Dubai International Boat Show will showcase the best of marinas, but will also have time for 'experiential yachting'. And even the Metaverse. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: It’s the time of the year for UAE’s ports, marinas and some of the most eye-catching yachts to get back into the spotlight, with the latest Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS) all set to weigh in at Dubai Harbour on March 1. This year’s event coincides with more waterfront developments coming on-line in the next three- to five years, and where property owners can also give free play to being out on the water.

Leisure time

There is already the Bluewaters Island with its hotels, housing units, and recreational facilities valued at around Dh8 billion. It’s not just all leisure and recreation alone.

BoxBay is a joint venture between DP World and German industrial engineering specialist, SMS Group, and with the aims to ‘change the way containers are handled at ports’. Construction of a test facility with 792 container slots was completed in 2020 at Terminal 4 of Jebel Ali Port. The fully automated “Many of these investments have focused on expanding the current infrastructure of the maritime sector across the region,” said Riju George, Group Director, Exhibitions at DWTC, which is the organizer of the boat show. “We have also seen a lot of these investments go into streamlining processes through digital transformation, thereby opening up countless opportunities for companies looking to invest in the Middle East’s maritime sector.”

191030 blue waters
Bluewaters has anchored itself as a firm favourite on Dubai’s coastline, and there are more marina-themed leisure and residential spots getting created. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The five-day event in Dubai will bring in more than 1,000 exhibitors and expected to welcome around 30,000 visitors. And the action will not just be on the waters and at the mooring berths. There will be opportunities in ‘experiential yachting and the Metaverse’.

DIBS will feature the second worldwide edition of the Experiential Yachting Forum from March 2 to 3, with themes such as marine science to ocean health coming under the scanner.

The UAE’s maritime sector contributes around $24.5 billion to the GDP, encompassing shipbuilding, repair and maintenance, port operations, logistics, and the manufacture of boats and yachts. (In fact, Dubai Drydocks World is making a determined push into overseas territories, through JVs in Europe.

Recent years have seen digital transformation spread itself wide in the UAE’s maritime industry, with port operators eager to improve efficiency and safety across operations.

“The government has also committed itself to making the country a top destination for the super-yacht industry, with several upgrades to harbour facilities,” said a statement from DWTC. “And the introduction of new legislation, cruising-permit extensions, and the expansion of several professional yachting and maritime academies for new industry talent.”

UAE’s Gulf Craft is setting its ambitions on being a global name to be reckoned with for buyers wanting custom-built yachts with all the luxury trappings. Image Credit: Supplied

Ruling the seas and ports

And ongoing efforts are paying off, with Khalifa Port ranked fifth on the Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) and Dubai named the top shipping center in the Arab world - and fifth globally - in the Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development (ISCD) Index.

The confidence shown by the UAE government in the country’s maritime sector has attracted serious investor attention. In June last year, Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ)confirmed an investment of $5 billion in three of DP World’s flagship UAE assets.

Saudi -based Hassana Investment Company will also deploy $2.4 billion investment in DP World assets in December.

“This, coupled with the recent expansion of Khalifa Port – a major development project with a total investment of $1.1 billion – and the $272 million expansion of Fujairah Terminals - has further strengthened the UAE’s position as the destination of choice in the maritime community.”

But on March 1, the action will be shifting to the super-yachts and some of the best-in-class marinas anywhere. It’s the time to set sail…