Dubai: About 30,000, or 24 per cent of the world's 125,000 construction cranes, are currently operating in Dubai, according to the organisers of the Conmex construction machinery exhibition.

Demand for construction related machinery, equipment and vehicles is expected to continue rising in the Middle East, especially in the UAE, due to the continuing construction and real estate boom.

In 2003, the UAE's market for heavy construction machinery stood at $165 million, road construction machinery at $142 million and earth moving machinery at $125 million. The size has increased by 15-20 per cent since then.

Annual market demand for used machinery in the Middle East is valued at over Dh5 billion.

As of last April, there was almost $300 billion worth of projects underway in the UAE, according to a recently published report.

Although the concentration of construction activities in the UAE is in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the other emirates are not far behind.

"The entire GCC region, particularly the UAE, is currently attracting astronomical investments in the real estate and the construction sectors," said Saif Al Midfa, director-general of the Expo Centre Sharjah, the organisers of Conmex, the exhibition for construction machinery and equipment.

Conmex is being organised by the Expo Centre Sharjah with the support of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"Construction activity in the region is currently at its peak as a result of which the demand for related machinery, equipment and vehicles is experiencing a sharp rise.

"The indications are that there will be no let-up in this trend," he added.

Dubai, which continues to be the centre of construction activities, has experienced an increase in real estate investment from Dh11 billion in 2000 to Dh165 billion now.

Multi-billion dirham projects are also under way in Abu Dhabi. The UAE capital is expected to spend Dh47 billion on construction related activities in the next two years.

Within the northern emirates, Sharjah has been at the helm of the construction frenzy.

The emirate recently committed Dh3.5 billion towards developing its infrastructure.