Logistics and Transport market reach Dh3.53 billion
"Transport and logistics is a very dynamic market in the Emirate, where the total market size reached Dh3.53 billion in 2012, out of which Dh1.28 billion worth is sea freight and Dh 0.7 billion is air freight, offering rewarding investment opportunities for local and foreign investors," HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq said. The transport and logistics industry consists of two-sub sectors, marine fright and airfreight, which have been experiencing a phenomenal growth due to major expansion plans and development projects. Highlighting Sharjah's promising future, Al Sarkal said, "As a responsible investment Authority with a mandate to stimulate the Emirate's economy, Shurooq is now focusing on expanding Sharjah's logistics infrastructure, taking advantage of the Emirate's strategic location between Europe and the Far East as well as its direct access to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean." "This geographic location has led to a unique integration of land, sea and air links, offering a gateway to 160 countries serving 2 billion consumers, thus offering unbeatable logistical, warehousing and distribution advantages for investors," Al Sarkal remarked. "Capitalizing on this perfect location, the transport industry is expected to see a phenomenal growth, powered by the various mega transport projects that are currently underway, while many others are still in the pipeline," he added. Al Sarkal stated that Sharjah has all the logistical advantages for being a larger player in the logistics market, where traders can take the advantage of cutting freight cost and saving on shipping time. He added that Sharjah's transport and logistics industry is not only on the move, but is doing extremely well, boosted by increasing global and regional trade and high investor demand. The Emirate's economy had exhibited strong growth during the period between 2002-2009, despite the repercussions of the global financial crisis which hit the world in early 2008, driven by its open-economy polices, incentives, flexible legislation, and the state-of-the art facilities and sophisticated logistics infrastructure, he explained. According to Shurooq's statistics, Sharjah's GDP registered a compound growth rate of 13 per cent between 2002 and 2009, one of the highest in the UAE, while between 2005 and 2009, its GDP per capita increased by 50 per cent. Furthermore, the emirate of Sharjah is aspiring to establish itself as a leading business hub between three continents by focusing on four key sectors, namely travel and leisure, transport and logistics, healthcare, and the environment. "We have an open and fast growing economy; it is an economy that encourages competiveness and innovation without compromising our cultural identity and heritage," Al Sarkal said, adding that the logistics sector is the gateway to commerce in the Middle East, which has become one of the world's top trading regions after diversifying its economy into non-oil products and services. Shurooq's CEO said that cities with greater logistics capabilities and sophisticated infrastructure tend to attract more foreign direct investment. Sharjah is on the move, which is creating an extraordinary opportunity for investors to enjoy the Emirate's abundant business opportunities. He stressed that the Emirate has many unique characteristics and competitive advantages that make it an ideal business destination for investors from all over the world. The logistics sector is one of the four key sectors Shurooq is now focusing on, to fuel the Emirate's economic growth and offer new business opportunities, in order to pull more local and foreign investors into Sharjah's thriving economy. Speaking about the Emirate's growing airfreight traffic, Humaid Al Khatri, Commercial Director of Sharjah International Airport Free Zone (SAIF Zone), said, "The impressive growth of Sharjah's air and sea freight industry is strongly driven by its unique geographic location as the only Emirate with seaports on the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean." Sharjah has carved a niche in the sea-air traffic sector, experiencing growth rates of more than 50 per cent in the last few years," he added. The Sharjah Free Zones and the airport have been instrumental in helping Sharjah's economy scale new peaks. SAIF-Zone is the fastest growing airport free zone in the region, while the international airport has gained an enviable reputation as a leading cargo hub, Al Khatri commented. Further expounding on Sharjah's cargo capabilities, Dr. Ghanem Al Hajri, Chairman of Sharjah Airport Authority said, "Sharjah International Airport has been always a key landmark on the international air cargo industry map, as a result of its on-going development strategies in with regard to infrastructure, equipment, and adapting state-of-the-art cargo handling systems and procedures. Most notably the airport pioneered the introduction of the Sea-Air Cargo concept in UAE, where cargo originating from Far East is moved by sea to UAE ports and then out of the airport to its final destinations in Europe and the USA." Dr. Ghanem went on to add, "Sea-Air Cargo has become the golden median between using prohibitively expensive direct airfreight and the often too slow sea freight, and Sharjah, with its excellent sea and air infrastructure, was instrumental in its remarkable success story in the UAE. Sharjah International Airport has also recorded the fastest cargo transfer time, with cargo offloaded from the ship, transferred to the airport, pushed forward to the aircraft, and final departure within 6 hours." On the topic of logistics, Ali Al-Fathi, Senior Commercial Executive at Gulftainer Company Limited spoke about the swift development taking place in Sharjah' s logistics and transport industry, "Sharjah has a unique advantage as it is the only Emirate that has ports on the Arabian Gulf (Sharjah Container Terminal) and Indian Ocean (Khorfakkan Container Terminal). Gulftainer, operator and manager of the two Container Terminals are able to serve the business community in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates with a fast, efficient and reliable service that saves them time and money." Saud Salim Al Mazroui, Al Hamriyah Free Zone Director of Commercial Affairs, said, "Al Hamriyah Free Zone (HFZ) is the UAE's second largest free zone and one of the largest free trade areas in the Middle East, making Sharjah one of the cornerstones of the UAE's industrial development as it is the only free zone in the UAE which offers a port specialised in bulk and heavy cargo with a 14 metre deep sea port that accommodates dedicated berths for petrochemical bulk." Sharjah is the industrial powerhouse of the UAE, accounting for more than 40% of the country's industrial GDP, he clarified. "The HFZ is growing at an impressive rate of 10 per cent annually, and the industrial area in the free zone has been expanded recently to meet the high investor demand," Al Mazroui said. He added that Sharjah's strategic access to both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, makes it an ideal business destination for port operators, sea freight forwarders, shipping and cargo companies, and logistics providers. Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the Emirate, evaluate tourism and investment related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects.