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UAE: Two royal visits and the mind-boggling transformation of Dubai's Jebel Ali Port

It has been more than 40 years since Queen Elizabeth II's visit in 1979


Anjana Sankar

Published: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 2:52 PM

Last updated: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 10:27 PM

More than forty years after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the Jebel Ali Port in 1979, her grandson, Prince William, became the second British royal to visit the harbour on Thursday.

If it was a British royal yacht, HMY Britannia that docked at the port with Queen Elizabeth II onboard forty-three years ago on February 26, The Duke of Cambridge arrived at the port along with a cavalcade of shining vehicles.

In 1979, the village of Jebel Ali was a meagre accommodation for port workers, and it had a population of 300 people.

But what awaited the Duke of Cambridge was the most advanced logistical facility anywhere globally with sprawling million container yards, cargo storage and the busiest container movement in the Middle East.

Jebel Ali Port handle 80% of Dubai’s trade volume.

A handout picture released by the Emirati news agency WAM shows UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan (R) meeting with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on November 25, 2010. AFP
A handout picture released by the Emirati news agency WAM shows UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan (R) meeting with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on November 25, 2010. AFP

It has 22 million TEU capacity across four container terminals. There are 100 berths across 25 kilometres of quay for container, liquid, general cargo and RORO terminals. The largest port between Rotterdam and Singapore, Jebel Ali Port, facilitated USD 104.2 billion worth of trade in 2020. It is home to 100 of the world’s Fortune 500 companies and contributes 33% of Dubai’s GDP.

Prince William was given a demonstration of how Port authorities scan containers and prevent the illegal trafficking of wildlife – a cause The Duke is fighting. He watched how inspectors busted an attempt to smuggle a tusk.

"The sheer scale of Jebel Ali Port is phenomenal," the Duke tweeted soon after the visit.

"Heralded the ‘engine’ of Dubai, this is one of the busiest ports in the world, seeing thousands of containers and cargoes go through it everyday," he said.

During the visit, The Duke was shown the scale of operations at the Middle East's largest port and observed a demonstration of cargo being unloaded from container ships by crane, scanned for suspicious items and inspected by customs. He saw how cargo is being unloaded, the journey through the customs, and how cutting edge technology is deployed to identify trafficked wildlife items.

The Duke is the founder of the United for Wildlife, working in the region to facilitate public-private partnerships in the UAE to help stop the illegal trade of wildlife, and DP World is Principal Partner.

Sultan Ahmed bin Sumatra, Group Chairman and CEO of DP world said, "As a leading global logistics business, we recognize the important need to address the rising concerns posed by the illegal wildlife trade, which not only impacts biodiversity, but has ramifications for our planet and local communities."

"We are taking extensive measures to tackle the issues, including collaborating with United for wildlife and technology companies to develop processes to improve the detection of illegal wildlife cargo."

"We are deeply honoured by Prince William's visit and his unwavering support to this cause, and hope that organizations and governments transport companies and influencers mobilize to raise awareness of the devastation such trade offices around the world," he said.

Prince William, who is on his first official visit to the Emirates earlier, visited Abu Dhabi's Jubail Mangrove Park, an eco-sanctuary and a haven for avian and marine species in the UAE capital.

He planted seedlings, interacted with school children, and told them that they were the future in the fight to protect the planet.


"The Mangrove Initiative will focus on sustainability and preserving the natural environment, providing vital research for supporting biodiversity - including the development of more resilient varieties of the mangrove, which will in turn help protect the Abu Dhabi coastline," the Duke tweeted from his official account.

"These parks also play a role in their communities, especially for the next generation, and it's great to see programmes are in place to inspire young people to become the environmental leaders of tomorrow," he added.

The Duke also met Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, and discussed environmental issues and new efforts to conserve mangroves.

In the afternoon, Prince William will visit Expo 2020 and meet Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and also attend the UK National Day Celebrations. He will listen to pitches from innovators of the Earthshot Prize and also interact with young Emiratis.

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