The UAE’s Economy Minister has pledged that the UAE will continue to invest in its ports and other major transport infrastructure, to boost the contribution of the logistics sector to the UAE’s economy.

Speaking at the World Ports and Trade Summit in Abu Dhabi, Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri said that the UAE “will continue to invest in ports, rail and aviation infrastructure”.

“Infrastructure is key to [economic] growth,” said Al-Mansouri. “Our ports will continue to play a dominant role in that.”

The minister went on to say that the UAE’s lucrative export market is driven by ports, and that the logistics and trade sector is set to “play a much higher contribution to GDP [gross domestic product]”.

In his keynote address, Al-Mansouri outlined a number of key challenges that region’s maritime industry faces in the coming years. In addition to oil price fluctuations and piracy, the minister highlighted the new global trade format as presenting a key challenge that the region’s shipping sector needs to adapt to.

“Economic influences are shifting from North America and Europe to China and South East Asia. This will affect trade as we know it,” said Al-Mansouri.

One of the largest port projects under way in the region is the Khalifa Port project in Abu Dhabi, which will be located at the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad). The first phase of the port is scheduled to be ready by the fourth quarter of 2012. When completed, the first phase of the port will be able to handle 2 million containers a year and 12 million tonnes of cargo.