Increasing the number of UAE Nationals in the workforce is a core pillar of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and a central business strategy for Abu Dhabi Ports.
As a government-owned entity and a leading provider of marine services in the UAE, Abu Dhabi Ports has always played a vital role in the emirate’s emiratisation exercise which has now reached the next level of success.
For the first time ever in the UAE’s history of sea port operations, Abu Dhabi Ports has a dedicated team of UAE Nationals that can carry out the entire circle of port operations, including the full range of marine services, as well as the process of loading and unloading cargo vessels.
“This marks a major breakthrough and confirms our role in supporting young Emirati talent while putting the directives of our leadership into action. Our role is driven by a sense of patriotism that supports our commitment to training and development, making sure that, as the maritime industry grows, the Emirates’ development into a major international maritime hub is motivated by talented, skilled UAE Nationals in meaningful maritime careers,” says HE Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Ports.
“We are very proud of our first entire Emirati port operations team and to be part of such a historic moment. The success of our emiratisation strategy is directly linked to the range of different training programmes that we offer. These range from specialised operational training or developing back office administration skills, to identifying potential future leaders and giving them the training and support to realise their career potential”, says Capt. Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports.
The maritime sector is vitally important to the emirate which relies heavily on imports, and it will become more so as trade and economic diversification increases in support of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vison 2030.
To support this growth, Abu Dhabi Ports has launched a major drive to recruit UAE Nationals to operational roles in the ports. The campaign called Port’s Pulse, has focused on raising awareness of the importance of the maritime economy and the vital strategic role played by the ports. The campaign has urged Emiratis to fill roles across the business, in the spirit of national patriotism.
Abu Dhabi Ports’ comprehensive port operations training programmes cover all of the different tasks involved in a ship’s arrival in the port to load or unload it and escort it safely back to the open sea. What seems so easy and straight forward, is actually a complex series of interrelated jobs that require special know-how, precisely coordinated actions and teamwork.
What do ‘port operations’ involve?
From the moment that the captain of an approaching container ship sends out a berthing request to Khalifa Port’s control tower (usually several hours ahead), the arrival and departure of the visiting vessel is carefully planned.
Vessel Traffic Services (VTS)
A crucial point of contact in the planning and operations stage is the operator of the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) – a system that helps with identifying, following and organising the vessels at sea.
The VTS collects traffic and ship data, for example the intention of a ship’s visit, through radar, closed-circuit television (CCTV), Very High Frequency (VHF) radiotelephony and the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
The collected data is compiled at the VTS operator’s work station located inside the port’s control tower, from where the operator uses it to respond to the traffic situation at sea.
Next, a pilot from Abu Dhabi Marine Services is sent out to meet the arriving vessel in one of the dedicated pilot boats. The pilot’s job is to assist the visiting ship’s captain by taking over the vessel’s bridge, and navigating it safely to the port basin.
Ship’s captains come from all over the world, and obviously do not have specialist knowledge of each and every port. The pilot provides that in-depth local knowledge and expertise.
Once the container ship reaches the port basin, a tug master and his tugboat take over. The tugboat is used to push and tow the ship to its allocated berth inside the port because the ship is too large to move itself through the port basin.
Tugboats have tremendous pushing and pulling power and are highly manoeuvrable. One of the largest tugboats at Khalifa Port is the Al Fenci with a horsepower (HP) of 4,600 HP. This is more than four times higher than the horsepower of a Formula 1 car (950 HP) and more than seven times higher than the horsepower of the Ferrari Enzo (651 HP).
Mooring and associated services
After the container ship has arrived at the quay wall of the Khalifa Port Container Terminal, a trained mooring gang ties the vessel to the quayside to secure its position. Some of the ship’s seamen throw ropes and mooring lines to the gang on the pier, which then attaches them to the bollards – short vertical posts – and pulls them tight.
The Container Terminal is operated by Abu Dhabi Terminals, which will provide a range of other services for ships at this stage of the berthing process, including the delivery of fresh water supply, garbage disposal and bunkering (fuel) services.
Ship-to-shore (STS) quay cranes
Once the container ship is secured in its position, the super-post-Panamax ship-to-shore (STS) quay cranes at Khalifa Port container terminal are utilized to unload or load the vessel (often simultaneously to speed the ship’s turnaround time).
With a height of 126.5m and a weight of 1,932 tons, the cranes are some of the largest and most modern ship-to-shore quay cranes in the world today. The cranes have an outreach of 65m (22 containers) and a lifting capacity of 90 tons – the same weight as 48 four-wheel drives.
After the ship has been unloaded and all of the containers carried onto the dockside, they are picked up by straddle carriers and dropped off at the so-called waterside transfer.
Automated Stacking Cranes (ASC)
From here, the Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs) move the containers to Khalifa Port’s dedicated container yard. There are 42 stacks and each one can store 2,000 TEUs/containers.
The ASCs are operated remotely from Khalifa Port’s Terminal Operation Building (TOB), where Remote Operator Station (ROS) operators manoeuvre the cranes via a joystick, while following every move on a monitor. The ROS operators also load the containers onto trucks which then leave the container yard and travel to the warehouse or retail centre which is the containers’ final destination.
“All of the Emirati staff at Khalifa Port members are fully qualified or are currently undergoing extensive training as per the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) requirements under STCW95 in order to develop and retain a strong, sustainable national expert workforce for the local maritime industry,” says Al Shamisi.
Alongside the comprehensive in-house training courses, each UAE National is entitled and encouraged to take two external courses and overseas training programmes. In 2014, the total amount of hours that UAE Nationals participated in training added up to 5,725 hours, clearly demonstrating Khalifa Port’s commitment to developing a highly skilled National workforce.
Abu Dhabi Ports has introduced various development initiatives to directly support emiratisation in its ports. One such example is the NAWRUS initiative.NAWRUS is a sea bird associated with ports and ships, but also stands for ‘The National Way to Ramp Up Success’. The scheme targets young Emiratis offering them positions to train for port operations jobs such as crane and other equipment operators and cargo clerks.
In addition, Abu Dhabi Ports offers a ‘Developee Programme’ for fresh Emirati graduates. The programme lasts for two years and can be based in any department across the company.
In 2014, Abu Dhabi Ports had a total of 38 Developees, 24 of which are females and 14 are males. Twenty-five of them successfully completed the programme last year, and thirteen will be finalizing the programme this year. The fact that the number of female candidates is slightly higher that the number of male candidates, confirms the growing number of female Emiratis in the still male-dominated maritime industry.
Another example of the company’s Emiratisation initiatives is the Ports International Executive Road (PIER) programme which has been designed to ‘fast track’ UAE National employees for top leadership positions. This programme focusses on Abu Dhabi Ports’ employees who perform successfully and have the potential and motivation to grow into a more responsible and challenging leadership role over the next 18-48 months.
Abu Dhabi Ports has also enhanced its partnership with Abu Dhabi Tawteen Council and the Ministry of Presidential Affairs to attract and hire UAE National job seekers and is working with the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) on career guidance programmes. Abu Dhabi Ports is also sponsoring Emirati students studying programmes related to the organisation’s business operations, such as Marine Science, Engineering and other technical subjects.
As the first full circle of port operations carried out entirely by Emirati employees confirms, the many initiatives (including recruitment events), programmes, and partnerships to support and boost the number of UAE Nationals entering the maritime industry in the emirate are delivering real success.
Last year, Abu Dhabi Ports also hired five Emiratis for key critical management positions, established an Emirati succession development plan and identified a further five UAE Nationals for the role of Executive Vice President (EVP). Each of the EVP candidates has now been assessed and placed on a specially designed succession plan programme.
In 2014, Abu Dhabi Ports made significant progress in creating sustainable employment opportunities for Emiratis and achieved an Emiratisation level of 44% across its total workforce. This rate is expected to rise to 47% in 2015. The target of Abu Dhabi Ports’ emiratisation strategy is to reach a level of 55% of UAE Nationals across its workforce by 2017.
The fact that Abu Dhabi Ports won last years “Training Award” at the prestigious Lloyd’s List Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Awards, as well as the “People Development Award” at the International Bulk Journal (IBJ) Awards in Rotterdam, Netherlands, demonstrates international recognition of the company’s efforts and underlines the organisation’s commitment towards its employees and displays confidence that targets like these will be easily achieved.