New Dubai refinery set to tip balance of global gold industry

emirati-goldOne of the world’s biggest gold refineries is under construction at Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.

When completed next year, it will help to alter the balance of power in the global gold industry.

While the growth in global demand for gold is shifting east to Asia’s fast-growing economies, key industry activities like refining and clearing remain dominated by Europe and the United States.

But the construction of a new 60 million dollar refinery, by Kaloti Precious Metals, is part of efforts to change that pattern.

So is the plan by the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange to introduce a spot gold contract this June.

kalotiMunir al Kaloti, who’s president and founder of Kaloti Precious metals, says Dubai currently represents only 11 percent of the world’s gold business but by 2020 this percentage is expected to grow to around 40 percent, becoming one the highest in the world.

Kaloti’s new refinery will have an annual capacity of 1,400 tonnes of gold making it more than three times the size of any of the UAE’s current refineries.

Current annual capacity in the United Arab Emirates is about eight hundred tonnes, including a 450-tonne refinery already operated by Kaloti.

Switzerland dominates the industry with over 3,000 tonnes, accounting for roughly 50 percent or more of global refining.

But nearly 40 percent of the world’s physical gold trade passed through Dubai last year, according to the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.

The value of gold import and export contracts handled by Dubai has soared from 6 billion dollars in 2003, to 75 billion this year.

Dubai’s drive to develop exchange-based trading may be as important to its growth as a gold centre as expansion of its refining capacity.
goldbullionIn April, the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange, which currently trades gold futures, said it would introduce a spot gold contract this June.

The exchange is in the final stages of finalising specifications but the contract is expected to be for 1 kg of 0.995 purity gold, the type favoured by Indian consumers and investors.

If Dubai succeeds, it will be a new example of how the emirate can use its proximity to top consumers in India and China, its low-tax environment and highly developed transport sector to gain influence in industries traditional dominated by other players.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News

Desert conservation efforts go hand-in-hand with tourism

oryxA desert conservation program on the outskirts of Dubai has managed two very different business goals, side-by-side. It’s achieved great success breeding local endangered species, while simultaneously developing a marketable tourism product.

Fifteen years ago there were no known Arabian oryx left in the wild in the UAE.

Hunting and over development had seen populations wiped out.

Today however, thanks to a successful breeding programme, and the preservation of their habitat, there are 350 oryx in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

It was established in 1999 as Dubai’s first conservation area and right from the start it involved building an eco-style hotel within a 27 sq. km reserve.

As well as protecting a piece of desert from development the area would house the breeding programme for the Arabian oryx.

simkinThe Centre’s conservation manager, Greg Simkins, says it plays a major role in local conservation efforts.

“I think if we didn’t create that protected area – the Dubai Conservation Reserve – at the time we did I think we wouldn’t have much natural areas left within Dubai. The rapid development that’s happened, the city’s grown exponentially really over time since then so we’ve been able to create this representative of the Dubai desert,” he says.

Captive oryx were brought over from the United States. At the time it was a revolutionary idea and the first of its kind in the UAE.

“So after the initial area had been set up we also looked at the surrounding desert areas and we saw there was massive impacts happening onto the natural environment there through things like vehicles out in the desert, rubbish and then over grazing as well. We then looked at creating this large protected area,” says Simkin.

Three years later, 200 sq. km of land was added to the reserve which now makes up five per cent of the emirate of Dubai.

More than 35,000 indigenous trees have been planted, and apart from protecting several endangered species the reserve is a major contributor to local scientific research and conservation efforts.

camelTo ensure the programme’s commercial viability, the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa was established, to appeal to high-end travellers from both the UAE and around the world, according to their general manager, Arne Silvis.

“We find also that people who stay with us often return. We have a fairly high repeat guest percentage,” says Silvis, “and many of these guests on the second and third trips or visits to Dubai they come straight from the airport to us for five or six nights and just relax in the desert. I think the peace and silence and tranquility is what really sets us apart.”

Gmahauest activities focus on educating visitors about desert ecology and the UAE’s bedouin traditions and culture and 100% of all visitor revenue is spent on conservation and wildlife care.

It’s the largest national park in the UAE and is officially protected under the constitution, to ensure it continues to operate as a National Park well into the future.

UAE camel milk goes global

For thousands of years in this region, camel’s milk has been regarded as almost an elixir of life, its health-giving properties known far and wide. One Dubai camel farm now thinks its time to spread the message even further and has plans for global expansion, as Noni Edwards reports.

The camel is a humble animal, but humans have been relying on these trusty “ships of the desert” – for survival, for as long as history has been recorded.

But now they’re serving a very different function, as the key component in one of the most recent types of food manufacturing operation to be developed.

The Camelicious dairy on the outskirts of Dubai, is the first dedicated and regulated camel milk factory to be built in the world.

There are around three thousand camels but to support their ambitious export plans, they’re going to double the size of the farm.

The farm’s manager, Dr Peter Nagy, says there is good reason for the rest of the world to know about camel milk.

“It could help in treating TB, tuberculosis, patients. Also there’s data showing that it can have antiviral effects against certain viruses.”

Even for everyday consumption he says it’s easier to drink than other milk. It has a different protein structure so people who are allergic to dairy from cows, sheep or goats can digest camel milk.

The benefits continue: he says the vitamin content is higher and all importantly, the natural fat content is lower.

In cafes around Dubai that have been testing out the camel milk retail concept, this group of Saudi women is rediscovering what their families have known for centuries.

Taghreed Turki, from Medina, said she doesn’t know why it’s fallen out of fashion.

“It was drunk by my grandfather and my ancestors and was the best drink for them but now it’s not very popular,” she said. “It’s healthy and is said to be a deterrent against cancer.”

Responses from all nationalities have been positive.

Judy Havard, from Adelaide in Australia was taken by complete surprise when asked about the taste.

“Beautiful, actually it’s a lovely cup of coffee and I didn’t even realise that it was camel milk,” she said.

Derek Turner, from Leicester in the UK said he thought it was interesting. “I thought it was sweet but not overpowering, refreshing and different in a nice way.

Roddy Fok-Shan, general manager of the Majlis al Nasseem Coffee Shops says his Asian customers are lapping it up.

“The Japanese and Chinese market, the Asian market has a big craze for the camel milk,” he explains. “One of our major customers for the camel milk chocolate is really the Asian market.”

Camel milk exports to Europe will begin later this month, after EU approval was granted in February, and after that? The sky’s the limit.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 2 April 2013

Hey Qantas, welcome to Dubai!

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 1 April 2013

eq2The first scheduled Qantas flight into Dubai touched down this morning – heralding the start of the Australian carrier’s powerful new alliance with Emirates Airline. Noni Edwards has the details.

Yesterday, to mark the launch of the alliance, two A380s flew in formation over Sydney – Emirates and Qantas, working in perfect partnership. No doubt that’s the symbolism they’re hoping will stick.

At today’s launch event at Emirates headquarters here in Dubai, the Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that first flight into Dubai was no less than history in the making.

“It did represent a change in global aviation and the thing about coming on that flight last night and talking to a lot of our passengers on board is our passengers were extremely excited about this partnership.”

The code-sharing, profit-sharing, market-sharing partnership will see Qantas and Emirates offer a combined total of 98 flights a week between Australia and Dubai, but getting it literally off the ground hasn’t come quickly or easily.

eq3The President of Emirates, Tim Clark, says they were supported at every step by the Australian government.

“I must first of all express my appreciation of the presence of the Minister for Transport Infrastructure and Regional Development for Australia who has been a huge supporter for everything we’ve managed to accomplish in this last 9 or 10 months.”

Of course the Minister would realise Australia has a lot to gain from the partnership, especially with enticing images like yesterday’s double flyover in Sydney being beamed out around the world, but he’s also thinking about expat Aussies, like the 7,000 odd-of-us estimated to be living in the UAE.

eqAustralia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport , arrived in Dubai on the flight.

“Australians are of course amongst the most travelled people on the globe,” said Anthony Albanese.

“What this partnership does is open up new markets directly for all those Australians who travel as expats back to their country of origin or people who are travelling either for business or recreational purposes.”

“A lot of our passengers were talking about how this improves their connectivity into Rome,” said Joyce. “We had people going all over Europe, to Milan, to Rome”

Also present at today’s event, the Australian Ambassador to the UAE, Pablo Kang.

Emirates + Qantas

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 31 March 2013

It has been described as a game changing deal in the aviation world. As Qantas Airways’ 17-year revenue sharing agreement ends with British Airways, a new chapter begins right here in Dubai.

Noni Edwards has the story.

High in the skies over Sydney,  a Qantas A380 pilot talks to his Emirates colleague as they stage a daring double flyover.
It’s symbolic of the spirit of cooperation between the two airlines, that’s being celebrated today is thought to be the first time anywhere in the world that two commercial A380s have been flown in formation.

Emirates’ president Tim Clark was overwhelmed by the occasion, “It made me immensely proud and convinced me that what we have done is absolutely the right thing for both Qantas and Emirates.”

There was no mistaking just how big a deal this is for the Australian carrier either.
“This is one of the most important days in Qantas’ 92 years history, said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, “Our partnership with Emirates is probably the biggest partnership deal that Qantas will ever do. It’s certainly one of the most important strategic initiatives that we’ll ever do.”

Analysts have suggested the alliance could save the Australian airline up to A$ 100 million a year. Qantas has already reported a six-fold increase in bookings for flights to Europe over the past nine weeks, in the lead-up to today’s launch.

And the sheer grandeur of today’s occasion was not lost, even on an industry stalwart.

flyover“For somebody as old as me, who’s been in this business for as long as I have,” Clark said, “I still got goose pimples watching those two magnificent airplanes flying so low and flying so well, with huge amounts of training having gone into  that 20 minutes of flying from our flight crews and flight operation departments.”

The pilots reportedly practised by flying the route dozens of times in sophisticated flight simulators.

Qantas pilots have also been putting in the hours preparing for their new destination, with a simulator designed specifically for Dubai, ready for tonight’s first-ever scheduled flight, currently en route and expected to land here just after midnight.

Customer service staff have also been training together, learning about the similarities and differences between Skywards and the Qantas Frequently Flyer program, treating each other’s customers as their own with the aim of giving everyone a seamless experience.

flyover2The powerful alliance has great potential to shake up the global aviation business. It represents the joining of forces of two of the world’s top twenty airlines – Emirates ranked at number 8 and Qantas at 15, according to Skytrax.

Because of the extraordinary market share the two will be working to achieve, the deal needed approval not only from Australia’s competition regulator, but Singapore’s as well. Qantas flights to and through Changi International have been largely “restructured” as Emirates codesharing comes into play and Dubai becomes its new hub for all sectors to Europe.

But there aren’t many complaints Down Under. Australians travelling to Europe via Dubai on either airline, can now get there more than two hours quicker, on average.

Jumping by Numbers

Originally broadcast on Emirates News 2 January, 2013

Skydive Dubai has only recently finished staging the World Parachuting Championships, but already, they’re back hosting another big event.

World record holding skydiver, Olav Zipser, completed his 21,000th jump today at Dubai Marina, and we were there.

Olav ZipserOlav Zipser is one of the world’s most experienced skydivers. He’s devoted a lifetime to parachuting, and between his first jump, in 1986, to now, he had leaped from a plane 20-thousand, 900 and 99 times. Until today.

“I’m doing my 21,000th flight, from the sky, here over Dubai and we’re going to be landing here in this landing area,” says Olav.

“I’m really happy to be here again in Dubai. My 20,000th jump I believe you covered, two years ago, it’s been two years since I’ve been here. Wow!”

Yes, we certainly did. It was back in November 2010, when we joined him last time, for number 20,000. He’s returned this time to a bigger, better Skydive Dubai for his next career milestone

Olav’s professional highlights are not only measured in numbers either.

He’s mastered just about every aspect of this discipline there is. He’s a qualified instructor, examiner, safety expert and awardwinning mid-air cameraman. He’s set up his own freeflying school and is actively involved in pushing the boundaries to their limits and beyond, with groundbreaking research on the potential for human flight.

So in a career that has seen him jump in beautiful locations all around the world, why is the UAE such a special place for Olav?

“I like the spirit here, of Dubai because it’s a growing city there’s a lot of people from all over the world,” he says.

“All the best spirits, the best flyers together and they get a chance here to develop new flying. And it’s a beautiful place with a backdrop of the Palm, the buildings of Dubai Marina. It’s a fantastic place to do this celebration flight.”

So 21,000 jumps, what now?

“More further faster, higher! Going into space, that’s the ticket. We will take freefly into space and that’s this is all jsut a stepping stone. One day we will have 40,000, 50,000”

The only question that remains now is whether Olav will join us for his 22,000th jump.  Noni Edwards, Emirates News.