In 1985, the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) was established. JAFZ, an industrial area surrounding the port, allows the international companies who relocate there to enjoy the special privileges of the free zone. These include exemption from corporate tax for fifteen years, no personal income tax, no import or export duties, no restriction on currency, and easy labor recruitment. Al Maktoum International Airport has been constructed just outside of the port area.
Jebel Ali inched up to be world's 9th busiest port in 2011. It handled cargo of 13,010,000 TEUs.
Jebel Ali has become the port most frequently visited by ships of the United States Navy outside the United States. Due to the depth of the harbor and size of the port facilities, a Nimitz-classaircraft carrier and several ships of the accompanying battle group can be accommodated pierside. Due to the frequency of these port visits, semi-permanent liberty facilities (referred to by service personnel as "The Sandbox") have been erected adjacent to the carrier berth. Among the infrastructure projects built to support the port and town is the world's largest desalination plant, the Jebel Ali Desalination Plant (Phase 2), providing an ample supply of fresh water.