US to lift laptop ban on Saudia, Emirates hopeful

Updated 06 July 2017
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US to lift laptop ban on Saudia, Emirates hopeful

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) will be able to fly passengers to the US with their laptops and other large personal electronic devices as cabin luggage by July 19, in a deal worked out between the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and US transport security authorities.
The ban was imposed in March on 10 regional airports in the Middle East because of heightened fears of a terrorist attack, and led to a cutback in services on some routes between the Middle East and the US.
Saudia announced it has been “working in conjunction with the GACA to implement new directives from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concerning alternative security measures permitting large portable electronic devices in the cabin on flights to the USA. Saudia is currently working to meet all requirements outlined by the DHS with this regard. A further update will be issued once the matter is finalized.” The lifting of the ban would come into effect “on or before July 19,” it added.
Separately, Emirates Airline, the biggest carrier between the Gulf and the US, said that it too was hopeful the ban would be lifted soon. “Emirates is working hard in coordination with various aviation stakeholders and the local authorities to implement heightened security measures and protocols that meet the requirements of the US Department of Homeland Security’s new security guidelines for all US-bound flights.
“We hope that we will receive validation that all measures have been successfully implemented so that the electronics ban can be lifted as soon as possible for our US flights,” a statement added.
A spokesperson for Emirates could not give a date when passengers would be able to once more bring their own devices on board as cabin luggage.
Earlier this week, Etihad became the first of the “laptop ban” airlines to negotiate a suspension of the US measures, lifting the restrictions on flights on Sunday, partly because it has a pre-clearance facility at its home airport in Abu Dhabi to facilitate US immigration and customs procedures. The lifting of the ban will enable passengers to access personal laptops and other electronics during the 13-hour flight from the Arabian Gulf to the US East Coast.
Some critics had alleged the ban was politically motivated as a commercial measure against Etihad and Emirates, who are embroiled in a war of words with the US airline industry over alleged abuses of the “open skies” agreements between the UAE and the US. The new measures stipulated by the DHS’ Transportation Security Authority involve enhanced screening and security measures at airports in the Middle East for electronic equipment, passengers and explosives detection.
Saj Ahmad, aviation expert at Strategic Aero Research, said: “Lifting the ban makes sense. Given the risk of too many batteries/laptops in the cargo hold, which led to the UPS 747 crash in Dubai a few years back, this rule change would make it easier for crew to deal with a potential battery incident which would be visible in the cabin.
“And with that change, it is likely we’ll see a surge in US-bound traffic from the GCC so we could see the likes of Emirates adding new flights back to the US,” he added.
There is still a ban on laptops imposed by UK aviation authorities on flights from Saudi Arabia, but analysts expect that to also be removed soon: “If the US bans are removed then the UK would struggle to justify its position and is why I think it will be removed too,” Ahmad said.
The UK laptop ban never applied to travelers from the UAE.


Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. (Supplied)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

  • The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021
  • SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is fast catching up with the world’s ever-growing energy and technology scene ahead of 2030. In fact, the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) may soon prove a global destination for energy industry investors.

The new energy city mega-project is being developed by Saudi Aramco, which received authoritization to embark on the initiative in the summer, and is operated, managed and maintained in partnership with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). 

With projections that the megacity will create more than 100,000 jobs, it is considered one of the most up-and-coming energy parks in the world.

SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower.

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. 

The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021, while the final phase of the project is set for completion in 2035. With all this on track, the 50-square-kilometer project is poised to be a magnet for foreign and domestic investment. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday. (SPA)

What’s more, Aramco’s espousal of SPARK will also help businesses indulge in technological development, manufacturing and exports channels and build a world-class energy supply chain. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid Al-Falih declared SPARK a special economic zone (SEZ) in which businesses can enjoy exclusive benefits. 

“We are looking forward to collaborating with our first anchor partners at SPARK,” said Saudi Aramco President and CEO, Amin Nasser.

SPARK has already attracted investment from foreign and local companies to produce and manufacture goods and services. The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $1.6 billion. 

The park is set to attract industrial investors in the water, power, petrochemical and wastewater sectors, among others. 

Facilities at SPARK will also help investors bridge gaps in local production back home, increasing competition in the long run. 

“This energy city is exciting because it brings together a multitude of businesses,” Mark McCollum, president and CEO of Weatherford Corp, told SPARK.

“We firmly believe that collaboration and cooperation among service companies and individual providers to the energy sector is vital in breaking new ground.”

The King Salman Energy Park is also set to promote small and medium-sized enterprises. With focus on energy production, it also provides opportunities for investment in residential and commercial real estate projects.

Nasser said that the “King Salman Energy Park will spur a new era of growth for one of the Kingdom’s already thriving sectors. What’s more, it will serve as a central gateway to the region’s economies since Aramco is at the heart of the global oil and gas industry.”