25 June 2012 00:00 [Source: ICB]
The Middle East is leading the expansion in global container shipping, and the region's downstream sector is driving much of that growth. This positive statement encapsulates the overall message of the fourth GPCA Supply Chain Conference, held in Dubai on May 7-9.
Hamad Al-Terkait (left) and Mohammed Al-Muallem take questions during the supply chain Q&A session
After the first day's presentations, delegates toured the new container terminal at Jebel Ali - terminal 2 - which is equipped to handle the latest generation of super-sized container vessels.
The conference saw 279 senior industry representatives from 95 companies attend the first full day of the conference at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
They examined opportunities for further business development in the supply chain sector and the need for sharing of best practice. They also looked ahead to see how the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) industry can capitalize on its achievements to date and continue the growth of the petrochemical industry.
A pre-conference workshop on May 7 studied the industry's voluntary scheme - the Responsible Care Initiative - aimed at promoting best practices in environment, health, safety and security, or EHS&S.
Opening the conference, Hamad Al-Terkait, former vice chairman of GPCA and ex-president and CEO of Kuwait's Equate Petrochemical, said: "The supply chain should be looked at as more of an investment opportunity and not just a service. When we look at the volume to be exported from the region, which is around 120m tonnes this year, transportation is crucial.
"We look at the experts at the fourth GPCA Supply Chain Conference and see those who can make the supply chain the most efficient it can be."
Customs regulations will increasingly play a major part in the future growth of the GCC region's petrochemical industry, delegates were told on the final day of the meeting. Speaking at the conference, Mohammed Al-Haif, director of the GCC customs union department in the GCC General Secretariat, outlined plans to develop GCC-wide customs laws to make the import and export of petrochemical products more efficient.
This will include, for example, the introduction of dedicated truck lanes for petrochemicals at ports.
"In-depth discussion of how government authorities can further support the growth of the sector regionally and globally is a priority," said Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of GPCA. "The implementation of an extensive GCC customs law is something the entire global petrochemical industry will benefit from, and it's an initiative which has led to interesting discussion among industry experts at the conference."
Technology was also identified as a key factor in the development of more efficient supply chain systems for petrochemicals and chemicals, with extensive debate at the conference of the planned improvements in automation and electronic procedures to improve clearance at import and export points around the region.
Delegates heard that electronic procedures and systems are to be enhanced and implemented to allow customs between GCC states to positively affect the transportation of petrochemical goods and improve clearance at import and export points.
The implementation of these initiatives is vital to help the flow of the products moving between the GCC countries, especially through industrial ports, explained Abdullah Nasser Al-Tuwaijry, director general at King Fahd Industrial Port in Jubail, in the session discussing the contribution industrial ports make to the industry.
Al-Tuwaijry discussed the enormous quantities of product passing through the region, with King Fahd alone handling more than 46m tonnes of product annually, with more than 1,600 vessels calling at the port each year.
Quantities are forecast to increase significantly. Al-Tuwaijry gave data on just one of the terminals at King Fahd which, in its current configuration, has a throughput of 22m tonnes/year of petrochemicals.
This, he said, is set to rise by an additional throughput of more than 15m tonnes/year by 2020.
Consolidation of control of the terminals at the port is earmarked as vital for continuity in operations, with a single operator proposed to control both terminals at King Fahd to achieve maximum utilization of available resources.
This approach to optimizing supply chain processes through best practices concluded the conference.
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