Dubai delays Jebel Ali port expansion
Dubai delays Jebel Ali port expansion
A plan to add 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) of annual capacity to Terminal 3 at Jebel Ali will be delayed into 2017, while expansion of Terminal 4 will also be slowed, DP World said without giving details.
The company had announced in July 2015 that it would invest $1.6 billion in Terminal 4, which was to be completed by 2018. Jebel Ali handles shipments not only for the United Arab Emirates but for much of the region.
Since last year, however, growth in the oil-rich economies of the Gulf has slowed because of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia’s imports, for example, shrank 20 percent from a year earlier in May, according to official data released this week.
“After the 2009 financial crisis, trade helped support Dubai in part thanks to government stimulus in the region,” said Dima Jardaneh, head of regional economic research at Standard Chartered.
“Now Dubai’s trade is feeling the impact of a contractionary economic environment and the absence of stimulus.”
DP World’s decision also reflected a subdued outlook for global trade flows. Expansion in the volume of world trade is expected to remain sluggish at 2.8 percent in 2016, unchanged from 2015, the World Trade Organization forecast in April.
“(The) global trade environment remains challenging including for Jebel Ali port,” DP World said, adding that the company handled 7.4 million TEUs of cargo in the UAE during the first half of 2016, down 6 percent from a year ago.
The company had previously disclosed that its consolidated throughput for the first half — volumes at ports which the company controls around the world — was 14.6 million TEUs, down 1.4 percent.
DP World’s decision may be a negative omen for several other ports in the region, which launched multi-billion dollar expansion plans when oil prices were high several years ago in efforts to become trans-shipment hubs for the Gulf.
Abu Dhabi has said it aims to increase the capacity of its new Khalifa Port, only about 50 km down the coast from Jebel Ali, to 15 million TEUs by 2030 from 2.5 million TEUs at present, depending on demand. Qatar and Oman are expanding their ports.
Also on Thursday, DP World reported a 50 percent jump in net profit attributable to shareholders during the first half to $608 million, helped by the acquisitions of Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone and Canada’s Fairview Terminal.
DP World’s revenue for the first half was $2.09 billion, up from $1.90 billion a year earlier.
At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade
- The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July
- By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region
BEIRUT: By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region as it looks to boost its war-ravaged economy.
The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July from rebels as part of a military offensive that reclaimed swathes of the south of the country.
Syria’s international trade has plummeted during the seven-year civil war, and its foreign reserves have been almost depleted.
The reopening of Nassib after a three-year hiatus, on Oct. 15, is a political victory for the Damascus regime, said Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group.
It is “a step toward reintegrating with Syria’s surroundings economically and recapturing the country’s traditional role as a conduit for regional trade,” he said.
The Nassib crossing reopens a direct land route between Syria and Jordan, but also a passage via its southern neighbor to Iraq to the east, and the Gulf to the south.
“For the Syrian government, reopening Nassib is a step toward normalization with Jordan and the broader region, and a blow to US-led attempts to isolate Damascus,” Heller said.
International pressure and numerous rounds of peace talks have failed to stem the fighting in Syria, and seven years in the regime has gained the military upper hand in the conflict.
Assad’s forces now control nearly two-thirds of the country, after a series of Russia-backed offensives against rebels.
Syria faces a mammoth task to revive its battered economy.
The country’s exports plummeted by more than 90 percent in the first four years of the conflict alone, from $7.9 billion to $631 million, according to a World Bank report last year.
The Syria Report, an economic weekly, said Nassib’s reopening would reconnect Syria with an “important market” in the Gulf.
But, it warned, “it is unlikely Syrian exports will recover anywhere close to the 2011 levels in the short and medium terms because the country’s production capacity has been largely destroyed.”
For now, at least, Nassib’s reopening is good news for Syrian tradesmen forced into costlier, lengthier maritime shipping since 2015.
Among them, Syrian businessman Farouk Joud was looking forward to being able to finally import goods from Jordan and the UAE via land.
Before 2015, “it would take a maximum of three days for us to receive goods, but via the sea it takes a whole month,” he told AFP.
Importing goods until recently has involved a circuitous maritime route from the Jordanian port of Aqaba via the Suez Canal, and up to a regime-held port in the northwest of the country.
“It costs twice as much as land transport via Nassib,” Joud said.
Syrian parliament member Hadi Sharaf was equally enthusiastic about fresh opportunities for Syrian exports.
“Exporting (fruit and) vegetables will have a positive economic impact, especially for much-demanded citrus fruit to Iraq,” he told AFP.
Before Syria’s war broke out in 2011, neighboring Iraq was the first destination of Syria’s non-oil exports.
The parliamentarian also hoped the revived trade route on Syria’s southern border would swell state coffers with much-needed dollars.
Before the conflict, the Nassib crossing raked in $2 million in customs fees, Sharaf said.
Last month, Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis said fees at Nassib for a four-ton truck had been increased from $10 to $62.
Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted due to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, the World Bank said.
And the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war.
Lebanese businessmen are also delighted, as they can now reach other countries in the region by sending lorries through Syria and its southern border crossing.
Lebanon’s farmers “used to export more than 70 percent of their produce to Arab countries via this strategic crossing,” said Bechara Al-Asmar, head of Lebanon’s labor union.
Despite recent victories, Damascus still controls only half of the 19 crossings along Syria’s lengthy borders with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
Damascus and Baghdad have said the Albukamal crossing with Iraq in eastern Syria will open soon, but did not give a specific date.
Beyond trade, there is even hope that the Nassib crossing reopening might bring some tourists back to Syria.
A Jordanian travel agency recently posted on Facebook that it was organizing daily trips to the Syrian capital by “safe and air-conditioned” bus from Monday.
“Who among us doesn’t miss the good old days in Syria?” it said.