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Mena ports among world’s most efficient, says UN

The UAE's Khalifa Port. The region can become a centre for clean shipping fuel, says the International Chamber of Shipping head Wam
The UAE's Khalifa Port. The region can become a centre for clean shipping fuel, says the International Chamber of Shipping head
  • Oman, UAE and Morocco ports in top 5
  • Vessel turnaround time ranked
  • Shipping line-owned ports best performers

Three ports in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region are among the most efficient in the world, according to a widely-watched analysis published by the United Nations last month. 

It found that in 2022 Salalah in Oman, Khalifa in the UAE, and Tanger Med in Morocco were in the top five positions globally.

Hamad Port in Qatar was 8th and King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia was 17th.

The 25 most efficient ports were looked at in the latest Review of Maritime Transport (RMT) by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

The most efficient port was Yangshan near Shanghai, China, while Cartagena in Colombia was the fourth most productive. Port Said in Egypt came 11th.

The RMT used the Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), an efficiency measure devised by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence. It is relied on by operators to identify those facilities which offer quickest turnaround times. CPPI data ranks 348 global ports in total.

Turnaround time

The RMT said that only Morocco and the UAE secured positions in the top countries for vessel turnaround time in 2021. The former registered a median vessel turnaround time of 0.76 days while the United Arab Emirates registered a median of 1 day compared to 0.36 days for Japan, the best performer.

The two countries are also leading the Mena region for their port efficiency scores in the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index of 2022.

The UAE ranked first regionally and Morocco second, while Saudi Arabia was third, followed by Egypt and Oman. 

Middle East ports provided excellent berth productivity by international standards, according to Eleanor Hadland, senior analyst at Drewry Maritime Consultants. 

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port

A report in 2021 found that King Abdullah Port on Saudi Arabia’s west coast averaged 97 container moves per hour compared to 26 at the major ports on the US western seaboard.

Hadland said that hubs which were owned wholly or partly by shipping lines tended to be more efficient than independently operated facilities.

“Overall, vertical integrations can be drivers of efficiency gains due to stronger levels of coordination between mainline vessel, terminal, feeder vessel and/or landside transport,” she told AGBI.

Notable examples of carrier alignment in Mena ports include Khalifa Port, Port of Salalah and Tanger Med. Two of the top five shipping lines in the Alphaliner 100, another industry benchmark, are Mediterranean Shipping Co, based in Switzerland but controlled by an Italian family, and China’s Cosco Group.

Both operate terminals at Khalifa. CMA CGM, a French giant, is expected to launch a third terminal there in January 2024.

Oil exports

The Saudi Ports Authority said in August that its network of ports handled 4.09 million 20 foot equivalent units or teu in the first half of the year. This was a 15 percent jump from 3.55 million teu handled in the same period in 2022.

King Abdullah Port reported volumes up 2.3 percent in the first half. “Our volumes have increased. We’ve established new strategic partnerships, and we’ve set new records for operational efficiency and capability,” its CEO, Jay New, said in July.

Unctad’s RMT report also said the Middle East Gulf region was the top crude oil exporter in 2022. It had a market share of 47 percent, and an 18 percent share in oil products. Total Middle East LNG exports stood at 24 percent of the global total last year.

Ross Thompson, chief strategy and growth officer, AD Ports Group, told AGBI: 

“Port calls and traffic specifically have seen a steady and robust recovery post-pandemic. AD Ports Group’s ‘build it and they will come’ strategy is working well, and our over 30 global ports and terminals have been witnessing a similar trend.”

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