Abu Dhabi: The UAE is the first country in the Middle East to invest in two tailor-made naval vessels each worth over €90 million (Dh450 million) — through a recent partnership with a renowned Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. Fincantieri is present in the UAE through a partnership with Al Fattan Ship Industry.

Apart from their 200 years of shipbuilding experience that involves in manufacturing about 7,000 vessels and cruise ships — Fincantieri has already delivered the two vessels to the UAE Navy.

Gulf News spoke to Fulfaro Achille, head of business development of Fincantieri its upcoming projects with Al Fattan Ship Industries, which has 15 years of experience in the industry including the military sector.

As part of their plan to strengthen their presence in the UAE, Fincantieri formed a joint venture - Etihad Ship Building - with Al Fattan Ship Industries and Melara Middle East.

Etihad Ship Building's production facility is located in Al Fattan's existing production factory line. The project is expected to leverage the capabilities in combat and weapon systems integration. Fincantieri has a 35 per cent stake in the venture whereas Al Fattan Ship Industries owns 51 per cent, and Melara Middle East holds the rest 14 per cent.

"This initiative is part of our collaboration with the UAE Navy in evaluating which types of equipment would be beneficial for the UAE, be it vessels, small submarines, mega-yachts [over 70 metres long] or civil ships," said Achille.

Fincantieri signed their first contract with the UAE Navy in 2009 — to help build the platform and physical installation of the ASW (anti-submarine warfare) Vessel Abu Dhabi Class which is expected to be commissioned by 2012, for the UAE Navy.

The ASW will mainly carry out patrolling and surveillance activities and may be employed in anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and surface activities. The vessel will exchange tactical data in real time with other naval vessels and provide support and shelter for the UAE Navy helicopters.

The many combat systems in ASW include an air and surface surveillance radar and a fire control system.

Second contract

"ASW can be used for defence and attack, and is the first anti-submarine vessel in the Middle East. We're in talks with the UAE Navy for a second similar vessel which takes approximately 20 months to build," Achille said. Fincantieri signed a second contract with the UAE Navy in 2010 to deliver the Stealth Inshore Patrol Vessel — Falaj 2 — which features advanced stealth characteristics.

The vessel is suited to carrying out patrol and surveillance operations to self-defence in case of threats from air, sea and land in national and international scenarios.

"Stealth is capable of hiding and detecting infra-red and radar cross sections. Through our joint venture with our partners — Al Fattan, we plan to build four stealth vessels, the first to be delivered by next year, which is about the same time we will provide our UAE based shipyard with crew training, technical assistance and supply of spare parts," he said.

Fincantieri is also in talks with Kuwait regarding the delivery of 25 to 30 metre aluminium boats. An €80 million project has also been signed with the Iraqi Navy for four patrol vessels.

Fincantieri has a history with countries like India, Brazil and the US.

Security collaboration

  • 35% Fincantieri's stake in joint venture
  • 51% stake of Al Fattan Ship Industry in joint project