebel Ali play a critical role in this situation,” says Esam Al Khoory, executive director at DP World, the port operator of Jebel Ali.

Connected to 180 ports globally, shipping lines also selected Jebel Ali port as a buffer and for distribution during the pandemic.

“The vision behind Jebel Ali Port is to serve as a hub. There is strong competition from our regional peers, but we managed to attract the world’s big shipping line due to our customer-centric and innovative services. Most of the neighbours, too, adopted Dubai and DP World model and this prompted us to think of even more innovative ways to compete better,” he said.

“We don’t look at our competitors, we focus on what we do. They are replicating DP World model. We focus on what we do best and try to create and offer the best solutions,” he said.

Al Khoory stated that Dubai’s policy of “build and they will come,” is not just based on building it but on providing something special to customers.

Highlighting the commitment of Dubai Inc., he pointed out that Terminal 4 of Jebel Ali Port was launched during the pandemic and on the second day of Eid. “This is how committed we are. Whether it’s Eid or the pandemic, we made the fourth terminal operational.”

He further revealed that Etihad Rail will also connect to Jebel Ali Port from April next year, which is likely to be a game-changer for the regional trade.

Abdulla Ayoub Al Banna, senior manager for operations at Terminal 4, said the port recently received a 119-ton yacht and 129-ton machinery at the port which were the heaviest goods handled at the airport.

Thanks to its advanced technology solutions, the port’s terminals are operated remotely.

DP World has successfully completed the pilot project of the new smart, highly intelligent and fully automated bay storage system which will fully automate the handling of the cargo operations at the port.

The trial run of the new system – called BoxBay, was run at Jebel Ali Terminal 4. It was a new international joint venture by DP World and industrial engineering specialists, SMS Group, to change the way that containers are handled in ports with smart innovation.

Patrick Bol, head of port expansion and special projects at DP World, said the results are better than expected. Since the new system will be automated, it will be more economical, with zero emission and a solar power plant on the roof and will be commercialized in the coming years.

The new smart and innovative solution allows each container to be stored in an individual rack compartment and have direct access at any time. It also eliminates all unproductive moves. This also reduces the truck turnaround time to well under 30 minutes.

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