Gulftainer Company, the Sharjah port management firm, is positioning its two ports – the Indian Ocean port of Khorfakkan Container Terminal and Mina Khalid’s Sharjah Contain-er Terminal on the Gulf coast – to serve as gateways to the UAE’s northern emirates.

With the UAE’s Union Railway planning to build a 1,100-kilometre-long line across the country, the northern emirates of Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain will by 2015 benefit from significantly improved transport links for both freight and passengers.

Sharjah’s ports will play a key role in the emirates’ future development, making it easier to import goods into the smaller emirates.

Gulftainer already has a strong business in ship-to-ship container transfers at both the  ports it manages; now it is developing logistics areas to support the ports business. It will build bases for storage and transport and, eventually, sophisticated supply chain services. 

Despite an economic downturn that has forced logistics companies worldwide to adjust to lower volumes, Gulftainer says it has found tenants for up to 80 per cent of the 9,600 square metres of new storage space at its Sharjah Inland Container Depot, which lies 120km inland from Khorfakkan. Now the company plans to build a second, 70,000-square-metre logistics city at the nearby site of Al-Sajaa.

As the northern emirates’ infrastructure develops, so the need for transport and logistics services will grow. Gulftainer’s expansion strategy, both for its ports and logistics cities, may seem countercyclical given the global financial downturn. But by investing now, Sharjah’s ports will be ready to serve the northern emirates once the region’s development gathers pace with the building of the UAE’s cross-country railway.