20220703 cruise ship
Cruise liners like the one pictured and superyachts are what the new shipyard operated by Dubai Drydocks World in Montenegro will be aiming for when it opens later in the year. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai’s Drydocks World sure is aiming big – in cruise liner proportions.

One of the biggest names in ship repair, retrofitting and conversions, Drydocks World’s facility in Montenegro is all set to open later this year, and with it provides the Dubai entity the platform to take on work related to cruise vessels and other mega-yachts.

“We are expanding our footprint globally – the joint venture in Montenegro for a shipyard in Bijela is a clear indication of where our ambitions are headed,” said Capt. Rado Antolovic, CEO of Dubai Drydocks World, part of the ports and terminals powerhouse DP World. “Our partner in this is ICD (Investment Corp. of Dubai), which also owns - just 1.5 nautical miles away from the shipyard – the largest or second-largest mega-yacht marina in the world. That’s a prime catchment area for us.”

A floating dock of 180 square metres has just arrived at the Bijela (since renamed The Adriatic 42) shipyard and will be ready for operation by October. It was in January last that shipyard deal was announced, part of a major expansion in strategy for Dubai Drydocks World.

Stock - Capt. Rado Antolovic, CEO of Dubai Drydocks World
Capt. Rado Antolovic, CEO and Managing Director of Dubai Drydocks World, “We are moving fast, prepared a masterplan on how we can increase capacity of this facility in the centre of Dubai…” Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

New shipping conventions, new possibilities

The company operates a massive yard in Dubai – in the ‘centre of the city’, so to speak – and too is going through a fairly sizeable expansion to the southern side. According to Antolovic, sights are firmly set on new possibilities both within its domestic base and outside.

“At the next Board of Directors’ meeting, we will come with a 3-5 year business plan,” the captain said. “There are a number of potential overseas locations we could be in, especially as ship recycling becomes a high priority given the 2025 mandate. These could turn out to be a profitable business for us.”

But Antolovic is not too overawed with developing these possible overseas locations as greenfield ventures. Much like what it did in Montenegro, any plan would focus on “revamps to existing shipyards,” he added. “I would prefer to have an old shipyard in reasonably good condition and which can be upgraded. You can do something with it and that helps us take a step by step approach.”

What are FPSOs about?
These Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels have crude stored in tanks and transported directly to the tanker. Gas is used to fuel the FPSO's gas turbine power plant or transferred onshore through pipeline.

A Covid-created visibility

The last two years have been quite a revelation for Drydocks World, as it drew in more business – and some highly complex and profitable contracts – as Covid played havoc with the shipping and supply chain industries.

“We acted on Covid in a more effect way than any other shipyard and without any closures - that was our strength,” the CEO said. “There was complete support for the crews of those vessels and we didn’t have any delays at anchorage. There was a Covid protocol with DHA (Dubai Health Authority) that made sure none of our operations were affected.”

Some of that work in these 24 months and more were originally meant for yards in China or other Far East locations. “In fact, we were getting uncompleted conversion jobs from those shipyards, because we were seen as being reliable on project completions. There was a project that was meant to be done in six months where we finished in four.

“A chain reaction from all this was we were pre-qualified by major oil and gas companies as new conventions came into effect for the shipping industry on such cargoes. That’s creating long-term opportunities for us.”

Indeed. The global shipping industry is being pulled into the whole sustainability agenda, and with set timelines for vessel operators and clients to adhere to. By extension, this leaves shipyards open to a host of possibilities for near- to medium-term projects.

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In the post-Covid phase, Dubai Drydocks World saw a surge in new project activity, winning major orders diverted from the Far East. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Renewables adds another layer

Plus, transporting renewables also opens up another potentially lucrative job works for Dubai Drydocks.

“While there is a very strong Chinese dominance in new ship builds, we are not competing in that space,” the captain said. “But there are pockets of opportunities for innovative, technology-enabled new builds such as FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) vessels. These require high technology. And anything to do with renewables in the shipping business is where we want Dubai Drydocks World to be dominant, and not just with European clients.

“I am confident we will do extremely well in whatever and wherever we want to be. Being part of DP World gives us that leverage…”

The Montenegro shipyard and taking on super-yachts is just the start of a new journey…