The Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) in Jordan is making strong progress in its transformation into a transport and logistics hub for the Levant region. This is being driven by improvements in infrastructure, capacity and digital systems spearheaded by the container port.
“The port´s new platform and systems enhance Aqaba’s competitiveness in the fields of industry and logistics and is transforming it into a logistical gateway for various modes of transportation across the Middle East,” commented Nasser Al-Shraideh, Chief Commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA).
To examine opportunities to boost this progress, 18 experts from the transport and logistics sector, representing 15 different countries, participated in the recent 15th Trans Middle East conference. Organised by the Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) in co-operation with ASEZA, the conference delved into global best practices for developing a sustainable transport and logistics infrastructure and touched upon the most important challenges and opportunities for the region.
Global Competitiveness Report
Despite the significant progress made to date, the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report ranks Jordan 74th, Israel 20th, UAE 27th, and Saudi Arabia 39th.
Private-public partnerships like ACT, are key to closing the gap as they bring digital competence, investment and knowledge. “Efficient port infrastructure is fundamental in catalysing growth for Jordan and the region, and for our customers to connect and simplify their supply chains. We are committed to Aqaba for the long term,” said Morten Engelstoft, CEO of APM Terminals.
Wolfgang Lehmacher, Head of Supply Chain and Transport Industries at the World Economic Forum, referenced a report from the World Bank which claims, ‘the logistics sector is now recognized as one of the core pillars of economic development,’ before highlighting a range of regional opportunities for Jordan.
Regional opportunities for Jordan
“Iraq was once Jordan’s main export market that accounted for almost a fifth of domestic exports or about $1.2 billion a year, according to the International Monetary Fund,” he explained. “The reopening of the border between the two countries and the reconstruction of Syria and Iraq will revitalize the economies in the region. Capturing the potential requires strong logistics performance.”
He continued by highlighting that Jordan’s stable, safe and economically attractive offering provides the potential to become the Dubai or Singapore of the Wider Levant region. “The development of two leading trading hubs provides important indications for the design of the policies and capabilities required to become a regional business platform. World class healthcare and recreation facilities are part of the package, which Jordan already offers today.”
Best investment environment in the region
According to Samir Murad, Minister of Labour for Jordan, the investment environment in the country is currently the best in the region due to security, location, a free trade agreement with the United States, and the application of rules of origin.
Amman offers potential as a strategic regional logistics cluster and business hub, with key markets in Damascus, Syria and Iraq on Amman’s doorstep.
“Jordan’s capital, Ammam, already has – to a large extent – the capabilities and resources needed, such as talent and infrastructure to build the platform,” said Wolfgang Lehmacher.
Logistics clusters drive growth
Professor Yossi Sheffi, director of MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics and author of ‘Logistics Clusters: Delivering Value and Driving Growth’, highlighted the benefits that such a hub can bring to a country, saying, “After an initial seed investment, they generate a self-reinforcing positive loop — more so than most other clusters.
“All industrial clusters produce a chain of mostly desirable events: more companies lead to the arrival of new suppliers seeking to be close to their customers — and more employees develop skills to meet the needs of the industry. This leads to further growth, and as the cluster expands, so does its clout, leading to more favourable government regulations and perhaps public funding for training and research centres.”
A new digital platform, TradeLens, underpinned by blockchain technology, was introduced at the conference to show how digitalization will bring higher security to the countries while increasing visibility, transparency and planning capability for the operators in the transport and logistics sector.
ACT’s role in the change
“The Aqaba Container Terminal handles around 850,000 containers a year and has the capacity for more than 1,200,000 containers,” said ACT CEO Stephen Yoogalingam.
At 1,000 meters, the quay length is capable of dealing with all types of ships and has become an important economic station in Aqaba, boosting the movement of imports and exports. APM also has an established Inland Service logistics hub in Amman.
ACT has now become one of the three main terminals on the Red Sea following the introduction of advanced technology across all procedures.