Export growth of 49% saw total exports jump to just under $31bn compared to $20.6bn the previous year. Foreign non-oil imports were also up by 11%, an increase of $11.8bn, with 85.1 million tons of goods coming into the country from January to August 2012.
"The UAE, and its neighbours are fast becoming a more cohesive maritime and air trade power that will provide a vital link between the Far East and Australasia. Europe and North America; and with over $36bn investment into port transportation in some of the Gulf's key destinations, the future potential for trade growth is unlimited,"said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade.
Federal Customs Authority figures put Asia, Australia and the Pacific as the UAE's top non-oil trade partner for the period January to August 2012, with a total value of $77.5bn, followed by Europe at $51.5bn and the MENA region with $26bn. Trade volume with the UAE from other Gulf states is also increasing, hitting $16bn during the first eight months of 2012.
"With the proposed GCC regional rail network entering the early phases of development in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and receiving government sign-off elsewhere, the road map for land-sea-air connectivity is in place to drive new intra-regional opportunity and the development of next generation terminal facilities are needed to accommodate future projected demand," said Hayman.
"In the interim, with the world's largest ship owners' association - Bimco - confirming that the current oversupply of vessels will continue to force down shipping rates, this gives added impetus to those opportunistic companies looking to expand their trade horizons while market rates swing in their favour," he added.
In the UAE, Jebel Ali will see its terminal three capacity expanded to 19 million TEU per annum, with Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Port Terminal adding a further 15 million TEU per year upon completion in 2030.
Saudi Arabia is also powering ahead with port infrastructure development with more than $750m allocated to Dammam's King Abdul Aziz Port, which includes the launch of a second hi-tech container terminal in 2015 with capacity for 1.8 million TEUs per annum. In the southwest of the Kingdom, the Jizan Economic City project will also include port infrastructure plans while the northwestern port of Dhiba will get a new $46.4m container terminal.
Two additional terminals, valued at $38.4m, are to be constructed at King Fahd Industrial Port in Jubail while Jeddah Islamic Port is forecasting an average increase of 10.9% through to 2016.
Oman is also expanding existing facilities at Salalah, to create a new $143m maritime- meets-air hub, and phase one of its 1,061-kilometre long national railway system will include a link from Sohar Port to Al Misfah (Muscat) and onwards to Duqm Port, as well as connecting Sohar to the UAE border.
Qatar's new $7.1bn mega-port project, located close to the busy Messaeid Industrial Zone & Port is aiming for a 2016 opening, with eventual capacity of six million TEU per year by 2028, and will bring new opportunity to the Gulf state as part of its 2030 economic vision.
Taking place at the five-star St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, and an annual calendar event for global economists, port authorities, terminal operators, shipping companies, global cargo owners and investors, the two-day summit will deliver a focused programme of conference sessions designed to promote trade development, examine supply chain management systems and discuss port efficiency.
Organised by Seatrade, the World Ports & Trade Summit is held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC).