Millionaire boss praises terminal

10:40am Tuesday 28th February 2012

By Matt Smith

THE powerful Dubai boss of the 500 workers at Southampton's container port yesterday pledged further investment in the terminal as he paid a personal tribute to their record breaking efforts.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, 57, the one of world's most influential Arab businessmen, made the remarks as he congratulated workers who set a new individual crane productivity record for moving containers.

Mr Bin Sulayem, who was behind Dubai's luxury beachfront Palm and World developments and the purchase of the retired QE2 liner for $100m, met managers and staff at the terminal and pledged: “We will continue to invest in Southampton. We are committed to Southampton.”

The DP World owned Southampton terminal, which handles an estimated 1.5m twenty foot equivalent containers (TEUs) a year, claimed a 20 per cent rise in productivity last year.

DP World said its Southampton terminal can now turn around vessels faster than other UK competitors, such as it larger rival at Felixstowe.

A single crane working the OOCL Long Beach container ship earlier this month shifted a record breaking 565 boxes during a 12 hours shift.

Meeting members of the terminal's “A” team behind the record, Mr Bin Sulayem, told them: “This achievement is amazing and we are very proud of it.”

He said Southampton was now a “model example of productivity improvements” and had set a “new benchmark in the UK container industry.”

Under a port master plan drawn up by docks owners ABP, proposed new berths and dredging works, threatened by planning delays after a legal challenge from Felixstowe, would boost box handling capacity from two million to 2.7m TEUs.

It was Mr Bin Sulayem second visit to the port since state owned DP World bought a 51 per cent stake in Southampton's container terminal in 2006 though its acquisition of P&O ports.

The sultan earlier visited the site of DP World's new £1.5billion London Gateway port, which is set to open in late 2013 to “compliment” Southampton with a 1.6m TEU capacity.

Who is Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem?

Mr Bin Sulayem, 57, is one of the Arab world's most influential businessmen who has masterminded the transformation of Dubai into a global ports powerhouse and instrumental in turning the small city-state into a bustling Las Vegas-style tourism with countless luxury hotels, dozens of skyscrapers.

A former customs inspector at Dubai's then sleepy port in the 1970s, with close family links to the Dubai's ruling Maktoum family, he was charged aged 30 with creating a free trade zone that led its rapid expansion into a huge international port.

As chairman of Dubai World subsidiary DP World, he oversaw the purchase of the UK's P&O ports for $6.9 billion in 2006, and was a driving force behind the group's expansion to become the world's third largest marine terminal operator.

He was also behind the establishment in 2000 of state owned property developer Nakheel, best known for its creations such as The Palm - dubbed the “the eighth wonder of the world” and The World as part of a vast expansion of the Dubai beachfront.

Mr Bin Sulayem was also founder the Government investment house Istithmar which in 2007 paid $100m for the retired The Queen Elizabeth 2 to turn it into a luxury floating hotel and conference centre.

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