Combined with the expansion of global trade, aggressive shipping port investments among Middle East governments have further solidified the region as a global leader in cargo shipping. Not only is the Middle East home to several vital shipping hubs along the East-West trade route, but its ports handle almost 20 percent of global sea cargo. Gulf Cooperation Council countries, meanwhile, have container penetration rates that are in excess of six times the world average and that are substantially higher than most developed Western nations. Below is a look at six of the busiest ports in the region.
Port of Jebel Ali
Also referred to as the Port of Dubai, the Port of Jebel Ali is among the top-10 busiest ports in the world and annually handles more than 170 million tons of cargo and 43.8 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) along the shipping lane from Asia to Europe. The construction of a fourth terminal is expected to increase its capacity to 50 million TEUs by 2030.
Opened in 1979 to supplement facilities at Port Rashid, it has not only overtaken the port in terms of traffic since that time, but now handles about as much cargo as the four other busiest Middle East ports combined. It is located 35 kilometers southwest of Dubai in the small village of Jebel Ali, which was developed specifically to house those who worked at the port.
Truly an international shipping hub, the Port of Jebel Ali covers 134 square kilometers and serves as headquarters to more than 5,000 firms from over 120 countries. It also has 67 berths and, outside of ports in the US, is the most-frequented port of the United States Navy. It received the Golden Award for Best Seaport Overall from the Higher Committee for UAE Civil Seaports and Airport Security in 2011 and has been voted Best Seaport in the Middle East for the past two decades.
Jeddah Islamic Port
Jeddah Islamic Port, the largest of nine ports in Saudi Arabia, is a five-terminal port that covers 12.5 square kilometers and is home to 62 berths, 32 of which are for general cargo and 19 of which are designated for containers. Overall, it can handle a capacity of 19,800 TEUs and a cargo volume of 54 million tons. Located along the Red Sea coast, Jeddah Islamic Port opened in 1976 and now handles in excess of 65 percent of cargo imported via Saudi ports. Its terminal operators include DP World Middle East Limited; United National Marine Projects Co. Ltd.; Zamil Operations and Maintenance Company, Limited; and Red Sea Container Terminal Company.
Port of Mina Zayed
An artificial port with 21 berths located in the northeast end of Abu Dhabi, the Port of Mina Zayed can handle an annual handle capacity of 900,000 tonnes of cargo. It also has container terminals with the ability to handle 15,000 TEUs. However, its emphasis on shipping and logistics has changed in recent years, as much of its container traffic has been rerouted to Khalifa Port. As a result, Port of Mina Zayed now has a dedicated basin for cruise ships and is a docking station for many traditional wooden fishing vessels known as dhows.
Port of Salalah
Opened in 1998, the APM Terminals-managed Port of Salalah in Oman operates a 15-berth general cargo terminal and six-berth container terminal with required infrastructure to handle some of the world’s largest vessels. More than $800 million has been invested in the port since its inception to accommodate these vessels. Its TEU volumes were steadily increasing year-over-year until May 2018, when Cyclone Mekunu caused extensive damage to its infrastructure. The cyclone also deposited silt and debris throughout the port and capsized several dhows.
It took more than a year to restore both terminals. The general cargo terminal resumed full operations in early 2019, while the container terminal was restored to capacity by June.
Located along Sharjah’s Indian Ocean coast, the Port of Khor Fakkan encompasses 700,000 square meters and is among the most prominent container ports in the world. It was the third-busiest port in the Middle East as of 2017, with 3.8 million TEUs. In 2018, phase 2 of an expansion project involved the installation of six Super-Post Panamax gantries, bringing its total number of container gantry cranes to 20. Its storage space was also expanded to 450,000 square meters. Additionally, the UAE announced the development of a new highway to connect the Port of Khor Fakkan and two other ports via Emirates Road to Sharjah’s Saja’a Industrial Investment Park.