Dubai Customs Director, Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, has urged freight forwarding industry players in the MENA region to move to the next level by establishing a seamless trade corridor that allows trucks to move without barriers.
He stressed the importance of fostering productive cooperation between Customs and non-Customs agencies to simplify formalities and utilise the latest smart IT tools in information sharing, control and inspection, so as to enable trucks to move between countries in a much faster manner, without jeopardising the security of communities and exposing them to the risks of illicit trade.
He made his views today at the Cargo Show MENA 2016, which is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. Ahmed Mahboob took part in a panel session on "Leading the Race to a Seamless, Integrated Trade Corridor", where he presented Dubai Customs’ insight on creating a mega trade corridor between GCC countries.
"The integration of GCC economies has come a long way, and enhanced the position the region occupies on the global trade map, particularly after the establishment of the Customs Union of the GCC States. Foreign trade for all GCC member states collectively scored US$1.337 trn in 2014, an increase of almost four-folds from the US$ 261 bn reached in 2000. On the other hand, intra-GCC trade saw seven-folds increase between 2002 - before the Customs Union of the GCC States saw the light in 2003- and 2014, from US$ 15 bn to US$ 124 bn.
"The UAE’s foreign trade scored AED 1.632 trn in 2014 – that is 0.56% of overall global trade - and is expected to hit AED 1.750 trillion in 2015. Remarkably, a report, released by the World Trade Organisation, ranked the UAE 16th globally in commodity exports and 20th globally in commodity imports," Musabih said.
As more integration and synergy are seen between GCC economies, Musabih noted, the freight forwarding industry is on the upswing. Trucking is the most used mode of freight transportation in the GCC states, with more than one million trucks currently in operation across the region and this number augments by 5-9% each year.
Talking about future transport projects in the region, the Director of Dubai Customs said, "The GCC rail network, which will link all six Gulf states, is one of the major projects undertaken to develop forms of transport between GCC members. Once completed, the network will support the establishment of a GCC corridor for freight forwarding, supported by more developed procedures, trade services and Customs facilitations to streamline trade flow between Gulf states.
As for the UAE, the AED 40-billion Etihad Rail project, which is linking the seven emirates and is expected to be completed in 2018, will redefine logistics and transport in the region."
"Challenges are numerous, but so are opportunities," said Musabih, "Government and private entities in the MENA region must forge solid business partnerships to capitalise on these opportunities. The Silk Road Economic Belt is one of these opportunities, creating a network connecting Asia, Europe and Africa and passing through more than 60 countries and regions with a population of about 4.4 billion. The MENA region is one of the major economic areas included in the Belt."
When asked how the coordination between Customs administrations in the GCC can be enhanced to facilitate smooth cargo flow between member states, Musabih said that the member states of the GCC have long shared entrenched political, economic and social ties, ever since the Council was established. A lot of joint efforts were made to integrate the processes of Customs agencies, that culminated with the establishment of the GCC Customs Union back in 2003, including the Common Customs Law of the GCC States and the unified Customs tariff, as well as many unified Customs processes. Moreover, there are work mechanisms to develop the coordination between Customs agencies, namely the GCC Financial and Economic Cooperation Committee, Federal Customs Authority and the Customs Procedures Committee.
He underscored that utilising the latest smart IT applications in cargo examination and inspection helps facilitate the cargo movement by reducing time and effort needed to complete the inspection, specially using X-ray inspection devices to scan consignments without stopping trucks and unloading them. "At Dubai Customs, we developed a complete system for inspection to accommodate the increase in the numbers of trucks and containers coming to Dubai every day," he said.
In respect to the partnerships Dubai Customs established with local and Gulf freight forwarders to support and facilitate shipping flow, Mr. Musabih said that Dubai Customs forged solid partnerships with local and Gulf freight industry players to ensure best cooperation and coordination levels, by offering state-of-the-art freight facilitations and services that allow them to get an added value that boosts their operations.