RAK Attack

Oussama El Omari, project director general of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority, explains what RAK can offer to logistics firms.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  October 8, 2005

|~|El-Omari-Oussama-RAKFTZ_m.jpg|~|Oussama El Omari, project director general of the RAK FTZ.|~|Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the north of the UAE boasts the youngest free zone in the country. Although only five years old, the RAK Free Trade Zone Authority (FTZ) has already attracted a strong customer base through cost effective pricing and by dividing its operations in order to better support the needs of different types of businesses. “RAKFTZ is in its fifth year now, and I believe we know more about our customers now,” says Oussama El Omari, project director general of the RAK FTZ. “We have a better understanding of their wants and needs... and because we have been successful in meeting these requirements so far, we are getting demand for more offices and warehouses.” The free zone now houses over 1400 companies from 28 different countries and a variety of different industries. Some of the newest tenants, for instance, include Dole, the banana distributor, and European Heavy Trucks, which recently became the first truck-maker to set up manufacturing operations in the emirate. In total, the free zone is aiming to have 2000 clients in place by the end of the year. To cater for this strong demand, RAKFTZ is pressing ahead with expansion plans. The free zone will eventually cover 300 hectares, but the development is being divided into phases. The first two phases are already complete, and 80% sold out, so work is now underway on the third phase as well. “The expansion plan that we are witnessing is unprecedented and we are seeing a huge number of enquiries. The concern for us now is that we are filling up so quickly, and we need to be able to keep up with demand,” says El Omari. “However, we are now working day and night to get the third phase completed so that businesses can start to move in as soon as possible,” he adds. RAKFTZ’s investors are divided between three different parks spread around the emirate that cater to three different types of customers: industrial, business and technology. All three of the parks offer the same legal benefits, such as 100% foreign ownership, full capital and profit repatriation and an entirely tax-free environment for customers. The free zone also promotes itself as the cheapest place in the UAE to register a business, as companies are able to quickly set up operations for as little as US $5500 per annum. “A lot of our clients are those that may not be able to afford Dubai,” says El Omari. “They come to RAK because we are more affordable.” The largest of the three parks is the industry park, which caters to the manufacturing sector, distribution companies and logistics providers. It is located 15 km north of the city centre, and it offers direct access to Saqr Port. Tenants are also able to build their own docking facilities, so that they can unload cargo straight into their facility. “There will be waterfront slots available with harbour facilities,” says Sudhir Gupta, industrial development advisor, RAKFTZ. “Companies that require waterfront facilities, because they want to bring in their own cargo by boat, can have their facilities there.”||**|||~||~||~|The industry park, like the rest of the free zone, also has good road links with the rest of the UAE, including Dubai, which is just 45 minutes’ drive away along the recently-built Emirates Road. This proximity means that RAKFTZ sees the growth of Dubai as a logistics hub, and the emirate’s huge plans for Dubai Logistics City, as an opportunity rather than as a threat. “Logistics City will actually have a positive knock-on effect on our free zone, as more companies will be entering the region and perhaps wanting to set up another office or facility,” says El Omari. “The good thing with the RAK free zone is that it is a more affordable option than Dubai.” “There is also enough business for everyone.. for us here in RAK, and for the free zones in Dubai,” he adds. “In fact, once the construction of Dubai Logistics City is complete we still believe there will be enough business for everyone,” El Omari continues. The business park, the free zone’s second park, is situated in the city centre, halfway between the industry and technology parks. The main facility within this park is the World Trade and Business Innovation Centre, which comprise the first step towards the creation of the RAK Free Trade Zone City. The building provides a business base for entrepreneurs and established companies involved in the service sector, industrial manufacturing or general trading. Tenants of this building, and the rest of the free zone, are also able to utilise RAKFTZ’s business centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which then provides them with a meeting place and office when they are in these emirates on business. “We offer a unique added-value service to investors as the only free zone to offer promotion centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” says El Omari. In RAK, the World Trade and Business Innovation Centre offers a variety of different types of offices, and it has also recently benefited from the installation of a hi-tech internet-based telephony system from Cisco Systems. This $2-3 million system, which is only the second of its kind in the UAE, offers a range of advantages, including cheaper phone calls. It is therefore particularly appealing to international companies that would otherwise rack up huge phone bills. “We have some of the best technology around for our clients, but most importantly it is also about providing affordability,” says El Omair. “We try to make [the service] custom-made to what they need.” The final park, the 71 hectare technology park, caters for companies in the IT sector. It offers a combination of warehousing and office space, and it is positioned to the south of the city. This means that it is the closest to Dubai and the Emirates Road, which is a key advantage as these companies are the most reliant on road transport. The technology park also has a five star hotel nearby, as well as both a golf course and a lagoon. These types of facilities show how RAK is building the surrounding infrastructure for its free zone, and they also highlight the customer service levels that are among RAKFTZ’s main selling points. “We are very innovative, and we all get involved in talking to all our customers,” says El Omari. “The RAK leaders are also very proactive and very business like, which is what our customers like as they can see that we all get involved,” he adds. ||**||

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