Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Locus Economica Director and resident operations specialist, Chuck Heath served as CEO of the Jebel Ali Free Zone  (JAFZ) in Dubai until 2011.  In addition, Locus Director and SEZ marketing specialist Santosh Hejmadi coordinated marketing functions for JAFZ from 1993-2001. Both continue to serve clients with the many vital lessons learned during their time there.

The Jebel Ali Port, which supports JAFZ, is the 9th largest container port in the world and the largest in the Middle East

When Chuck Heath was at Maersk in Dubai in 1982, both the company and the Emirs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai were looking for ways to capitalize on the regional demand for transport and logistics following the boom in trade through the Middle East. Heath's ideas and dedication resulted in the formation of JAFZ. His management of the zone helped it become one of the most successful free trade zones in the world, and the foundation of the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) economic success in the Middle East today.

JAFZ was established in 1985 as the first free zone in the UAE with just 19 companies. Adjacent to the Jebel Ali Port, JAFZ serves as a regional distribution and logistics hub for the world's major shipping lines. Economic Zones World, a subsidiary of DP World, develops and operates the zone, including operation of one of the largest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems in the world. The CRM processes close to a million transactions per year, including visas, licenses, leases, and other services. JAFZ offers customers plots of land, warehouses, showrooms, offices, retail outlets, a business park, and on-site residences. 

Growth of firms in Jebel Ali since establishment

Growth of firms in Jebel Ali since establishment

Today, JAFZ is home to over 7,000 businesses, including 120 Global Fortune 500 companies. It sustains over half of Dubai's exports and accounts for approximately 20% of FDI into the UAE. JAFZ has created over 100,000 jobs, accounting for 8.7% of Dubai's workers. Because of its excellent supporting infrastructure, JAFZ has provided immense benefits to both foreign and local businesses and workers. It has also been a catalyst for the development of subsequent logistics zones in the UAE, including the Sharjah Airport International Economic Zone (1995), Dubai Airport Free Zone (1996), Dubai Maritime City (2003), and Dubai Logistics City (2006).

As marketing coordinator, Santosh helped create much of this growth by managing JAFZ world wide promotion. He developed marketing strategies, held trade & road shows, and introduced web-based services for clients, as well as many other activities. His efforts were directly responsible for increasing the total number of companies during his tenure from 735 to around 2,000 and was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Crown Prince of Dubai.