RAK’s road to growth

CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone says UAE’s strategic location beneficial to logistics market in the country

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The UAE’s logistics market is estimated to be worth $9.3 billion by the end of 2014 according to a report released by Dubai FDI. UAE already hosts the Middle East’s largest port and the world’s busiest airport, and as Mr Peter J Fort, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Free Trade Zone told Big Project ME in an exclusive interview, the UAE – and its northern Emirates – will continue their growth pattern.

What are the parameters according to which logistics hubs must be developed?

Logistics hubs are ideally developed in geographical areas where goods can be manufactured, assembled or re-exported with minimum bureaucracy and maximum cost and time efficiency. While this requirement would at first seem to be easy to achieve, only a few countries have been able to develop the appropriate balance. Additionally, in order to receive the highest and best use, logistics hubs should be developed near major seaports, international airports and located in regions which have geographic advantages to facilitate trade.

How do free zones contribute to the attractiveness of a logistics hub?

Logistics hubs are able to be most efficient when they are set up in conjunction with free zones, where bureaucratic red tape is reduced, customs duties and taxes are reduced or eliminated.  Additionally, there must be well-developed requirements for the construction of warehouses and other facilities to ensure that the facilities are built according to international standards.

What is the scope for the creation of infrastructure networks – such as roads, rail networks and ports – in the Northern Emirates?

As the region slowly eases its way out of recession, there is renewed impetus on the part of the UAE government to fast-track mega infrastructure development, in order to secure future economic stability, with a particular focus on the Northern Emirates.

In RAK, a $822 million plan is underway to upgrade the emirate’s road infrastructure. Plans include upgrading the emirate’s sewage networks, by 2015, to accommodate a projected population increase to 600,000 residents. The Road Improvement Programme includes extension of Emirates Road, the addition of new roads to remote areas, and expansion of the existing road network.

What are the benefits of UAE that allows its logistics hubs to thrive?

One of the biggest advantages of the UAE, including the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), is its strategic geographical location. It is ideally positioned as a gateway to the sizeable markets of Africa, Europe, the Middle East as well as Central and South Asia, and to tap into trade between East and West. In RAK, logistics are provided by five sea ports, including Saqr Port, the largest bulk port in the Middle East, and the RAK International Airport. RAK is also connected to other emirates and neighbouring countries by the multi-lane super-highways E311 and E611.  These logistical advantages make it easier for companies to get their goods to end users.

What are the future plans for RAK FTZ?

One of the challenges of creating or expanding logistics hubs in the UAE is keeping up with the increasing demand for facilities from current and future clients. This year, RAK FTZ expects to continue to grow, although perhaps at a slower rate than last year due to high occupancy levels in its current real estate portfolio.

Therefore, RAK FTZ is developing new facilities in response to the 30% increase in new clients that it saw last year. We plan to build a new office tower in its Business Park that will accommodate more than 700 new clients. RAK FTZ will also construct 100 new warehouses in its Technology Park for clients doing business in trading and light manufacturing.

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