ABU DHABI : In a transformative year marked by unprecedented global expansion and strategic acquisitions, AD Ports Group has further cemented its position as one of the world’s leading facilitators of global trade and logistics. The year has been pivotal in enhancing the Group’s connectivity, capacity, and international presence, underscoring a commitment to drive sustainable innovation and excellence across the global trade and logistics sector.
The year began with the inauguration of the Aqaba Cruise Terminal, the first-of-its-kind facility in Jordan and concluded with the signing of a definitive concession agreement with the Red Sea Ports Authority (“RSPA”) for the development and operation of a multi-purpose terminal at Safaga Sea Port.
Furthermore, 2023 saw AD Ports Group strengthen its global footprint through strategic agreements and partnerships. As part of the Group’s Africa Strategy and commitment to strategic development within emerging markets, it signed a 30-year extendable concession agreement to manage and operate a multipurpose terminal in Congo’s Pointe Noire Port.
The year also saw AD Ports Group take significant financial strides investing in future growth, including securing a USD 2 billion corporate facility with a syndicate of 13 banks in April 2023. The demand for the facility was overwhelming, demonstrating the confidence that the banking sector has in AD Ports Group’s financial health and future prospects. During the nine months of 2023, the Group’s revenue grew by 116% YoY to AED 8.11 billion, EBITDA grew 30% YoY to AED 2.14 billion and Net Profit grew 14% YoY to AED 1.07 billion.
A key milestone in the Group’s international expansion strategy was the landmark acquisition of 100% of Noatum, a global integrated logistics services provider with presence across all major global markets and trade lanes. The transformative acquisition brought together two major industry players, each with its strengths and capabilities, to form a global powerhouse in the trade and logistics space.
AD Ports Group’s focus on investing in key maritime trade routes for the UAE, while replicating the company’s integrated business model in regions that offer long-term and sustainable growth prospects, was reflected in the signing of a 50-Year concession agreement with Karachi Port Trust for the development of a state-of-the-art container terminal. Under the terms of the 50-year concession agreement, the Joint Venture will undertake significant investments in infrastructure and superstructure over the next 10 years, with the bulk of it planned for 2026, which aims to drive growth, promote trade diversification, and strengthen bilateral ties between the UAE and Pakistan.
H.E. Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi, Chairman, AD Ports Group, said: “2023 was not just a year of growth and expansion for AD Ports Group; it was a year where the Group forged to redefine the boundaries of the maritime and logistics industry. Our achievements are not merely a reflection of our strategy, but an example that traditional approaches no longer suffice in the fast-evolving global market. We have embraced change, not just to lead but to revolutionise the industry. As we forge ahead, aligned with our wise leaders’ vision, our commitment to sustainability, innovation, and global connectivity will continue to be the cornerstones of our journey.”
Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, Managing Director and Group CEO of AD Ports Group, said: “This year, AD Ports Group transformed into one of the leading global players in our industry, entering new markets and reshaping them to ensure positive impacts for our stakeholders and the communities in which we operate. As we have faced uncertainty within the industry due to geopolitical headwinds, our approach has remained bold and always forward-thinking, thanks to the guidance of the UAE’s wise leadership. Our rapid expansion and diverse investments are vital steps towards charting a future where AD Ports Group is synonymous with global presence, innovation and resilience within the global trade and logistics landscape.”
The Group’s efforts in addressing climate change in line with the UAE’s net-zero strategy have been evidenced and lauded with several global awards this year. The Group received the Best Sustainability Initiative Award at the ADSG Awards 2023. The recognition underscores the Group’s innovative and strategic approach to preserving and enhancing the Ras Ghanada Coral Reef – a cornerstone of marine biodiversity in the UAE and the Gulf region. Among other notable recognitions, KEZAD Group, part of AD Ports Group, earned the prestigious United Nations Investment Promotion Awards 2023, acknowledging its significant role in attracting investment in renewable energy and clean technologies.
In terms of major recognitions and accolades, the Group’s flagship port, Khalifa Port, which was voted as the Port of the Year by the Maritime Standard Awards, achieved a Guinness World Record™ title for the largest shipping container logo and was ranked the 3rd most efficient container port globally on the 2022 Container Port Performance Index. Moreover, the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, located at Zayed Port, was named both the World’s and the Middle East’s Best Cruise Terminal by the World Cruise Awards, further solidifying Abu Dhabi’s standing as a premier cruise destination of choice and highlighting Zayed Port’s world-class facilities and hospitality.
In October, AD Ports Group hosted the 2023 edition of the IAPH World Ports Conference at a crucial juncture for the ports and shipping sectors, marking the first time this prestigious event has taken place within the MENA region. Under the theme “Reinventing Ports,” the 2023 IAPH World Ports Conference united major players in the ports sector to discuss opportunities and challenges for sustainable growth of the ports industry given its position as the backbone of the global economy. The Group also hosted on the sidelines of the IAPH conference, the 61st annual meeting of the Arab Sea Ports Federation, chaired by Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, Managing Director and Group CEO of AD Ports Group, confirming the pivotal position that Abu Dhabi is playing within the industry both regionally and internationally.
AD Ports Group in 2023 – Clusters’ Achievements at a Glance
Delivering on AD Ports Group’s transformative agenda over the course of 2023, the Digital Cluster began its transition from a business serving the Group and its Clusters, to a business aimed at leading the charge in UAE’s trade digitalisation. The milestone year set the tone for the Digital Cluster’s ambitious 5-year plan, which includes transforming the Group’s foundational digital platform and implementing synergies for new acquisitions. Besides setting up its new headquarters and exploring international trade digitalisation opportunities, the Cluster embarked on an inorganic growth path – all the while, strengthening its core digital trade solutions.
Its first notable achievement during the year was the establishment of the Digital District, a venue to showcase the Cluster’s transformative digital capabilities. Inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, it hosted several local and international delegations, championing digitalised trade. The modern digital location also serves as its collaborative international headquarters.
In terms of acquisitions, the Cluster’s flagship brand, Maqta Gateway, acquired a 100% stake in TTEK, a leading developer of border control solutions and customs systems, thereby expanding Maqta Gateway’s existing digital trade solutions portfolio and enhancing its capability to better serve international markets.
Throughout the year, Maqta Gateway laid the foundation for the Cluster to be a leading global trade facilitator. It leveraged the Group’s strategic partnerships to explore international commercial digitalisation opportunities. In addition, it strengthened partnerships with Abu Dhabi’s key trade stakeholders, including Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and General Administration of Customs – Abu Dhabi.
In terms of sustainability, the Cluster focussed on the enhancement of its core offerings, Port Community System, ATLP (Advanced Trade & Logistics Platform) and other digital trade offerings, all of which have delivered substantial reductions in Carbon Emissions. Furthermore, the Cluster developed several new systems to lead the digital transformation across the Group, provided digital solutions to launch Aqaba Cruise Terminals, synergised systems for Noatum’s integration with the Group’s Logistics Cluster and developed the digital services for AD Maritime including Al Nalia mobile app.
The Digital Cluster also won several international prestigious awards in 2023 such as Innovation in Sustainable Technologies in Gulf Sustainability Awards 2023, Judges Special Achievement Award in IdeasUK 2023, and Best Customer Experience Strategy and Best Digital Customer Experience in International Customer Experience Awards 2023.
Lastly, the Cluster continued to invest in training young Emirati talents to lead and accelerate digital trade transformation through the ATLG programme, developed in collaboration with General Women’s Union.
Dr. Noura Al Dhaheri, Chief Executive Officer, Digital Cluster, and CEO of Maqta Gateway, AD Ports Group, said: “2023 has been an eventful year for the Digital Cluster. Our purpose has been redefined, and we are working together with other Clusters to transform our Group into a leading global trade facilitator. It was crucial to build a solid foundation and we are proud of the progress we have made. These efforts will be instrumental in advancing our business as well as the trade and supply chain industries at large. We believe that both regional and international markets possess several opportunities to offer our trade digitalisation expertise. As we march forward on this new journey, we express our heartfelt gratitude to the wise leadership for their support and enablement.”
ECONOMIC CITIES & FREE ZONE
In 2023, KEZAD Group, which leads AD Ports Group’s Economic Cities and Free Zone Cluster, engaged in strategic investments and development projects, which significantly impacted various industrial sectors, delivering on AD Ports Group’s growth and expansion agenda.
In the food and beverages sector, KEZAD signed a land lease agreement for the establishment of a PRAN Foods manufacturing plant with Emerging World FZC, investing AED 110 million to create a 42,000 square meter facility to serve local and regional markets and enhance exports across the MENA region. The agreement was followed with the signing of a 50-year land lease agreement with Al Ghurair Foods for the development of three AED 1 billion mega food processing projects, which include setting up a Starch Processing Plant and establishing one of the UAE’s largest Broiler producers, contributing to local and regional food security.
In the technology and innovation sector, KEZAD began developing a facility for Emtelle under its built-to-suit service, with Emtelle committing AED 184 million (USD 50 million) to build one of the world’s largest facilities for fibre optic ducting solutions.
In the metal industry, KEZAD partnered with Vale S.A. to develop a mega-hub for low-carbon steel products and construct a state-of-the-art handling facility at Khalifa Port. Furthermore, the focus on advancing the metal industry was seen in Al Jazeera Steel Products Co’s AED 250 million investment in a new rolling steel mill in KEZAD and the development of the largest galvanising pool within Metal Park, as well as Kings Aluminium Industries’ AED 750 million investment in a new aluminium facility.
During the year, KEZAD also signed an agreement with the Tubacex Group for the development of a facility for OCTG-CRA tubular solutions, representing a significant boost to the oil and gas sector. Additionally, Global Fluorine Chemical Factory LLC will triple its production capacity in KEZAD with an AED 1 billion investment. The Gulf Printing and Packaging (GPP) expansion marked a significant development as GPP has expanded to three times its original size in KEZAD.
KEZAD also invested AED 55 million in upgrading the infrastructure of Musaffah (ICAD 1) and AED 42 million in landscaping works in KEZAD Al Ma’mourah, furthering sustainable development within the region. Furthermore, KEZAD invested AED 330 million in the primary infrastructure development, which will house major projects of national importance, such as the Abu Dhabi Food Hub and the Global Auto Hub.
Abdullah Al Hameli, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Cities & Free Zones Cluster, AD Ports Group said: “In 2023, Economic Cities & Free Zones’ flagship KEZAD Group has been at the forefront of diversifying and strengthening the industrial capabilities of the UAE and the wider region, in line with the aspirations of our visionary leadership. Our strategic investments and development projects across sectors like food and beverage, technology and innovation, sustainable development, metal, oil and gas, and chemicals signify our commitment to economic growth and sustainability. We are setting new benchmarks in industrial excellence, and, as we continue to innovate and invest, the Economic Cities & Free Zones Cluster remains dedicated to enhancing the industrial landscape and ensuring a sustainable, prosperous future for all.”
2023 has been a major turning point in the development of the Logistics Cluster, which not only effectively navigated the ongoing supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the geopolitical instability, but also successfully transformed itself from a regional to a global player in fully integrated end-to-end logistics. Its leadership has been focused on establishing the Cluster’s presence across all major global markets and trade lanes through a strategy that encompasses organic growth, acquisitions, joint ventures, and partnerships.
The Cluster’s milestone achievement for 2023 was the acquisition of Noatum, a major global trade and logistics services provider headquartered in Spain. Its integration brings to the Cluster and AD Ports Group significant scale and agility, 60 years of experience and an integrated global portfolio of terminal operations, maritime shipping and logistics businesses. Having assumed the leadership of the Cluster, Noatum brings to the marketplace significant capabilities highlighted by its global network of 16 terminals, 67 ports, 143 international offices and a team of over 4,200 professionals covering 27 countries across all major global markets, inclusive of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Post-acquisition, Noatum celebrated its landmark 60th Anniversary via a spectacular gala at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, which brought together approximately 600 prominent dignitaries, and figures in the logistics, shipping, ports and other industrial sectors, both from Spain and around the world.
Delivering on the Group’s growth and expansion strategy, in late 2023, Noatum reached an agreement for a 100% equity ownership of Sesé Auto Logistics, the Finished Vehicles Logistics business which manages road and rail transport logistics of light and heavy vehicles in Germany, Poland Czech Republic, and Hungary. The acquisition, which is expected to be completed by Q1 2024, is part of Noatum’s plan to offer a comprehensive and vertical solution for the automotive industry under the Noatum Automotive brand, covering the entire vehicle supply chain.
Lastly, earlier in the year, the Cluster entered the Uzbekistan logistics market with the creation of ADL-Ulanish, a Joint Venture with SEG ENERA Group, to serve the country’s fast-growing domestic market and the Central Asian region as an emerging global trade hub.
Antonio Campoy, Chief Executive Officer, Noatum, Logistics Cluster, AD Ports Group, said: With the incorporation of Noatum’s capacities and international networks into the Logistics Cluster and the broader AD Ports Group, we are establishing substantial opportunities to serve the Group’s customers’ needs across all global markets. At the same time, we are working together to attract international companies that can benefit from the Group’s broad cross-Cluster ecosystem, thereby directing flows of imports and trade towards Abu Dhabi and the UAE. Looking into 2024, we remain focused on delivering market-leading products and services that provide value and earn the trust of our customers to manage their entire supply chains from the point of production to the point of consumption.”
MARITIME & SHIPPING
The Maritime & Shipping Cluster has shown in 2023 exceptional growth with strategic vessel acquisitions, which has not only improved connectivity to vital trading markets but also seen the Cluster venture into new business areas including Ro-Ro and liquid bulk. Additionally, thanks to the positive performance of the global offshore oil and gas market, 10 vessels were purchased that will bolster offshore operations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The year also saw a significant collaboration with Kazakhstan’s national shipping company, KazMorTransFlot (KMTF), leading to the acquisition of two advanced vessels for transporting Kazakhstan’s oil across the Caspian Sea. Today, the Cluster boasts over 200 vessels operating across all service lines.
Another key development was the formation of SAFEEN Drydocks, a joint venture between AD Ports Group and Premier Marine Engineering Services LLC. This venture, based at Khalifa Port, offers comprehensive services including drydocking, afloat repairs, shipbuilding, and refurbishment.
A significant highlight of the year was the inauguration of Sila Community Harbour and Al Fiyay Island Marina in Al Dhafra Region, by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The enhanced infrastructure projects form part of Abu Dhabi Maritime’s strategy and commitment to give back to Al Dhafra region and strengthen its maritime community by enhancing local employment opportunities and preserve local heritage and culture.
In pursuit of raising the bar across the maritime landscape, initiatives developed this year included the Abu Dhabi Maritime Awards, celebrating excellence in marinas across the MENA region, and Maritime Hub Abu Dhabi, a platform to bridge the gap between public and private players driving progress in the sector.
Captain Ammar Al Shaiba, Chief Executive Officer, Maritime & Shipping Cluster, AD Ports Group, said: “The Maritime & Shipping Cluster’s journey through 2023 is a demonstration of strategic growth, commitment to community, and foresight for evolving industry trends. We consistently seek opportunities to contribute to the development of comprehensive solutions for customers and partners in the maritime sector to equip our business with the right assets and logistics capabilities to adapt to the evolving global demand. As we move into 2024, the Cluster is well-positioned to continue its trajectory of success and innovation in the maritime world.”
2023 was a year of achievements and continued growth for the Ports Cluster with higher contribution to the overall revenue growth and profitability of AD Ports Group.
The beginning of the year witnessed the entry of the Ports Cluster to the Guinness Book of Records. The Khalifa Port team assembled 676 containers in the shape of AD Ports Group’s logo at its South Quay to earn the new Guinness World Records™ title. This record nearly doubled the previous standard, set by Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar Terminal in 2017 with 359 containers. The beginning of the year also witnessed the inauguration of the Aqaba Cruise Terminal, a major stop for cruise passengers visiting Jordan.
The Ports Cluster continued throughout the year its regional expansion with the signing of a 30-year extendable concession agreement to manage and operate a multipurpose terminal in Congo’s Pointe Noire Port, and the signing of a 50-year concession agreement in Pakistan to manage, operate, and develop the Karachi Gateway Terminal Limited (KGTL), inclusive of berths 6-10, at Karachi Port’s East Wharf. As part of the agreement, the Ports Cluster will work on significant investments in infrastructure and superstructure over the next 10 years, that will include deepening of berths, extension of quay walls, and an increase in container storage area.
In Egypt, the Ports Cluster will be expanding its operations in the country following the signing of an agreement with the Red Sea Ports Authority in late 2023. A 30-year concession agreement will allow the development and operation of a multi-purpose terminal at Safaga Port, a strategic location on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.
Furthermore, Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal was named the World’s and the Middle East’s Best Cruise Terminal for the year in the prestigious World Cruise Awards.
Saif Al Mazrouei, Chief Executive Officer, Ports Cluster, AD Ports Group, said: “During 2023, we marked the 11th anniversary of Khalifa Port, celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments we achieved in such a short time. These achievements stand as a testament to the collaborative endeavours of the diverse units within the Ports Cluster, which continued to expand throughout 2023. Our unwavering commitment to innovation positions us today as a global trade and logistics hub. With every passing day, we continue to grow and expand, surpassing the bounds of our present achievements and looking at a future far beyond the limits of our imagination.