Dubai: The focus is very much on green transport options as Dubai hosts the 37th World Interferry conference and exhibition, an international event dedicated to breakthrough transport solutions which starts on Monday at the Grand Hyatt hotel.

The who’s who of the world’s marine transport industry will deliberate on the challenges facing the sector, the latest innovations, clean fuel options as well as best practices during the three-day event. The conference will conclude on October 24.

Being held for the first time in the region, the event will highlight Dubai’s impressive mass transit system with particular focus on the marine transport system which boasts a rich tradition.

Dubai’s unique landscape and an ever-growing coastline make it imperative for the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to adopt the latest in marine technology and the agency is not shying away from innovative solutions.

“Dubai’s unique landscape, with a creek at the heart of it and a 65-km shore from the border of Sharjah to Jebel Ali, makes it necessary to have a sound marine transport system that complements other modes. This conference will bring to focus our efforts so far and our future programmes,” said Eisa Al Dossari, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency.

The conference will see 45 technical reports being presented by experts over three days with at least 500 delegates from 35 member countries of the Interferry group in attendance.

“The delegates include researchers, developers, operators, government officials, engineers, etc., who will come together to discuss the best practices and try to address challenges facing the industry. Our objective is to provide solid and strong data and framework based on which legislations could be initiated, policies could be framed and new technical and operational standards could be set,” Al Dossari said.

Another key focus of the conference is the latest technology that holds out the promise of improved safety standards besides being eco-friendly. “We are looking at different alternative fuels and clean technology for our marine transport. We already have a few electric abras running at Global Village and we are currently negotiating with companies to use solar power for abras and hopefully we can finalise that on the sidelines of the conference,” Al Dossari said.

With eight electric abras currently operating at Global village with some success, the RTA is now set to launch more electric abras at Dubai Marina, following which such services could be introduced more widely. “We are testing these electric abras at low water levels, we may not test them now at Dubai Creek as the current there is very high but if we are satisfied about its capability it could happen later,” Al Dossari said.

He said the RTA is keen on tapping solar energy to power abras, and is exploring agreements with a number of companies for the option.

“We are looking to go gradually. What we’ll try initially is solar power lighting in abras and for other uses and then we will try out if we can have solar energy to power the engines,” he said.

A major exhibition will also be held alongside the conference with 20 participants — manufacturers, operators, government bodies, etc. — showcasing their latest innovations.