Egypt’s DP World Sokhna port on the Red Sea is nearing the completion of its Basin 2 expansion which would nearly double the port’s container handling capacity to 1.75 million TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent units] per year, the company CEO said.
Ajay Kumar Singh told Zawya Projects that the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the commissioning of Basin 2 project.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the commissioning of equipment. But once air travel returns, we will be able to get engineers in to complete commissioning of the equipment, and once done, we will open the space for trade,” he said without giving a timeline.
In November 2019, parent company DP World had announced that the $520 million Basin 2 project would add 750,000 TEUs of capacity and become operational by the second quarter of 2020.
The project includes a 1.3-kilometre-long quay and a 350,000 square metre (sqm) container yard, according to previous statements. The project would complement the existing Basin 1 with 945,000 TEUs capacity, and Basin 3, a liquid bulk station spanning 400 sqm.
Once Basin 2 is commissioned, DP World Sokhna would become the only port in Egypt capable of handling the largest container ships in the world, said Singh.
“Our expansion into Basin 2 will enable us to facilitate even greater volume, which supports our commitment to boost further Egypt’s economic growth and cement DP World Sokhna’s position as a major gateway for the country’s trade,” he said.
Despite COVID-19, the port, which is located below the southern entrance to the Suez Canal, has maintained its operations to keep the trade flowing while taking all the necessary measures and steps to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers.
Singh said: “We follow all the processes and procedures that are in line with the recommendations and instructions of the Egyptian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. These include testing of staff, temperature checks, sharing information and creating awareness of preventive measures and hygiene, and implementing social distancing.”
Besides, the terminal and equipment are regularly cleaned and sanitised, and all staff are given masks, sanitisers and gloves as mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We also encouraged office staff to work from home, including staff with underlying conditions and above the age of 55 and women with children below 12 years,” he said.
In the past few months, DP World Sokhna has implemented several innovative changes, including Smart Gates and a new terminal operating system to enhance operational efficiency.
“At DP World Sokhna, we have been doing fairly well in terms of volumes to date. However, we have adapted to the situation and have implemented smarter ways of doing business, through innovation and greater use an integration of technology and automation, to enhance efficiency and provide the best solutions for our customers,” noted Singh.
Earlier this year, a new direct shipping route was launched connecting the Jebel Ali Port in Dubai with Sokhna and the Jeddah Islamic Port in Saudi Arabia.
“This trade lane has grown to become quite successful and is especially well-positioned to leverage regional trade between these three countries,” said Singh. “A new service by CMA CGM which has been recently launched now connects Sokhna to East Africa, [and is] a potential market and game-changer.”
In December last year, DP World Sokhna entered into a trilateral partnership with the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), and the China Ocean Shipping Company Ltd (COSCO), to serve as the hub for all construction material imports needed to build the central business and financial district of Egypt’s New Administrative Capital.
Singh pointed out that CSCEC would benefit from Sokhna’s proximity to the new capital and its advanced road and rail links. Moreover, DP World Sokhna is the closest container port to Cairo and is located within the 90 square kilometres North West Suez Economic Zone.
Living with COVID-19
With the world preparing to live with COVID-19 in the long term, Singh pointed out that DP World takes the responsibility to the communities within which it operates very seriously and is committed to standing side by side with them in confronting this historic challenge.
“However, we can only fulfil this commitment by ensuring a safe working environment. Whether it is the residents near our ports and terminals or the communities in which our workers live, their wellbeing depends on our ability to operate safely and securely,” he said.
Measures adopted by the company from a community safety standpoint include segregating workforces using PPE; increased cleaning and disinfection; providing transportation to employees during lockdowns; and providing employee accommodations near their place of work.
The company also donated two state-of-the-art ventilator devices to the Directorate of Health in Suez, which has been installed in Suez General Hospital.
“We have also distributed over 1,200 food parcels for families of retired and deceased employees, as well as to families of affected non-regular workers in Suez,” said Singh.
In November last year, DP World Sokhna had celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“In the next five years, about 3.5 million young Egyptians are projected to enter the labour force. Coupled with a nearly 100 million population, and a geographic location that provides excellent access to important foreign markets, creates a tremendous opportunity for further growth in Egypt,” the DP World Sokhna head said.
He also added that the company has been working with the Egyptian government to set up a logistics park and Dry Port, and is exploring avenues to develop a “complete supply chain” to reach the customer’s doorstep.
DP World said last year that its total investment in Egypt, including Basin 2 expansion, stands at $1.6 billion.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Marwa Abo Almajd; Editing by Anoop Menon)