At Sea and Ashore



At Sea and Ashore

Dubai's historic links to the sea continue to be its lifeline, with many new developments cementing the Emirate's role as a hub.

The Emirate’s proud seafaring and trading heritage got a modern boost in the mid-1970s when the ruling sheikh launched two huge projects; Jebel Ali, the world’s largest man-made harbor, and a shipyard, Jadaf Dubai. Four decades later, Jebel Ali is the busiest port in the Middle East and among the top-10 container ports worldwide. HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, has instituted the Strategic Maritime Plan of Dubai to develop, organize, and promote the maritime sector in order to secure Dubai’s position as a world-class maritime center.

The UAE rail network, Etihad Rail, will soon connect to Jebel Ali, making the port part of a seamless sea, road, rail, and air supply chain through the Dubai Logistics Corridor. The parent company of Jebel Ali, DP World, operates more than 65 marine terminals around the world, with new projects underway in Africa, Europe, India, and the Middle East. In July DP World reported 9.3% like-for-like volume growth in the first half of 2014.

HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of DP World, told TBY that, “We are currently constructing the brand new T3, and together with a 1 million TEU expansion we opened in the middle of 2013, Jebel Ali will reach 19 million TEUs by 4Q2014. Significantly, the opening of T3 means we will be able to handle 10 of the largest container vessels afloat simultaneously, making it the only port in the region able to do so.”


Today, the huge port of Jebel Ali services over 90 ships weekly that journey to over 140 ports worldwide. The terminal facilities line an astounding 20 kilometers of quayside, with 23 container berths and 78 quay cranes built to handle the largest vessels.

Jebel Ali was built to supplement Port Rashid, known in Arabic as Mina Rashid, which was named after its founder, the late ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. In 2008, Mina Rashid was converted to a cruise ship terminal and can now accommodate five mega ships at one time. In contrast, Istanbul, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, can only handle three large cruise ships simultaneously. Mina Rashid Cruise Terminal, covering 2 million sqm, is expanding capacity to be able to handle seven mega cruise vessels, and plans include land developments to reintegrate Mina Rashid’s waterfront with the local community.

Dubai’s strength in the maritime industry is nowhere more evident than in Dubai World subsidiary, Drydocks World, the largest shipyard facility in the Middle East. Drydocks World, heir to Jadaf Dubai following a corporate merger, handles an average of 350 vessels a year, mostly Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCCs) and Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs). The shipyard services many of the world’s largest dredgers and jack-up rigs and is specially equipped to handle LNG carriers.

Dubai takes its maritime standards very seriously, as evidenced by the work of regulator Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA). The DMCA has no real link to the Dubai Maritime City zone, despite the name.

Amer Ali, DMCA’s Executive Director, told TBY that, “DMCA has launched a new initiative in connection with licensing marine training centers that aims to improve policies dealing with center licensing and staff training, as well as developing an integrated and flexible marine training curriculum to ensure maritime and navigational safety and operational efficiency along the local coast. The resolution is aligned with the initiatives to provide a unified and integrated framework to create a safe and sustainable maritime environment in Dubai, thereby reinforcing the Emirate’s leading position on the global maritime map.”


And let’s not forget leisure craft. Amit Patel, Managing Director of Xclusive Yachts, told TBY that, “The DMCA regulates who can and cannot work on board. Everyone needs special training and licensing. Now, it is also bringing up the standards to international levels. All of our captains are qualified accordingly. They have yacht master licenses to sail large yachts. And the crew have STCW95 certification, which is a standard safety protocol for international seamen.”

The National reported in July 2014 that the success of this year’s Dubai International Boat Show proved how the region’s leisure maritime sector is booming. The show hosted 430 boats worth AED1.8 billion and recorded a 12% increase in the number of exhibitors.

Jonathan Hind, General Manager of the 567-berth Dubai Marina Yacht Club, told TBY that “Dubai Marina Yacht Club operates purely in the maritime leisure segment, and this is a sector that has seen robust growth. With a strong and positive economy, I think that marine leisure will always be a popular industry, and we are certain that the segment will continue to grow, especially with the increased interest in Dubai as a lifestyle destination.”

According to the Dubai Council for Marine and Maritime Industries and Drydocks World, leisure-boat design and boatbuilding also contribute handsomely to the local economy, totaling some $390 million in 2013. With the consideration and investment extended to the maritime sector over decades, Dubai looks set to continue its pioneering ways at sea and ashore.