H.E. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem

Group Chairman & CEO, Jebel Ali Free Zone; Group Chairman and CEO, DP World;

Chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation

 

His Excellency Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, scion to one of Dubai's most influential political and business families, is credited for coming up with the idea to create the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), now the world's largest free zone and one of fewin the Middle East capable of berthing multiple era megaships with carrying capacity of 18,000 TEU and more.

According to historical accounts, Mr. Bin Sulayem, an economics graduate from Temple University in Pennsylvania in the United States, got the free trading zone idea while working in the 1970s as a customs inspector at Dubai's then dusty and sleepy port.

A conversation with a man who mistakenly came to his officebrought up the subject and inspired him to travel around theworld and study the tax-free zones in Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Honolulu, Dallas and New York.

Convinced that Dubai, then heavily dependent on the pearlindustry for its economy, would be better off as a free zone trading hub in the Middle East, Mr. Bin Sulayem broached the idea to the son of then Dubai ruler Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, now The Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“If you really believe in it, you go run it,” Mr. Bin Sulayem, then 30, recalled Sheikh Mohammed as telling him in his narrative to Fortune Magazine in 2008.Over the past 30 years since JAFZA was built, it has exponentially grown. Today, it's a dynamic base for more than 7,000 companies from just 19 in 1985, including more than 100

Global Fortune 500 enterprises. It sustains jobs for more than 135,000 people and generates more than 20 percent of the UAE's foreign direct investment with a phenomenal trade value close to $70 billion.