While the world is in the grip of an economic slowdown, the Gulf remains a dynamic growth centre for shipbuilding and repair, according to a leading maritime industry analyst.
"The region is one of the busiest commercial maritime hubs with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar having major ports and shipyards with more being built," said Christopher Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade.
Workboats include tugs, ferries, supply vessels; police, fire, patrol, pilot, rescue and oil spill boats; along with, dredgers, barges and floating cranes, with more than 2,000 such vessels estimated to be docked or repaired in the Middle East.
"New building, dry and wet repairs are being carried out by yards in the region with a heavy emphasis on the workboat sector," he said. The UAE has the highest number of ship repair companies in the region.
Abu Dhabi Ship Building, for example, continues to grow from strength to strength with a skilled workforce of 1,200. The yard is busy on a variety of new ships as well as repairing and upgrading both commercial and naval vessels.
"International as well as regional yards are also doing well in the Middle East workboat sector as a result of the accelerated growth of marine transport throughout the Arabian Gulf – Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular," Hayman said.
Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands is constructing in its China yards 100-people ferries for Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority for use on Dubai Creek. The ferries will have a maximum speed of 24 knots and economy and business class seats. The authority has also ordered 10 catamaran water taxis from Damen also for use on the Dubai Creek. Damen has a joint venture yard with Albwardy Marine Engineering in Dubai.
Zamil Shipbuilding, with a full order book well into 2012, has one of the region's most significant shipbuilding and ship repair bases at Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
In recent years it has built and delivered harbour tugs, pilot boats, offshore utility vessels, anchor handling tugs, supply and safety vessels, and a diving support vessel. Zamil anchor handling vessels have been delivered to work with Saudi Aramco in their offshore oil fields in the Arabian Gulf.
Also in the offshore oil and gas sector, Sharjah yard MIS believes the market outlook in the Middle East to be strong and healthy despite current world crude prices. MIS, a major fabrication base and shipyard employing around 5,000, said most projects in the area for increasing oil and gas production by national oil companies are still on stream. Offshore jack-up and drilling rig refurbishments, or repairs, were also at an all-time high.
Qatar Gas Transport Company (Nakilat) has announced it is joining forces with Damen Shipyards for the construction of high-value workboats in a state-of-the-art shipyard at Ras Laffan. The new facility is expected to roll out roughly 15 vessels a year. The yard is expected to commence operation in early 2010 has been designed to produce tugs, offshore supply vessels, coastal tankers and ferries; naval and coastguard vessels and luxury yachts.
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