Sheik Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nayhan, Abu Dhabi’s ruler officially opens one of the world’s largest container ports.
The scale and quality of the construction is awe inspiring and the opening did it justice. The time and date for this auspicious event was at 12 am on the 12th day of the 12th month. 12/12/12 will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the era of oil.
The Sheik’s intention is that this is one part of a plan to prepare for a future beyond the era of oil; extending the economy into new areas and building an infrastructure that will endure after all the oil has been pumped. It is a grand ambition and it is certainly a structure that will dominate the coast for centuries. Industrial archaeologists will write papers on this grand folly of the age of oil, built when the region was awash with cash and $9 billion was a small price pay to have a port to rival any in the world.
The intention is that Port Khalifa (named after the Sheik) will become a major staging post for freight from the Far East to western markets. If the current trend for long supply chains continues, Port Khalifa could become a major hub for world trade; but there is a flaw in this plan. The end of the era of oil will also bring to an end cheap transportation. As sustainability planning takes over, the one-way supply route will become obsolete. Business will no longer operate by manufacturing in China, shipping to Europe, selling, (using for a while) and then junking. New manufacturing will be around the cradle-to-cradle model of truly sustainable manufacturing and supply. It is the design and brands that will be global but physical goods will be much more localised.
I hope that Abu Dhabi will find its place in the world beyond the era of oil, but the Sheik’s advisors need to think a little deeper to deliver his vision of navigating a safe path into the future.
Port Khalifa has been opened in style and will stand alongside the pyramids as a memorial to a once rich civilization but it is unlikely to have a future as a port in the new world order.
Photos courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Ports Company media centre