Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT), the preferred gateway to Jordan and beyond, showed strong resilience in 2019 in the face of challenging local economic context and a strong start in 2020, in line with Jordan’s improving business context.
The business improvement is noticeable since the second half of 2019, as indicated by IPSOS Jordan Consumer Confidence Index for the last quarter of 2019 (up 3 points), and ACT volume growth recording 3.4% growth for the period of August to December compared to previous year. The first two months of 2020 have confirmed the trend with a growth in import container volumes of 13% and in export container volumes of 6%.
Reflecting on the overall performance of the terminal ACT CEO, Steven Yoogalingam, stated, “A key component of the way we do business at ACT is continuous improvement. We strive every day to build on our success and promote progress by remaining committed to the operational standards we have set, regardless of any external challenges we may face. 2019 was a year with many challenges. 2020 had a strong start but the year will not be free of challenges. The coronavirus outbreak has prolonged the period of low trading activity well beyond Chinese New Year so we naturally expect lower volumes in March.”
Gateway to Iraq
The terminal’s strategy to promote AQABA as a gateway to Iraq and the wider Levant delivered a sharp increase in containers to Iraq (up 367% compared to previous year), and thus contributed to the positive results recorded for the past few months.
ICRC, the global humanitarian agency for the protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict providing support and emergency relief to Syrian refugees, and Nile Forwarding, the project cargo expert who ships several hundreds of containers into Iraq, both made AQABA their preferred gateway.
Nile forwarding Founder & CEO, Nasri Aqrabawi, said, “We have found in ACT a true business partner which has supported us to develop the most efficient supply chain into Iraq. They went the extra mile to ensure that the processes and costs of all the different parties involved were all clear and without surprises. From our perspective, 2020 is a promising year for AQABA as gateway to Iraq.”
Safe haven for humanitarian aid cargo
For his part, ICRC Head of Logistics Support Center Jean-Marie Falzone said “We consider Jordan to be a safe haven for our cargoes and we enjoy the full welcome and support of the authorities of this country in order to accomplish our mission. Jordan is therefore the ICRC's main logistics hub, and our warehouses are able to cover the humanitarian needs of the entire region, from Gaza to Erbil, and Syria to Yemen. ACT and the local authorities in ASEZA have also been very supportive and we are now evaluating the opportunity of routing more relief cargo through Aqaba.”
Improved customs clearance
The strong drive of Jordan Customs authorities to digitalize essential cargo clearance processes have led to significant improvements in the dwell-time (average number of days that an importer leaves a container at ACT), reducing by a full day in 2019 compared to 2018 and reaching record low levels in January this year? down 3.3 days compared January 2017. The new Jordan National Single Window enabled pre-arrival clearance process which in turn allowed customers to clear their containers in as little as 48 to 72 hours after discharge in Jordan, in line with the best international standards.