The 2nd TOC Container Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition was hailed a great success. Held at the Dubai World Trade Centre, TOC CSC Middle East attracted over 300 delegates from across the region and beyond, including cargo owners, logistics services providers, shipping lines and maritime ports & terminals.
The important conference & exhibition, part of the global TOC family of container supply chain events, was held under the Patronage of His Excellency Dr. Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water, who also officially opened the accompanying Trade Exhibition.
In the conference delegates heard many instances of just how the Middle East region is now firmly established as a major trading block with extensive economic linkages across the globe and gained valuable insight into the key issues affecting the industry
The Keynote presentation was given by Mr Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President & Managing Director DP World, UAE Region. After welcoming delegates to TOC CSC Middle East, Mr Al Muallem noted that the GDP of the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council is predicted to reach US$1.5 trillion in 2013, according to Qatar National Bank research. Coupled with a GCC population growth rate expected to be 3.2% in 2013 (faster than the world average) the GCC states are still contributing to the efforts towards global economic recovery.
In addition, most Gulf countries are moving to break their economic dependence on oil – a path already successfully taken by Dubai. Significant spending on infrastructure and social initiatives, such as housing, implies significant potential demand for traded goods, which in turn puts a demand on world-class logistical services. “All this is good news for the ports and shipping industry in the long run as we apply the dynamics of integrating the supply chain,” Mr Al Muallem commented.
Plenary conference sessions examined Middle East Container Trade Flows, Supply Chain Planning & Fulfilment, Ports & Logistics Infrastructure, and emerging markets in North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The conference welcomed speakers from a wide range of supply chain stakeholders, including shippers such as Mattex and Ma’aden, logistics service providers, including Agility, and Kuehne + Nagel, shipping lines such as Maersk and Tarros, and ports and terminal providers, like DP World, APM Terminals, Transnet, Sohar Industrial Port Company, Port of Salalah and Gulftainer.
The emergence of the Middle East as one of the world’s most important trading regions was made clear by a number of speakers. In 2009, for example, China overtook the US as the Middle East’s largest trading partner.
Furthermore it was claimed that the Far East-Middle East/South Asia trade route has the potential to overtake transpacific trade volumes by 2020 if it is able to maintain an annual average growth rate of around 10%, while transpacific grows at annual average rate of 2.3% over the same period.
The UAE has maintained its dominance in the Middle East container market registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.3% between 2001 and 2011. Saudi Arabia registered an average annual growth of around 13% over the same period. And Iranian ports have also witnessed very strong growth over the past 10 years, registering a CAGR of around 18% between 2001 and 2011.
However, there remain a number of challenges in managing the supply chain in the Middle East region. Among these are variances and increases in freight cost; and some heavily congested Middle Eastern ports. Space availability on vessels is also a concern as is the availability of empty containers during peak season.
Among the most important take-aways from the conference was a call for improved communication between supply chain stakeholders such that if a shipment is likely to be delayed it is essential the customer knows the precise situation as early as possible. This necessitates greater trust and information sharing between supply chain partners who can work together in genuine, collaborative efforts.
The accompanying TOC Exhibition attracted almost 1,000 visitors who were able to view the latest in port handling and information technologies on show from regional and internatinal exhibitors and also attend dedicated technical seminars TOC CSC ME will again run in Dubai in December 2013, underneath the new ‘Transport Trade and Logistics’ brand created by TOC Events Worldwide.