Al Hanem, sitting at Dubai's Al Jadaf shipyard, measures 52 metres and weighs 626 tonnes. It has six guest cabins, a gym and a Jacuzzi.

Dubai is known for doing things big, so it was no surprise when news went around that the biggest yacht constructed in the Gulf was currently sitting in Al Jadaf shipyard in Dubai.

Regi Varghese/Gulf News
Al Hanem is the first luxury yacht fully constructed in the Gulf.

Dubbed the Al Hanem, the mega yacht measures 52 metres and weighs 626 tonnes. Bobbing gently in the water, she looks ready to set sail, but not yet.

Even in her unfinished state, anyone can see that Al Hanem was designed with luxury in mind.

She has three enclosed levels, incorporating six guest cabins, a gym, two indoor sitting rooms, two outdoor lounges, an outdoor and indoor dining room and a sky deck. And above all, there's a Jacuzzi on board.

But where the water is supposed to be is a big empty tub, full of construction dust.

The interior is a tangle of wires, the walls and floors stripped down to its basic materials. Workmen move about, tending to this and that, as sparks fly. Nearby is a big silvery tube piping in cool air, a godsend in this scorching heat.

"We've got four to five months' work left," says Matt Glover, marine chief engineer of Romeo Design and designer of Al Hanem designer. "We're planning to unveil her in November or December.

"It's taken three years now to bring it to this stage. It looks like smooth sailing from here," he adds.


Building the first mega yacht from the ground up wholly in the UAE, however, is not without its complications.

Questions abound whether this endeavour would succeed. What if people, too obsessed with the "Made in Europe" brand, bypassed it? What if it was just too untested? New? Expensive? Take your pick.

Glover believes that Al Hanem will put all doubts to rest. For one, though the mega yacht is being constructed in Dubai, it is also an international effort.

"My senior engineer is Egyptian and my purchaser is from Syria. I have a welding foreman who is from Sri Lanka. My electrical engineer is German and my senior electrician is from the Philippines," he says.

Furthermore, he adds the design and engineering is Dutch, the construction supervision British and the paint work Swedish and Italian.

"I can get experts from all over the world, thanks to UAE's employment laws," Glover says.

Everything has been done to ensure the safety and comfort of the people on board, he assures.

Al Hanem is constructed according to the strictest specifications and regulations possible, adhering to the respected UK-based shipping watchdog organisations Lloyd's Registry and Marine Coast Guard Agency.

Constructing the mega yacht in Dubai is also cost-effective, Glover says. Taxes on the materials and equipment aere low, and there is no need to pay any VAT (value-added tax) on any of the parts.

Which, he stresses, means a large savings for the customer.

"It would cost them 25 per cent less than if they bought it in the UK or Europe," he says.

However, despite the confident and easy answers, Glover admits building anything for the first time anywhere is risky business.

"It's a make or break effort for us," he says.

Riches to riches

But the risks may prove worth it. The mega yacht industry, says Glover, is one of the fastest growing industry in the world, expanding by about 400 per cent in 10 years.

"In 1995, there were about 200 of these boats. Today, there are over 1,000," he says.

And there is a strong local market for Al Hanem and her smaller counterparts.

Captain Arnel F Gagan, production manager at Gulf Yachting, says yachts are very popular in the Gulf, it being a favourite toy of the rich and famous.

"When you're rich, you must have one," he adds.

An internet check reveals many options for people thinking of blowing a few million dirhams.

And though there may not be that many famous people in the UAE, there are definitely many rich people here.

According to the 2005 World Wealth Report, some 52,800 people in the UAE are dollar millionaires. The UAE also has one of the highest density of millionaires in the world.

So maybe Glover has nothing to worry about after all.

Being the first may be scary, but being a pioneer is something to be proud of.

In fact, there is already talk of a prominent boat and yacht design and construction company in the UAE planning to follow in Romeo Design's footsteps of constructing mega yachts.

So how is Glover and his company taking the future competition?

"They've got a lot of catching up to do," he observes.