INTERVIEW: Samir Chaturvedi, Chief Executive of Kizad, on the UAE becoming a global logistics hub

Samir Chaturvedi, Chief Executive of Kizad, talks to Arab News about the UAE becoming a global logistics hub. (Illustration: Luis Granena)
Updated 16 December 2018
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INTERVIEW: Samir Chaturvedi, Chief Executive of Kizad, on the UAE becoming a global logistics hub

DUBAI: Samir Chaturvedi is the old hand on the block turned into the new kid in town. The chief executive of Kizad — the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi — is former senior executive of Jafza — Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority.
For 13 years, Chaturvedi helped Jafza to consolidate its place as the leading maritime-based industrial hub in the Middle East; now he is charged with developing a far more ambitious project in the UAE capital that — if all goes to plan — will eventually overtake its Dubai counterpart.
He is reluctant to use the word “rivalry,” preferring instead to emphasize the beneficial effects of competition and the potential for the UAE to become a global logistics and industrial hub.
“This makes it a very competitive sector — and that’s a good thing. Healthy competition provides customers with broader options and developers with greater incentives to improve their services and offerings,” he said. “Fortunately, we have a strong value proposition; the combination of Khalifa Ports’ assets, Abu Dhabi’s growing industrial sector, plus KIZAD’s innovation is a value proposition that is not typical for the region and puts us in an excellent position to thrive and grow,” he added.
Chaturvedi was speaking after a lavish ceremony last week that unveiled an alliance between China and Abu Dhabi to make the UAE capital the main regional hub for the “Belt and Road Initative” — the multibillion-dollar strategic investment program by the Peoples’ Republic to develop land and maritime trade routes along the path of the Silk Road — from Asia through the Middle East and into Africa.
Khalifa Port — the heart of the huge Kizad development — has joined with Cosco, the giant Chinese shipping group and port operator, to build a new terminal, backed by a 1.1 billion dirham initial investment, that will help to shift the center of economic gravity 50 km along the Gulf coast from Jebel Ali to Khalifa Port.
While some analysts focused on the duplication of port assets in the Emirates, Chaturvedi prefers to see it as a natural historical development of the UAE trading infrastructure.
“The same question was asked of Jebel Ali when it was being developed and Port Rashid was the largest port in the region. These infrastructures are created to bring in new trade and new business and create a better and more sustainable economy rather than just competing with each other,” he said.
The Cosco terminal is the second at Khalifa Port, and part of a 10 billion dirham expansion plan that will lift its capacity to 8.5 million TEUs — 20-foot equivalent units, the main metric of the shipping business — in five years’ time.
Chaturvedi said Khalifa Port has the potential and infrastructure to eventually get to 20 million TEU. Some 25 shipping lines use the port, including Cosco, the third largest in the world, and MSC, the second placed behind market leader Maersk. Jebel Ali currently handles 22.1 million containers.
Kizad is part of the UAE’s 2030 strategic development plan, but its horizon extends beyond that date. By 2050, it will be an enormous development, two thirds the size of the island of Singapore and at 410 square km, some eight times the current size of the Jebel Ali zone.
Chaturvedi believes that the existence of such an ambitious industrial and logistics project had an influence on the Chinese decision to back the new Khalifa terminal.

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BIO

Born: 1962, Delhi, India.

Education: Annamalai University, India.

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Design, UK.

Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Career: Competent Automobiles, sales manager.

Lemuir Group (now part of DHL), general manager.

Maersk Logistics, India, manager and director.

Zim Integrated Shipping,
Hong Kong, project director.

Jafza and Economic Zones World, business development and vice president for Europe,
Central Asia and India.

Kizad, CEO

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“Undoubtedly, the opportunity to tap into the business network at Kizad and the rapidly increasing need for shipping services in and out of the zone was a key factor when Cosco was looking for a port to be a regional hub, as was the presence of so many Chinese firms at Kizad and the potential to attract many more,” he said. Part of the Chinese commitment is the creation of the largest container freight station in the Middle East at an investment cost of $120 million.
Kizad will be home to the full spectrum of industrial and logistics activities, ranging from the huge Emirates Global Aluminum plant to an entrepreneurship and incubation center to encourage smaller businesses and startups into the development. In between, there are specialized “cities” within the zone, offering facilities to companies in the construction, logistics, plastics, food and automotive sectors.
Automotive brands such as Toyota, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, Honda already operate out of Kizad, with Ghassan Aboud, the international car trader, establishing its global hub there. On the day the Chinese deal was announced, Kizad also unveiled a plant that will build the first automobile tires in the region. “We are offering the complete spectrum, from micro-businesses to heavy industry,” Chaturvedi said.
With all that big business going on in a sensitive marine-desert environment, Chaturvedi is keen to emphasize Kisad’s sustainability credentials. The port was built offshore so that the delicate coral reef on the edge of the Gulf was left untouched, he said, and the zone’s masterplan stipulates requirements for environmentally-efficient facilities for desalination, energy usage and waste disposal.
“But any port is only as good as its connection network,” he added. Kizad — with its hi-technology port near the arterial E11 motorway and close to three airports in the UAE — already has good sea, road and air connectivity.
When the long-awaited Etihad Rail project is completed, Kizad will be able to plug into the planned rail network for the Emirates and beyond. By 2023, Chaturvedi estimated, “rail will take us to the fourth dimension.”
It is an ambitious strategy, and dependent both on sustained growth in the economy of the UAE and the Arabian Gulf region, and on world trade levels continuing to increase. There have been some doubts on both counts recently.
On the economic health of the UAE and the wider region, Chaturvedi is sanguine. “The global economy is facing a period of slower growth, which is a normal phase of any economic cycle. Despite economic pressures, regional container volumes grew at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the last 10 years, and is expected to continue growing at a rate of 5.3 percent.
“Kizad is on track to drive the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy away from oil and gas. We currently contribute 3.6 percent to Abu Dhabi’s non-oil GDP and by 2030 we estimate that our contribution will reach 15 percent,” he said.
“This is still very much a growth region that is in the early stages of industrialization. This industrialization is driving the demand for ports and logistics services in the region and is one of the reasons why the GDP impact here is significantly higher than other parts of the world,” he added.
The increased worries about the outlook for world trade, with US-Chinese confrontation growing, is something he sees as outside the control of anybody in the region. “We hope that both countries come to an amicable solution. We believe in the power of collaboration,” he said.
The alliance with Chinese state-owned Cosco could be seen as an example of the “tilt to the East” that has been a feature of the global economy since the financial crisis.
The “Belt and Road Initiative” has been called the biggest infrastructure project in history, but it has also drawn some criticism from analysts who think the partner countries to the Chinese investment plans become too dependent on finance from Beijing. Chaturvedi does not share those concerns.
“We believe that China’s Belt and Road initiative is a positive one. It has the potential to create opportunities to provide the infrastructure that will drive global trade, encourage cooperation between countries, and promote prosperity for all.
“Through the new Abu Dhabi terminal, China recognizes Abu Dhabi’s position as a gateway for trade and investment in the Middle East. Being a hub means that Abu Dhabi is not connected to just China, but all Cosco ports around the world; a true connection with both East and West,” he said.


World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019
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World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

  • Delegates to annual forum to include presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan

DUBAI: World leaders are preparing to head to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, amid the riskiest global backdrop in years, according to a report from the event organizer itself.

As the WEF announced the names of some of the 3,000 participants set to attend the meeting and details of the four-day agenda, it also published a gloomy outlook on international politics, economics, the environment and technology. 

Rising geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are the most urgent risks in 2019, with 90 percent of experts surveyed expecting further economic confrontation between major powers, according to the WEF’s annual Global Risks Report.

“The world’s ability to foster collective action in the face of urgent major crises has reached crisis levels, with worsening international relations hindering action across a growing array of serious challenges. Meanwhile, a darkening economic outlook, in part caused by geopolitical tensions, looks set to further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019,” it added.

Although political and economic worries were top of the immediate agenda for the 1,000 experts polled by the WEF, the environment and climate change are also a cause for concern, as are “rapidly evolving” cyber and technological threats, the WEF said.

Børge Brende, the WEF president, said: “With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation. We simply do not have the gunpowder to deal with the kind of slowdown that current dynamics might lead us toward. What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today.”

The leaders who will begin to arrive in Switzerland in the next week include Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil; Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany; and Wang Qishan, vice president of China.

With US President Donald Trump pulling out of the meeting to deal with the partial government shutdown, the American delegation is expected to be led by Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state.

The Middle East is well represented at the meeting, with at least nine heads of state or government from the region, including Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia will be represented by a team of senior policymakers and business leaders.

The risk report will give them all food for thought in the Alpine resort.

Asking whether the world is “sleepwalking into a crisis,” the report responded: “Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening. The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centered politics continued throughout 2018.

“The idea of ‘taking back control’ — whether domestically from political rivals or externally from multilateral or supranational organizations — resonates across many countries and many issues.”

Macro-economic risks have moved into sharper focus, it said. 

“Financial market volatility increased and the headwinds facing the global economy intensified. The rate of global growth appears to have peaked,” the report said, pointing to a slowdown in growth forecasts for China as well as high levels of global debt — at 225 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), significantly higher than before the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Raising the prospect of a “climate catastrophe,” the report said extreme weather, which many experts attribute to rapid climate change, was a risk of great concern. “The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear,’ the WEF said.

Of the 3,000 participants at Davos, which runs from Jan. 22 to 25, around 78 percent are men, with an average age of 54. 

The oldest will be the 92-year-old British broadcaster David Attenborough, the youngest 16-year-old South African wildlife photographer Skye Meaker.