|21 November, 2017

Expo 2020 Dubai set to act as economic catalyst

Officials discuss impact of the World Expo on emirate’s infrastructure and logistics

Dubai: Fifteen kilometres of new rail lines, road improvements around Dubai International Airport, a Dh3.5 billion project to improve road access around the Expo 2020 Dubai site, 625 new buses, 900 new taxis and 14 bus stations, all tying in to Dubai’s existing transport infrastructure... that’s just Dubai’s Road Transport Authority’s (RTA’s) direct contribution to the World Expo.

Add increased shipping demand — DP World expects the number of items it handles to double by 2020 to 100 million packages, suitcases and containers — and the impact on transport management systems, and it’s small wonder the Dubai International Project Management Forum devoted a high-level panel to the Expo.

“Usually mega-events like the World Expo, like the Olympics... they have a tendency to create a very strong catalytic effect on the economy,” panellist Reem Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai, told delegates to the forum, at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, on Tuesday.

Staging what Al Hashemi described as a “nationwide monumental milestone” would be impossible without the help of other agencies, she said.

“It’s a very complex operation, but that’s the beauty of a very strong project and programme management approach,” she said.

“[The] expo is not carrying the weight on its own ... If [the] expo were to carry it all it would be, frankly, impossible. And if it were possible it wouldn’t be of the quality that Dubai deserves.”

She added, “If your plan is clear, and if you engage the right implementers from the very beginning, to help deliver this unified project, it becomes about properly tracking where you are on your baseline.”

Al Hashemi said the most important step of good project management was planning. Expo 2020 Dubai’s plans were such that “we can tell exactly what needs to be done in April of 2018, September of 2019 and October of 2020. It’s planned. Any deviation from that plan has an impact on everything else. And, of course, because such is life, we sometimes deviate from the plan. Things change. We have to be flexible, We have to move fast, and we have to rely on entities that know a lot more about this type of work than we do.”

Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors at the RTA, said its involvement in futuristic travel projects, such as the Hyperloop inter-city rail link, the flying taxi and self-driving vehicles, also featured inter-agency input.

“Most manufacturers are saying in five to 10 years this technology will be operational, will be commercially used. I think it’s a big challenge,” he said.

Al Tayar listed several areas where such vehicles would impact the RTA. Legislation would have to change to adapt to the new modes of transport, and existing technology would have to change as well. Safety and security remain a primary concern, and finally the new modes of transport would have to be integrated with existing transport infrastructure and management.

These challenges required a new form of project management, as their outcomes were uncertain, he said. But the model, known as agile management, was “tailor-made for research projects and innovation,” which had many unknown factors.

“It’s a complex issue, but we, from our side, are doing our best to help the Expo office have at least one or two of those modes of transport.”

Sultan Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of DP World, said the port operator was looking to new technology to cope efficiently with the projected increase in demand for cargo handling due to the Expo.

In addition to teasing a DP World invention, he said would transform the way cargo containers were dealt with in order to achieve handling speeds suitable for the Hyperloop — an invention he declined to detail but described as something that would make existing methods and equipment obsolete.

He also gave details on several projects DP World has trialled. Its LogiGate online logistics service enabled shippers to locate and buy spare space on trucks and warehouses.

The system, which Bin Sulayem likened to Uber for trucks, already operated in DP World in the Dominican Republic and would soon come to Dubai, he said.

Since trucks typically operate only at 60 per cent of full capacity, the scheme would make road transport more profitable and reduce traffic.

In addition, DP World was working on a system to track dhows and their cargos.

“Today nobody knows how much cargo is going into each dhow and where. And so we are already working on an online system that will have all the dhows’ capacities and how much is used.”

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