It's good news for boat aficionados? banks and financial institutions are offering several schemes to help you buy your dream vessel.

Powerful Porsches and snazzy Lamborghinis, customised Lear jets and million-dollar homes, dozens of diamonds and designer threads... the lifestyles of the rich and famous in the UAE seem exciting, flashy and, when you throw in the 65-foot yacht, most definitely enviable!

While we may only dream about attaining some of these status symbols, some of us can sample a piece of life in the fast lane. And it's not just sports cars we are talking about, it's leisure boats as well. Today, in addition to auto and home loans, schemes to finance boats are also showing up as part of the financial products that banks and financial institutions in the UAE are offering in their portfolios. One of the reasons for this phenomenon is the fast-changing urban landscape of the UAE.

Czeslaw Wynand Brodalka, Leasing and Special Projects Manager, HSBC Middle East Finance Company Limited (MEFCO), says, "The leisure boat market has experienced exponential growth over the last two years. This has been mainly fuelled by the creation of waterfront properties such as the Dubai Marina and Palm properties.

"In addition, the Gulf is also considered relatively safe and ideal for boating."

This trend is also manifesting in the rest of the region. According to Khalid bin Deemas Al Suwaidi, Head of Retail Banking Group, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, "In comparison to the past year's performance, recent surveys of the boat and marine industry market show a growth of 35 per cent in the UAE. A similar trend is also being seen in regions such as Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. One of the reasons for this includes the numerous waterfront properties in places such as Dubai. The rising popularity of activities such as fishing, diving, sailing and water sports among UAE nationals and expatriates has also helped push the demand."

According to Brodalka, these factors have encouraged all the major boat manufacturers to establish distributors and agents in the region, which, in turn, has led to a steady supply of sea craft. This phenomenon bodes well for boat aficionados and the boat finance sector.

Al Suwaidi agrees with Brodalka and says that this positive trend has opened a door for high-quality boat and yacht financing and motivated financial institutions such as their own to increase their target market sales scale. He adds that it has also provided the opportunity to conduct joint marketing campaigns with companies that sell these craft.

A range of banks and financial institutions provide solutions to help individuals and corporates purchase boats, including yachts and leisure craft. "MEFCO provides finance to both relationship and non-relationship customers alike. We have the ability to finance both new and used boats with a minimum down payment of 30 per cent and finance periods ranging from 12 to 60 months. In addition, we provide fully comprehensive marine insurance and credit life. Our interest rates are competitive and dependent on the type of boat and customer profile," says Brodalka.

The National Bank of Dubai, on the other hand, offers two different schemes. Al Bahar is the loan for boats while Al Nokhada finances yachts. Al Bahar offers financing for a maximum of 36 months at the interest rate of 4.5 per cent (flat rate) with a 30 per cent down payment required for the purchase of new boats only.

Al Nokhada finances only new yachts and luxury boats and has a requirement of a 30 per cent down payment. It also includes financing for a maximum of 48 months. The interest rate is calculated by adding two per cent to NBAD base rate. They also offer a competitive processing fee for both schemes.

Amlak Finance PJSC also has a scheme for financing new and second-hand yachts supplied by ART Marine, which is a UAE-based supplier. Their plan offers finance to individuals and corporate entities up to a maximum of 70 per cent of the purchase price and up to five years at competitive rates.

However, there are other criteria that also need to be fulfilled. "Customers need to meet our terms and conditions, which include minimum salary requirements, equivalent bank statements records, down payments and the type of boat/yacht being purchased," says Al Suwaidi.

HSBC also has similar terms and conditions. According to Brodalka, "Finance is extended to both corporate and private customers. Private applicants need to be UAE residents earning a minimum salary of Dh15 ,000. Corporate applicants need to be registered in the UAE and have the ability to provide audited financial accounts."

These standard terms and conditions have hardly proved a deterrent, as the flexibility of the financing solutions offered has attracted a multitude of nationals and expatriates. According to Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General of the Dubai World Trade Centre, which is organising the Dubai international Boat Show, the development in financial and support infrastructure in the region has made it easier for individuals to purchase, maintain and enjoy their leisure craft.

In fact, leisure boat suppliers such as Gulf Craft have said that 2005 proved to be one of the best years in terms of business and that orders in 2006 were also on the rise. With financing you don't have to be super-rich to sample the good life.

Disclaimer: All loans are subject to the lending bank's approval. Terms and conditions are also subject to change at the bank's discretion.