Amer Ali, Executive Director, Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) Image Credit: Supplied

What role does the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) play in the creation of a leisure maritime infrastructure?

The role of DMCA in creating a leisure maritime infrastructure is reflected in its Sea Dubai initiative, a programme aimed towards the development of the maritime leisure sector in Dubai. The initiative was based on a clear vision to facilitate recreational maritime activities as a key element to promote growth within the emirate’s tourism sector, putting a strong focus on the creation of high-quality tourism facilities and new job opportunities within the maritime leisure sector. This is in line with the Maritime Sector Strategy, strengthening the maritime sector while placing Dubai among the world’s leading maritime clusters.

The team from DMCA is tasked with showcasing the initiative’s role in speeding up and facilitating the registration and licensing of sailing permits, identification of specific maritime speeds and permitted tourist areas to sail as well as places of rest, floating restaurants and marinas and yachts. It also works with companies engaged in renting maritime craft. Moreover, the Sea Dubai initiative represents a continuation of the development of maritime leisure infrastructure as a key player of Dubai’s economic diversification.

This initiative sets solid foundations for the regulation of maritime leisure standards and guidelines within local territorial waters, which refers to strategic goals to make Dubai a leading global leisure tourism destination. The initiative is expected to pave the way for a new phase of communication, cooperation and effective coordination among maritime leisure stakeholders, believing in the important role played by the partnership between the public and private sectors to attract new investments to Dubai. This has taken advanced steps into being part of the list of the world’s most competitive maritime capitals.

What is the outlook of the leisure boating sector in the UAE over the next five years and where will new opportunities arise from?

We anticipate that the leisure boating sector will continue to expand over the next five years with a sea of opportunities within the industry.

The UAE has a rich maritime heritage similar to neighbouring countries. It is the second-largest boat market in the GCC behind Kuwait, with 20 marinas and more than 10,000 leisure boats between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. By 2030, the maritime tourism sector is expected to become one of the leading revenue contributors to Dubai’s economy.

The modern marina facilities, strong maritime tourism infrastructure and increasingly-knowledgeable boat-buying customers have collectively helped catapult Dubai into being on the verge of becoming the world’s leisure maritime capital. Enhancing the city’s status as a hub for mega events is having a major impact on the leisure maritime market, with millions of visitors vying to experience the UAE from the water.

What challenges lie ahead that the DMCA must overcome to ensure continued progression of the maritime industry?

In this era of digital technology, there is a need to strengthen our information technology (IT) infrastructure to fully harness the power of new innovations for the benefit of the local maritime sector. We need to fully automate so that we do not resort to manual processes anymore. Meeting human capital requirements is another major challenge for us. Specialised skills and knowledge are necessary to support a thriving maritime sector and ensure an effective and efficient industry.

One of the key challenges include positioning Dubai as a leading global maritime hub, falling in line with the maritime sector strategy. The strategy has successfully accomplished major developments, including the creation of an integrated logistics program, the upgrading of infrastructure and improvement in maritime operations through various initiatives, which have positively enhanced the confidence of regional and international investors. The Dubai maritime sector’s competitiveness, particularly its strong capabilities in marine ports and services, and the operation and maintenance of giant maritime vessels has placed the emirate among the world’s most important maritime hubs, at par with Singapore, London, Oslo, Shanghai, Hamburg and Hong Kong. The DMCA’s range of initiatives including the Dubai Maritime Virtual Cluster, Innovation Quay, Maritime Dubai and Maritime Advisory Council, have significantly contributed towards the emirate’s efforts to build a safe and sustainable maritime sector.

What new marinas and berthing facilities are being developed?

There are a number of upcoming mixed-use marina projects currently in development, which will increase the total number of berths across the UAE and reinforce the country’s position as a leading maritime destination.

In the run-up to Expo 2020, we will strengthen the capabilities of Jebel Ali Port since the demand for break-bulk and special project cargo is expected to rise sharply. Our goal is to ensure that Jebel Ali Port can fulfil its role as the premier gateway for Expo-bound cargo. The break-bulk sector remains a source of opportunities for the region with Jebel Ali acting as the Ro-Ro hub, close to some of the world’s largest emerging markets.

The UAE’s developers have been unwavering in their support of our short and long-term ambitions. With their backing, Dubai has strengthened its position as a maritime destination, ranking 10th globally, and placing fifth in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness. As berth supply climbs and projects like the Dubai Harbour, marinas at Mina Rashid, and the Dubai Canal create new destinations for yacht owners, for the first time in nearly 10 years supply of space is on track to meet growing demand.

The increase in harbours and marinas has created an opportunity in the market for developers to showcase unique waterfront properties for home owners who already own, or are interested in owning a boat.

The new developments are taking the region’s marine capabilities to a new level.