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Opportunities - and challenges - facing UAE continue to mount

Opportunities - and challenges - facing UAE continue to mount
The UAE's unrivalled land, sea and air connectivity put it in poll position to harness global strategic interconnectivity, echoing success in aviation, a top Dubai maritime official said this week.

Despite a halving in oil price in the last 15 months, Khamis Buamim, chairman of the Dubai Council for Marine and Maritime Industries (DCMMI Emirates), said the more recoverable onshore and shallow offshore hydrocarbons in the GCC region, as well as opportunities in other maritime industries, including the shipping sector, were still a focus of intense global investor interest.

“The region remains a magnet for the offshore and maritime industries,” he told a session of the Higher Committee of DCMMI Emirates in Dubai. “People need to [understand that economies cannot grow] without the maritime sector.”

Khalifa Port and Kizad, Jebel Ali and Jafza, Fujairah and several other installations make the UAE’s combined maritime assets in ports, terminals, container trades, tankers and bunkering, added to its centrality to a region which owns around 65% of the world’s oil and 40% of its gas reserves, a world-class investment prospect, he believes.

As with other emerging markets, the key obstacle to the UAE’s progress was the ownership and control by outside companies of its key maritime businesses, something DCMMI seeks to address.

Despite the fact the UAE faces unparalleled opportunities in its maritime sector, a thorough revamp of its maritime law, a process now under way, is seen as an obstacle to progress, the session, entitled ‘Building an innovative offshore and maritime cluster in the UAE to create a global force,’ heard.

Buamim said Iran intends to develop around 50 projects worth $185bn by 2020. He said the Islamic Republic was also inviting investors to participate in completion of the final phase of construction of two dry-docks at Bandar Abbas, one 370m in length, the second 470m.

Iran’s new oil contracts with international majors would involve a new production sharing agreement model instead of the old system of buyback agreements, he said.

Citing OPEC Secretary General, Abdalla El-Badri Buamim said that oil demand was projected to grow to 110 million barrels a day by 2040, requiring investments in oil-related projects of around $10trn between now and then.

He said Danish Maritime Forum figures showed that seaborne trade was expected to double to 20 million tonnes of cargo a year by 2030. In both spheres, Buamim expects the UAE to excel.

Omar Abu Omar, coo of Tasneef, the UAE classification society, estimated revenues in the UAE maritime sector at just over $61bn a year.

Abu Omar said petrol distribution for the UAE's 3m cars was a $1bn industry, while scant attention at the national level was being paid to bunkering in the UAE that had a value of $7bn a year.

“More federal-level attention must be given to shipping requirements in the UAE. This includes how to introduce our own specific ship types covering the essential needs of the UAE,” Buamim said.

“The UAE is perfectly placed to have a large shipping fleet in most of the advanced ship types and not only compete with the leading global shipping companies, but supersede them. This is a realistic and achievable goal.”

Buamim said that although Norway and Singapore were single jurisdictions from which the UAE could learn, the federation meant a grouping of seven emirates with common but competing economic interests. He believes a unified strategy and legal charter will resolve bottlenecks that limit UAE maritime industry growth at present.

A key plank of UAE rulers’ founding vision was to harness inter-emirate connectivity, competition and growth, so that each emirate create its own philosophy and define its ability to attract and develop a successful business climate, within the federal framework.

As maritime transport executive director at the Federal Transportation Authority (FTA), Eng. Hessa Al Malek faces the near-impossible task of keeping myriad competing interests happy within the scope of the UAE’s maritime commercial law.

She said the law was under review, but that as a stop-gap, the provisions of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), an international financial hub administered under English law, had been accepted into UAE law.

Emirati Juma Mubarak, of Dubai’s Mubarak Marine, said it took him six weeks to arrange visas for foreign crew manning his cabotage trades between ports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The need for visas for companies operating in more than one emirate is certainly a concern.

Buamim’s departure as chairman of Drydocks World and Maritime World in March took the UAE shipping community by surprise, but he is now firmly back in the driving seat to marshal the debate about how to adopt a strategy to put the UAE at the centre of the shipping world.

As chairman of the committee for the review the maritime commercial law, he said he expected a review of the new legislation to begin in the first quarter of next year.