Port, Customs & Free Zone Corporation’s ‘Dhowber’ Project Boosts Dubai’s Lead in Maritime Transport

Port, Customs & Free Zone Corporation’s ‘Dhowber’ Project Boosts Dubai’s Lead in Maritime Transport

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The Port, Customs & Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) has launched its one-of-a-kind “Dhowber” project to strengthen the UAE and Dubai’s leading global position in the maritime transport industry, and help shape the sector’s future.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and Chairman of DFF’s Board of Trustees, launched the bold plan, among a bundle of avant-garde proposals for Dubai 10X at the 6th World Government Summit, held in Dubai in February 2018.

The Dubai 10X initiative seeks to place Dubai Government entities 10 years ahead of the rest of the world in all sectors. To that end, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan approved 26 projects presented by 24 government departments. The shortlisted projects were evaluated by a panel of experts out of a total of more than 160 ideas submitted by 36 entities in less than 365 days.

His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman and CEO of DP World, Chairman of PCFC, asserted that the new project will boost Dubai’s dhow trade competitiveness by applying new tools to organize cargo transport and take it to the next level. Dhowber is a smart platform that will help in cargo activity reservation for traditional dhows on Dubai creek, H.E. explained, adding that the platform will rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to provide a dynamic pricing engine based on demand, as well as auxiliary services such as insurance of goods.

Dhowber stands to benefit more than 1,500 dhows making around 13,000 trips annually, transporting around 2.2 million tons of cargo with a value of AED22 million. The platform is scalable and can be replicated across the globe, especially in countries that have larger inland waterways, rivers, and harbors, to transport cargo from one port to another.

“The wise vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, always inspires and encourages us to be more innovative in fulfilling the Dubai 10X initiative, and to embrace disruptive innovation and find new, creative and truly disruptive approaches and technologies, creating projects that will help add value to the world,” H.E. bin Sulayem noted.

The Dhowber app is a marketplace that brings together boat captains (nukdahs) and traders, who are looking to ship their cargo to nearby ports. Nukdahs can define the dhow route, display the boat capacity and connect with traders. Dhowber allows both nukdahs and traders to register, search, and inquire availability and book cargo shipments all from one user-friendly, easy-to-use mobile app. Payments are also handled via the app so that nukdahs can receive payments immediately. Additionally, there is a two-sided rating system which allows both traders and nukdahs to rate each other. And finally, the traders can track their cargo from departure to arrival.

“We looked at the trade data and conducted market research at Dubai Creek, and saw a huge opportunity – not just in Dubai – but at small ports across the world,” asserted H.E. bin Sulayem. “Boats arrive empty in Dubai and spend anywhere from one to several weeks in search cargo. And yet, the boats depart with only <60% of their cargo capacity filled. Moreover, boats are only paid after confirmation of the delivery which can take a week or a month after delivering the goods to the importer.”

H.E. explained that the main benefits of this solution include increasing boat cargo utilization, where this new marketplace allows boats to find traders and book cargo before they’ve even arrived to Dubai. Dhowber is expected to increase cargo utilization by 33%, in addition to reducing turn-around time, by matching traders and nukdahs who would have normally not worked with each other, sparing nukdahs the several days they usually spend negotiating and waiting to fill up their boats

“We started assessing this opportunity in mid-2017,” he revealed. “The development of this project kicked off in November and we have a dedicated team building the apps. We have also identified a pilot group of traders and nukdahs to work with us. The pilot run of the app will happen by mid-2018 and will be officially launched by the end of 2018.”

DP World accounted for 5.4% of the world’s total handling volume, ranking third in the list of the world’s largest port operators, according to the Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Report 2016, prepared by global marine freight consultants Drewry. According to the firm’s research, DP World has managed to progress from fourth place in the previous rankings to third in 2016, after the group registered the highest growth in container volumes among the top five port operators worldwide.

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