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‘Project cargo, breakbulk sector is a major contributor to the economy’

The virtual event of Breakbulk Middle East (BBME), GCC’s leading breakbulk and project cargo meet, kicked off on Tuesday with the participation and support of key industry leaders from across the Middle East and other parts of the world.

The speakers, took up various industry specific topics for discussion also put emphasis on the ‘strategy to tackle Covid-19’ issue.

Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, opened the first session titled ‘Business Briefing – Middle East Business and Project Outlook.’ Other speakers included Princess Sarah Al Saud, Director of Maritime Business Development at the International Forum for Maritime Transport, Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria; Prof. Dr. Ismail Abdel Ghaffar Ismail Farag, President of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Head of the League of Arab States Official Delegation, IMO Council; Shahab Al Jassmi, Commercial Director of Ports and Terminals, DP World, UAE Region and Ben Blamire, Event Director, Breakbulk Middle East.

The session provided a full business and project provisional outlook from the government’s perspective.

Al Mazrouei said, “The project cargo and breakbulk sector is considered one of the most important pillars in the UAE and is a major contributor to our economy. In the UAE, we are proud that two of our ports are placed among the world’s top 50 container ports. The UAE currently accounts for 35 per cent of investment in the maritime region, and we have invested over Dhs157 billion into expanding local ports here. Despite the current challenges and the lockdowns and travel restrictions in many parts around the world, the industry bounced back in the UAE, thanks to embracing technology to maintain an efficient supply chain.”

He said, it is expected that the sector would see an uptick in business gradually and the post-COVID-19 era will be marked by the strong rebound, driven mainly by a range of timely measures, strong fundamentals, investments in intelligent technologies and financial incentives.

Al Mazrouei explained, “Over the years, Breakbulk Middle East has united us, giving us a platform to share our experiences. This has definitely led to constant improvements in regulations, working protocol and the general operations in the industry. The event has gained our support over the years for its ability to make a difference in the industry and today with the Digital Special successfully taking off, we are confident that the event will continue contributing to the industry in the UAE and the Middle East in general. We will continue supporting this event and are hopeful of seeing everyone in-person for next year’s edition.”

Highlighting the colossal changes in the industry owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Business Briefing – Middle East Business and Project Outlook session the industry experts discussed the impact of the pandemic on businesses during 2020. They also spoke about business in the future, tackling the crucial question of when business will pick up again and investments will speed up.

Ed James, Director of Content & Analysis, MEED Projects, provided a status update on regional capital projects covering the oil & gas, infrastructure, renewables and other sectors as well as predictions for the regional project market moving forward.

Eng. Hessa Al Malek, Advisor to the Minister for Maritime Transport Affairs, The UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure clarified, “The global pandemic caused major disruption to every sector, including the project cargo and breakbulk sector, yet there seems to be hope. Organisations have been quick to address the challenges of the pandemic and have acted promptly by adopting digitalisation and mitigating the impact of the pandemic. This has contributed to limiting the negative impact and enhancing the industry’s position in the circumstances that the whole world is going through.”

Prof. Dr. Ismail Abdel Ghaffar Ismail Farag, President of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, emphasised, “The breakbulk and project cargo sector plays an essential role in the Middle East region. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are among the front-runners in this sector. To ensure that we maintain a leading position, it is important to focus on the future generation who will lead the industry to greener pastures.”

The last session on day one was Navigating the Middle East Projects and Business Landscape in a Post-COVID moderated by Guillermo Cobelo Fernández, Regional CEO of Técnicas Reunidas. The session featured Mohammad Jaber, COO & Regional Director of Project Logistics Middle East & Africa Agility; Mohammad Al Ali, Senior Vice President, Ship Management, ADNOC Logistics & Services and Khalid Al Marzooqi, Director, Commercial, Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD).

Ben Blamire, Event Director, Breakbulk Middle East, clarified, “We have always stressed on the growth of the industry by bringing together experts, professionals and students.”

Leslie Meredith, Marketing Director, Breakbulk Events & Media said, “We are positive that from here on, the industry will collectively move forward to achieve more success. We are looking forward to day two that will tackle other important concerns such as women’s role and the next generation of the industry, that we must be speaking about.”

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