Investment in the Middle East maritime industry is expected to exceed Dh50 billion this year on the back of a boom in the sector across the region.
And growing demand for oil and gas is likely to draw more shipping companies and suppliers into the region to set up shop, said Ahmed Mohammed Al Midfa, chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) at the beginning of the three-day Gulf Maritime Exhibition on Monday.
Last year, UAE terminals increased container cargo throughput by 19 per cent to 11 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), he told Emirates Business.
“The dependency on the trans-Atlantic route has declined and new routes such as Asia-Europe and Asia-Middle East are now the busiest,” he said. “This means more and more large cargo ships are choosing to call at Middle East ports, triggering huge demand for repair services for large vessels and feeders plying the region.”
To tap into the growing market, maritime firms have also placed large orders for new vessels. There are 1,549 container vessels, 170 VLCCs (very large crude carriers) and 141 Suezmaxes on order worldwide, keeping world’s shipyards fully engaged for the next few years, according to recent figures. LNGCs (liquified natural gas carriers) are also important to regional firms in view of the booming LNG trade, he said.
And according to industry experts, conversion of single-hulls is likely to grow by more than 10 per cent this year. “The phasing out of single-hull tankers as per International Maritime Organisation norms will see increased conversion activity, as shipping operators seek to convert their single-hulls to either container liners or workboats,” said Al Midfa.
Workboats are also in high demand on the back of reclamation projects. Massive projects such as the Dubai and Umm Al Quwain marinas, the three Palm islands, The World, Dubai Festival City, and projects that are coming up in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are creating huge demand for dredgers and support vessels. Thousands of these workboats are keeping the more than 10 ship repair yards in the region busy.
New ports and expansions across the Gulf will also throw up many opportunities for the sector. The upcoming $260 million dry dock and ship repair facility at Duqm in Oman, the $586m port at Ras Al Zour in Saudi Arabia, the $2bn port and industrial zone in Taweelah in Abu Dhabi, and the $1bn expansion at the Sokhna Port in Egypt will go a long way in promoting the region as the world’s maritime hub, Al Midfa said.
Dubai Maritime City, the world’s first purpose-built maritime centre, will also support the region’s maritime operators through its comprehensive ship repair and maintenance facility situated in the Industrial Quarter, which will be managed by Dubai Drydocks.
“These developments have highlighted the need for a one-stop sourcing platform and the Gulf Maritime exhibition is undoubtedly a leading event that traders can rely on to keep pace with demands of a rapidly growing industry,” said Al Midfa.
“The industry will also have a positive impact from the Dh3.67trn worth of infrastructure projects under way or are being planned in the Gulf countries.”
The exhibition, which ends tomorrow, attempts to facilitate networking across the industry. Fasahat Ali Khan, adviser to the chairman and Board of Directors of Expo Centre Sharjah, said: “The Gulf Maritime exhibition will host a series of product presentations and seminars.
These sessions will be an effective marketing tool to gather potential clients under one roof and present them with new products and services.”
The seminars will take up topics such as global execution of ship-building projects, solutions for shipbuilding and offshore industries, designing the right ship for the job, workboats – new building activity in the region, and ship repair – new technology
Meanwhile, more than 100 exhibitors have convened in Sharjah to showcase their products. Al Midfa said: “The show has attracted some leading names from the global maritime industry as exhibitors. For them, the show is an ideal gateway to the region and a comprehensive sourcing platform.”
The exhibition features deck machinery and other vessel equipment including docking equipment, electronics, communication and navigation systems, engine and propulsion systems, fuel and lubricants and marine interiors.