Tahir Lakhani, UAESA vice-chairman, said that while they were trying to promote the UAE as a shipping hub there was a lack of shipowners based there. “There is a lack of funding, and people do not understand ship finance in this part of the world. This is one of the reasons we’re facing a problem attracting new shipowners, who can do their business in a way where funding is available.”
While local banks are not wiling to take a risk on shipping it is hoped that financiers from overseas could be attracted to set up in the UAE. “There are many investors and banks in Norway and other European countries, and we would like to invite them here, where they can do business, and help them set up their offices,” Lakhani said.
A particular area of opportunity for international owners to set up in the UAE is the offshore sector. For example the $1.36bn expansion of the Al Ghaf island and accompanying construction of 10 new artificial islands off Abu Dhabi, where reclaimed land will be used to drill for oil is one project that is noted.
“I gather there are lots of OSVs and PSVs standing in Norway, that they have financed for the Brazilians. But if the awareness is there, Norwegian companies can join operations here, business can be done, and those boats can be deployed,” Lakhani said.
“There will be a lot of government contracts and opportunities coming up. Big oil and gas projects coming up. It will explode. Many expansions in the oil and gas business will take place in the coming months, particularly in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait. It would be a great investment opportunity.”
While flagging up the opportunities Lakhani noted there were still shortcomings to UAE regulations but they were lobbying to improve these.
“There are still some challenges with the UAE flag. The biggest problem is that I can’t have a vessel working here for more than 21 days with a foreign flag. You have to apply for a navigation license, which takes three months. We are always having discussions with the Federal Transport Authority, trying to persuade them to be more flexible. There are only a few government owned vessels, tankers, flagged here,” he said.