Over the past few years the UAE has seen marked growth in both shipbuilding and marina development and the potential for this region is up for debate among the marine industry, with recent events offering encouragement for regional stakeholders.

At the Dubai Mare Forum 2015, Gulf Craft CEO, Erwin Bamps commented on the UAE’s potential in the maritime industry. “We have an excellent opportunity to put the UAE on the map as a maritime industry hub – not only in terms of shipping and freight transport, but also as a world-class producer and service centre for yachts.”

He emphasised the need to “foster a cross-pollination in all UAE-based businesses”, in order to begin to build upon services offered to yachts. Bamps suggested that now could be an opportunity to attract maritime professionals to the UAE to “set up shop in Dubai, not just for the short-term, but for the long-haul.”

Engel de Boer, yacht segment manager at Marine Business Development WEA, expressed his thoughts and doubts in response to Bamps' comment, telling Superyachtnews.com that "The yacht industry, like any other segment in the marine industry, is quite fragmented and dispersed. Of course there are several operational areas like the Cote d’Azur and the Caribbean where a high cluster of management companies, brokers and consultants are centred in and around major towns. But yards, designers, engineering firms, flags, classification societies, industry associations etc are all wide spread."

Boer explained that "On one hand this contributes to the charm of this industry and helps in terms of the frequently required secrecy and confidentiality," adding that "on the other hand, the clustering of these in a centre of excellence would benefit efficiency, effectiveness and would probably enhance the voice of the industry when required," however, "on the balance of it, I have my doubts whether a centre of excellence, regardless of its location, would work."

This is all being driven by a mounting interest in yacht ownership in the UAE and the GCC countries, as well as a need for local products and services to complement this growing industry. Bamps also highlighted the need for regulation within the industry, which has been authenticated by the introduction of the UAE’s own yacht code.
The Emirates Classification Society (TASNEEF), which was established in 2012 having previously announced the GCC code, has now announced the UAE Yacht Code, effective February 17. The code will address the needs of private yachts not engaged in commercial trade, and specifically larger yachts, which are based on custom designs. It becomes the first set of statutory regulations in the world that covers only private yachts above 24m.

The code comes in the wake of a need for change, given that the international conventions and regulations to conventional vessels are not applicable for private yachts. The current codes and regulations for larger yachts, the society claims, are based on conventional steel ship technology, which imposes strong limitations on the innovative future of the yacht industry.

However, SuperyachtNews.com spoke to Duncan Swanson, Principal of Oceanskies Ltd, who gave his thoughts on how the initiative will be received, explaining that the code is not, in practice as effective as it may appear to be. “While claiming to be the first code for private yachts over 24m, in practice the absence of any coding for such vessels has not been an issue”, Swanson said. “Private owners [and yards] have always been able to voluntarily elect to submit to class as well as having the possibility to go one stage further and voluntarily comply with commercial coding to the standard prescribed by their chosen flag state.”

Where the code does not break any particular boundaries and is basic in its nature it does provide a stepping-stone for a region that is still in the throes of youth within the yachting industry.

Almouj Marina, Muscat. Image courtesy of Mourjan Marinas

Along with regulation changes and shipbuilding improvements, the marina industry is beginning to find its feet. Waterfront developments in the UAE have become a strong testament to the growing maturity of the industry in the area; Mourjan Marinas’ general manager, Wayne Shepherd stated that there are a “number of new marina projects currently underway in the region”, and sees this trend continuing in the future.

An increase in UHNWIs, combined with the upsurge in waterfront properties, a yacht code, yards like Gulf Craft, who currently have six yachts in build, and Abu Dhabi Mar establishing a foothold of sorts in the UAE, there is nothing standing in the way of the Gulf conglomerate proving itself a viable yachting hub.

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