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First UAE-built satellite nears launch date

Khalifa SatDUBAI: February 15, 2018. The first satellite developed and built at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) by Emirati engineers has been flown to Incheon, South Korea on a chartered Emirates SkyCargo B777 freighter prior to its launch by a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) H-11A rocket from Japan.

The project was begun in 2013 with the aim of manufacturing the first space satellite on UAE soil and in 2015 MBRSC signed an agreement with MHI for the launch in 2018 of its first 'KhalifaSat' satellite into a Low Earth Orbit.

MBRSC already has two Earth observation satellites in orbit, DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, that were built in partnership with Satrec Initiative, a South Korean satellite manufacturer.

"It has been a journey of nearly five years from the time the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre commenced the manufacture of KhalifaSat to now where we're getting ready for the final launch," said MBRSC assistant director general for Scientific and Technical Affairs Salem Al Marri.

For the past three months teams from Emirates SkyCargo and MBRSC planned the satellite flight to Incheon that began with a remotely-monitored Emirates SkyCargo truck escorted by police on a geo-fenced route from MBRSC's manufacturing facility to the airline's cargo terminal at Dubai World Central airport.

"Over the years Emirates SkyCargo has transported a wide variety of unusual cargo but being able to transport the first satellite manufactured in the UAE is a unique honour. We are delighted to bring our expertise in air transportation to the table on this historic and momentous occasion," commented Nabil Sultan, Emirates divisional senior vice president, Cargo.

KhalifaSat is expected to provide high-resolution images for various purposes including disaster management, environmental monitoring and change detection.

MBRSC is a member of the Global Alliance of Earth Observation Satellites Operators – a collaboration that also includes Dauria Aerospace (U.S./Russia), Elecnor Deimos (Spain) and Beijing Space Eye Innovation Technology (China).

Drones about to take off in Singapore

SINGAPORE: February 07, 2018. Airbus has partnered with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Singapore Post to test its Skyways package delivery drone project at the National University of Singapore later this year.

Echoing a concept trialed in Germany by Deutsche Post DHL, packages will be loaded automatically on the drone via a robotic arm at designated parcel stations and then flown autonomously to a destination locker for storage and retrieval.

Skyways-singaporeDesigned using the technical and engineering expertise of Airbus Helicopters and the command and control technology from Airbus Defence and Space, the drone architecture has been developed and validated in France and then designed and built in Singapore.

"We will have five or six drones flying in the initial trial phase this year and we expect it to run several months to be able to collect relevant data and insights," explained design office head at Airbus Helicopters and Skyways project lead Leo Jeoh.

Following first trials, Airbus says it hopes to extend the tests to deliver packages to ships anchored in the Port of Singapore or avoid road congestion by flying medical supplies across the city.

Last year the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation approved the use of drones to carry laboratory samples between two hospitals in Lugano, following 70 test flights by Swiss Post, the Ticino EOC hospital group and drone manufacturer Matternet.

Airbus acknowledges that a sophisticated traffic management system will be required to avoid drone collisions with passenger aircraft, helicopters and flights by the military: "Tech development is far from being the only hurdle to overcome to rollout full-fledged drone delivery in cities," explained Jeoh.

"We see Skyways as an important stepping stone in paving the way for air mobility in urban settings. We are essentially opening up Pandora's box to determine what it will take for unmanned vehicles to fly safely," he continued.

Jeoh thinks the answers will come from exploring and developing regulations, technologies and operational requirements to operate drones in urban environments, while at the same time gaining insight into how people feel about sharing their lives with unmanned vehicles.

In addition to Swiss Post and DHL, delivery drones have also been tested by Amazon, JD.com, Lufthansa Cargo, Matternet on behalf of the Rwandan government, Mercedes Benz, Pony Express Ireland, and the 7-Eleven convenience store chain.

Singapore tops new Belt & Road index

Knight Frank Belt  Road IndexSINGAPORE: February 05, 2018. According to an index of real estate prospects in 67 countries along China's Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), Singapore, Qatar and United Arab Emirates come out top.

The index, produced by international property advisors Frank Knight, is classified into six categories: economic potential, demographic advantage, infrastructure development, institutional effectiveness, market accessibility and resilience to natural disasters.

Southeast Asian countries rank favorably, especially Malaysia and Vietnam, says the report. However apart from Singapore, many have major infrastructure financing deficits and Chinese companies are well-placed to plug those gaps.

Knight Frank regional head for Asia Pacific Kevin Coppel, said the BRI is a clear manifestation of China's vision and influence. "The infrastructure and investment underpinning the BRI will streamline trade flows and lift economic activity in much of Asia, the Middle East, and North and Eastern Africa.

"While the vision will bring huge opportunities for investors and developers, the BRI will also change the face of corporate China, which will have an enormous influence in the 21st century as Chinese brands become household names around the world," he added.

The company concludes there are widespread opportunities as improving bilateral relations between the BRI countries and China provide potential for real estate investment, development and business expansion. "No doubt the BRI will provide further impetus to corporate China's growth and influence in global markets," said Coppel.

Record profit for Amazon undermines the need for tax breaks

WASHINGTON, DC: February 01, 2018. A report from the U.S. Economic Policy Institute (EPI) concludes Amazon fulfillment centers do not boost overall employment in the counties where they open - undermining the case for providing large tax breaks and incentives to lure Amazon facilities to a particular place.

Last month the company announced it had chosen 19 U.S. cities plus Toronto, Canada from 238 locations across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as possible sites for its second headquarters.

Amazon employee picking with roboticsA final decision on which location will be the recipient of US$5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs is expected later this year, according to the company.

Analyzing data for counties in 25 states containing Amazon fulfillment centers, the EPI discovered that while the opening of a new center leads to a 30 percent increase in warehouse and storage employment in the surrounding county, it does not lead to an increase in overall employment in the county and, in some case, the data suggests leads to a reduction in overall employment.

"Amazon has received over US$1 billion in state and local subsidies to open its fulfillment centers at taxpayers' expense, but does not increase overall employment in the county," said EPI economist and report co-author Ben Zipperer. "If policymakers instead invested in public services - particularly in early-childhood education and infrastructure - that would be a much stronger recipe for long-term economic development, rather than giving tax breaks to national employers like Amazon."

Meanwhile Amazon has reported a 31 percent increase in 2017 net sales to US$177.9 billion; a 2.0 percent decline in operating income to US$4.1 billion year-on-year; and net income of US$3.0 billion – up from US$2.4 billion in 2016.

Pictured: Amazon employee using robotics to pick items in a fulfillment center.

"As cities and counties compete to host new Amazon facilities and its new headquarters, policymakers should be cautious about giving away the store," added co-author Janelle Jones. "Instead of pre-committing to giving away public funds to attract employers, communities should demand a concrete demonstration that an employer's arrival will make their region a more prosperous place for working people," she added.

The two authors suggest jobs created in warehousing and the storage sectors are subsequently offset by job losses in other industries, or that the employment growth generated by Amazon is simply too small to be meaningfully detected in the data.

The EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. 

U.S. imposes mandatory air cargo screening

WASHINGTON, DC: January 22, 2018. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued an emergency order requiring airlines flying to the U.S. from airport hubs in Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE comply with Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) protocols.

According to reports, TSA Administrator David Pekoske has informed EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Emirates airline and Etihad Airways they must provide U.S. Customs and Border Protrection (CPB)  the full description of a shipment's content, consignor and consignee data, as well as origin and final destination details, prior to loading on a passenger or freighter aircraft.

Emirates SkyCargo Cool DolliesThe order enables the TSA and the CPB to require a secondary inspection of a particular shipment prior to flight departure. The five countries join Turkey in the mandatory application of ACAS.

"In close coordination with CBP, I directed specific carriers to implement strict security requirements based upon recent information that established a need to implement additional security measures for air cargo bound to the United States, on both passenger and cargo aircraft," Pekoske is reported as saying.

Earlier this month Emirates Group Security and the Etihad Aviation Group signed an MoU for the sharing of security-related information and intelligence both within and outside the UAE.

Commenting on the agreement, Etihad Aviation Group vice chairman Hamad Abdulla Al Shamsi said: "Security is our utmost priority and given the current sensitive climate we operate in, it should never be underestimated. The signing of an MoU between the two largest aviation groups in the country will have a positive impact on local and international operations by significantly enhancing aviation security measures."

Coincident with the implementation of the ACAS protocols from Dubai, Emirates SkyCargo has introduced secure "pharma corridors" covering an initial 12 destinations on its network: Amsterdam, Brussels, Bengaluru, Cairo, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Milan, Rome, Shanghai and Singapore.

Emirates divisional senior vice president Cargo Nabil Sultan said: "We realized that it was essential to work with our partners on the ground at the various stations in order to ensure that pharmaceutical cargo travels under the best conditions from the point the cargo gets dropped off at the origin airport until it is collected at the destination airport. We are also actively exploring the roll out of dedicated pharma flights across our network," he added.

Cartel members fined €169 million

LUXEMBOURG: February 01, 2018. The Court of Justice of the European Union has upheld €169 million in fines originally imposed by the European Commission on a number of freight forwarders as a result of their involvement in four cartels between 2002 and 2007.

European Court of JusticeThe Commission held that the anti-competitive conduct of the companies, which agreed on the fixing of various pricing mechanisms and surcharges, gave rise to four distinct cartels: the pre-clearance system (NES) for exports from the UK to countries outside the European Economic Area; the advanced manifest system (AMS) that requires companies to submit data on goods that they intend to ship to the U.S.; a currency adjustment (CAF) to minimize the risk in a fall in profits following a decision in 2005 by the People's Bank of China to no longer peg the Renminbi to the U.S. Dollar; and a peak season (PSS) surcharge to protect freight forwarders' margins when demand exceeded capacity and led to a rise in airline rates.

Ceva Freight (UK) and EGL plus Kuehne + Nagel (K+N) and Schenker UK; were involved in the NES; participants in the AMS cartel were K+N, Schenker, Panalpina and UTi Worldwide; CAF cartel members included K+N, Schenker China, Deutsche Bahn and Panalpina; and the PSS involved K+N, Schenker Hong Kong and Panalpina.

The Court of Justice (right) upheld fines for K+N totaling €53.63 million; Schenker, €31.14 million; and Panalpina, €46.47 million.

In its appeal ruling the Court rejected all arguments put forward by the forwarders, and agreed with the Commission that it was appropriate to base the fines on the value of sales associated with freight forwarding services as a package of services on the trade routes concerned.

Extreme weather is world's greatest economic risk

 LONDON: January 17, 2018. The latest Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) says extreme weather events are seen as the greatest risk to social and economic stability. 

The WEF asked experts to prioritize from a list of 30 global risks and they ranked highly all five environmental events – extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

"Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons," said Zurich Insurance Group chief risk officer Alison Martin. "Unfortunately we currently observe a 'too-little-too-late' response by governments and organizations to key trends such as climate change. It's not yet too late to shape a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse."

WEF Global RisksThe survey asked nearly 1,000 respondents from the WEF's multi-stakeholder communities for their views about the trajectory of risks in 2018 and 59 percent suggested they are increasing while only seven percent said they weren't.

However 93 percent of respondents said they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen in 2018 and nearly 80 percent think there's an increase in the prospect of war.

Given the interconnectedness of global systems - evidenced by the logistics industry for example – the WEF thinks there's a growing risk of what it describes as "future shocks" and lists 10 scenarios that could happen as a result:

Grim reaping: Simultaneous breadbasket failures threaten sufficiency of global food supply
A tangled web: Artificial intelligence "weeds" proliferate, choking performance of the internet
The death of trade: Trade wars cascade and multilateral institutions are too weak to respond
Democracy buckles: New waves of populism threaten social order in one or more mature democracies
Precision extinction: AI-piloted drone ships take illegal fishing to new – and even more unsustainable – levels
Into the abyss: Another financial crisis overwhelms policy responses and triggers period of chaos
Inequality ingested: Bioengineering and cognition-enhancing drugs entrench gulf between haves and have-nots
War without rules: State-on-state conflict escalates unpredictably in the absence of agreed cyberwarfare rules
Identity geopolitics: Amid geopolitical flux, national identity becomes a growing source of tension around contested borders
Walled off: Cyberattacks, protectionism and regulatory divergence leads to balkanization of the Internet

The WEF 2018 Global Risks Report is produced in collaboration with Marsh & McLennan, the Zurich Insurance Group, Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, the National University of Singapore and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, University of Pennsylvania.

Low marks for Russian corporate transparency

MOSCOW: January 25, 2018. Transparency International (TI) Russia has published a first-ever study on the financial transparency of 200 Russian companies that comprise more than 70 percent of the country's national income.

TI Russia studyTI says the companies have significant economic and political influence, yet 84 percent of them rate low in terms of transparency. Their median assessment is just 2.6 out of 10 and only 32 companies received more than five points out of 10.

The five highest-ranking companies surveyed were Magnit (7.9), Sberbank (7.9), Kazanorgsintez (7.8), Rosseti (7.5) and Nizhnekamskneftekhim (6.8).

The anti-corruption watchdog says 41 companies scored zero on all three of its assessment criteria: the availability of information about anti-corruption programs, transparency on a company's holdings, and the disclosure of key financial information on a country-by-country basis.

Commenting on the report's findings Anton Pominov, general director of TI Russia said: "Even though companies are driven to be more open in order to meet the demand of investors, public and regulators, there is still lack of commitment to openness from the companies' owners and top-management."

Pominov added that most of the companies reviewed continue to underestimate the importance of transparency and anti-corruption to their customers, investors and partners.

"On the other hand, there are a number of examples of best practice that originate from either the good will of management or the negative consequences of past mistakes," he said. "In either case, we welcome any steps taken to achieve a more transparent, responsible and sustainable business model." Report: anti-corruption.pdf

Amazon shortlists 20 North American cities for second headquarters

SEATTLE: January 18, 2018. Amazon has chosen 19 U.S. cities plus Toronto, Canada from 238 locations across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as possible sites for its second headquarters.

A final decision on which location will be the recipient of US$5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs is expected later this year, according to the company.

Amazon HQ2The 20 cities are: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, 'Montgomery County' Maryland, Nashville, Newark, New York City, 'Northern Virginia', Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Toronto and Washington D.C.

In addition to local hiring and investment, the company says the construction and operation of a second headquarters is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and "tens of billions of dollars" in additional investment in the surrounding community.

"Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough - all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity," said Holly Sullivan, Amazon Public Policy. "Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."

Amazon will now request additional information from the remaining cities prior to choosing the fortunate finalist. Over the past five years the company says it has invested US$100 billion in the U.S. on corporate offices, R&D centers, a fulfillment infrastructure and employee pay and benefits.

According to the Milken Institute's Best-Performing U.S. Cities 2017 Index, the Amazon shortlisted cities of Raleigh NC, Dallas TX, Nashville TN and Austin TX placed second, third, eightth and ninth respectively.

The Index, published annually since 1999, uses fact-based metrics to evaluate the relative growth of metropolitan areas. They include growth in jobs, wages and salaries and technology output over time as well as the high-tech sector where concentrations are higher than the national average.

Logistics industry optimism for emerging markets

BAAR, Switzerland: January 22, 2018. Emerging markets have ignored growing populism in the U.S. and parts of Europe to "look brighter than they have in years" according to a survey of logistics industry executives by Agility Logistics.

Agility's latest survey of more than 500 supply chain industry professionals for its annual Emerging Markets Logistics Index suggest nearly two-thirds agree with an IMF forecast of 4.8 - 4.9 percent GDP growth in 2018.

This marks the fastest expansion since 2013 and a second consecutive year of higher growth for the sector since a gain of 7.4 percent in 2010.

The Index, now in its ninth year, ranks 50 emerging markets countries by size, infrastructure, transport connections and business climate - factors that are attractive to logistics providers, freight forwarders, shipping lines, air cargo carriers and distributors.

agility survey 2018Fifty-five percent of executives surveyed say small and medium-sized businesses – those with fewer than 250 employees – will benefit most from emerging markets growth.

"The logistics industry's optimism comes as a relief. A year ago, there was great concern that populism in the United States and Europe were (sic) going to hurt trade and damage emerging markets economies," commented Essa Al-Saleh, CEO of Agility Global Integrated Logistics. "In 2018, we are looking at renewed growth overall, although it is likely to be very uneven from region to region and country to country."

Survey highlights include:

  • China and India top the 2018 rankings and put more distance between themselves and the UAE, No.3 on the Index. Russia climbs three spots to No. 7, an indication its economy is stabilizing after years of low energy prices, capital flight and U.S. economic sanctions. Brazil, struggling to emerge from political turmoil and its worst recession in a century, slips two places to No. 9.
  • Industry executives can't agree on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As the U.S., Mexico and Canada negotiate an update, logistics executives are split about whether a new pact would help Mexico (24.3 percent); hurt Mexico (21.8 percent); or leave trade unchanged (25.7 percent).
  • Egypt jumps six places to No. 14 - the largest increase by any country in the 2018 Index - and 26 positions to No. 21 in the separate category that ranks countries' business conditions. Bangladesh (No. 23) and Uruguay (No. 25) both move up four spots in the overall rankings.
  • Despite its historic potential, Nigeria falls to No. 31 from No. 24 a year ago as it ranks next-to-last in infrastructure and market connectedness and No. 46 in business climate. Also falling: Venezuela at No. 48 overall and last in market size and growth attractiveness; and Kazakhstan that drops six places despite a resumption in economic growth and the announcement of a long-term development blueprint.
  • Logistics executives appear unconcerned that emerging market economies will be harmed by Britain's exit from the European Union. Nearly 45 percent say they will be unaffected while 25.4 percent say they could gain as a result of expanded market access. This compares to a year ago when nearly 69 percent of respondents expressed concern that Brexit and the prospective failure of several multilateral initiatives would be a threat to trade growth.

"It's refreshing that the [logistics] industry sees small and medium-sized businesses as the ones getting the most out of emerging markets growth," Al-Saleh added. "In large part, that's because SMEs are finally getting access to new technology and tools to improve their competitiveness and find new markets – a belated but very welcome development."

Maersk and IBM form blockchain company

COPENHAGEN/ARMONK, NY: January 16, 2018: A.P. Møller - Mærsk and IBM are to establish a joint venture to leverage blockchain technology for global trade.

The two companies began developing a blockchain pilot platform in June 2016 based on the Linux Foundation's open source Hyperledger Fabric with a goal of eliminating paper processes throughout the supply chain.

Blockchain is based on a distributed ledger technology that establishes a shared, immutable record of all the transactions that take place within a network and then enables permissioned parties access to trusted data in real time.

Last year the solution was tested by DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak, the Port of Houston, Rotterdam Port Community System Portbase, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

MAERSK BAAccording to Maersk chief digital officer Ibrahim Gokcen, providing customers with a blockchain-based service "will not only reduce the cost of goods, but also make global trade more accessible to a much larger number of players from both emerging and developed countries".

With US$4 trillion of goods shipped each year and a facilitation cost estimated at 20 percent of the transportation cost, the World Economic Forum estimates reducing international supply chain barriers would increase global trade by nearly 15 percent.

IBM says that by applying the technology to digitize global trade processes, a "new form of command and consent" is introduced into the flow of information that encourages trading partners to collaborate without compromising details, privacy or confidentiality.

"This new company marks a milestone in our strategic efforts to drive the digitization of global trade. The potential from offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge, and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit," commented Vincent Clerc, chief commercial officer at Maersk and the joint venture's new chairman. "By joining our knowledge of trade with IBM's capabilities in blockchain and enterprise technology, we are confident this new company can make a real difference in shaping the future of global trade."

Maersk and IBM say they will also employ other cloud-based open source technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and analytics - delivered via IBM Services to help companies move and track goods digitally.

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president IBM Global Industries, Solutions and Blockchain added: "Our joint venture with Maersk means we can now speed adoption of this exciting technology with the millions of organizations who play vital roles in one of the most complex and important networks in the world, the global supply chain. We believe blockchain will now emerge in this market as the leading way companies seize new untapped economic opportunities."

General Motors, Procter and Gamble, Agility Logistics, Singapore Customs, Peruvian Customs, APM Terminals and PSA International have also expressed interest in using the new platform that will be deployed within the next six months.

"Today, a vast amount of resources are wasted due to inefficient and error-prone manual processes," said Michael White, former head of Maersk Line North America and now CEO of the new company. "The pilots confirmed our expectations that, across the [logistics] industry, there is considerable demand for efficiency gains and opportunities coming from streamlining and standardizing information flows using digital solutions."

News

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