Dhows to get digitised by Dubai PCFC 10X project

Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation to launch digital platform to manage dhow shipping from Dubai

Tags: LogisticsPorts Customs and Free Zone CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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Dhows to get digitised by Dubai PCFC 10X project HE Sultan Bin Sulayem said the platform will boost Dubai’s dhow trade competitiveness.
By  Mark Sutton Published  April 2, 2018

The Port, Customs & Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) will launch an app and online marketplace to overhaul the traditional dhow cargo trade in Dubai.

The Dhowber smart platform aims to organise trade carried out in traditional dhow ships, which carry around 2.2 million tons of cargo and make 13,000 trips around the region each year.

The project, which has been launched as part of Dubai 10X, will also introduce artificial intelligence (AI) to provide a dynamic pricing engine based on demand, as well as auxiliary services such as insurance of goods.

Dhowber stands to benefit more than 1,500 dhows making around 13,000 trips annually, transporting around 2.2 million tons of cargo with a value of AED22 million. The platform is scalable and can be replicated across the globe, especially in countries that have larger inland waterways, rivers, and harbours, to transport cargo from one port to another.

His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman and CEO of DP World, Chairman of PCFC commented: "The wise vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, always inspires and encourages us to be more innovative in fulfilling the Dubai 10X initiative, and to embrace disruptive innovation and find new, creative and truly disruptive approaches and technologies, creating projects that will help add value to the world."

The Dhowber app is a marketplace that brings together boat captains (nukdahs) and traders, who are looking to ship their cargo to nearby ports. Nukdahs can define the dhow route, display the boat capacity and connect with traders. Dhowber allows both nukdahs and traders to register, search, and inquire availability and book cargo shipments all from one user-friendly, easy-to-use mobile app. Payments are also handled via the app so that nukdahs can receive payments immediately. Additionally, there is a two-sided rating system which allows both traders and nukdahs to rate each other. And finally, the traders can track their cargo from departure to arrival.

"We looked at the trade data and conducted market research at Dubai Creek, and saw a huge opportunity - not just in Dubai - but at small ports across the world," asserted H.E. bin Sulayem. "Boats arrive empty in Dubai and spend anywhere from one to several weeks in search cargo. And yet, the boats depart with only <60% of their cargo capacity filled. Moreover, boats are only paid after confirmation of the delivery which can take a week or a month after delivering the goods to the importer."

H.E. explained that the main benefits of this solution include increasing boat cargo utilization, where this new marketplace allows boats to find traders and book cargo before they've even arrived to Dubai. Dhowber is expected to increase cargo utilization by 33%, in addition to reducing turn-around time, by matching traders and nukdahs who would have normally not worked with each other, sparing nukdahs the several days they usually spend negotiating and waiting to fill up their boats

"We started assessing this opportunity in mid-2017," he revealed. "The development of this project kicked off in November and we have a dedicated team building the apps. We have also identified a pilot group of traders and nukdahs to work with us. The pilot run of the app will happen by mid-2018 and will be officially launched by the end of 2018."

The Dubai 10X initiative seeks to place Dubai Government entities 10 years ahead of the rest of the world in all sectors. To that end, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan approved 26 projects presented by 24 government departments. The shortlisted projects were evaluated by a panel of experts out of a total of more than 160 ideas submitted by 36 entities in less than 365 days.

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