Gulf shipyards on the crest of a wave

Published April 16th, 2008 - 10:06 GMT

Gulf shipyards on the crest of a wave

Regional and worldwide suppliers to showcase products and services at Middle East Workboats 2008, the region’s only dedicated event of its kind

Middle East maritime industries are riding the crest of a wave with Arabian Gulf shipyards rapidly emerging as regional hubs for new builds as well as ship repairs and conversions, according to industry observers.

"High oil prices driving a thriving regional economy are expected to fuel continued growth with little impact from a slowdown in the US," said Vanessa Stephens, Events Director at Seatrade, the organiser of the 2008 Middle East Workboats exhibition and conference.

The region's only dedicated event of its kind takes place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from 28-30 April 2008 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Chairman of the National Transport Authority.

"While the global credit crunch may be making it somewhat harder to raise money elsewhere in the world to pay for big non-energy related ship orders, the regional workboat market is not expecting a major downturn," Stephens added.

"Ever-increasing demand for ships in the Arabian Gulf from oil tankers to cargo and container ships to barges, dredgers, tugboats and an array of specialised craft continues to provide huge opportunities for the expanding shipbuilding, repair and maintenance industry."

More than 2,000 vessels - the vast majority workboats of some kind - are docked or repaired in the Middle East. There are 13 ship yards in the region sustaining five dry docks, eight floating docks and 17 slipways, confirming the Gulf as a well established hub for workboats and Abu Dhabi as the principal gateway to the offshore market.

With the strong demand from the energy sector and surging growth in ship classification DNV, a principal sponsor of Middle East Workboats, recently announced record turnover in the region. DNV’s Senior Vice President and Regional Manager for Maritime Eivind Grostad said of developments in the Middle East and India: “The maritime business is surging ahead, oil and gas activities are growing at a steady pace."

Along with record-breaking volumes of new buildings, conversions, repairs and related activity, equally exceptional has been the length of time the industry has been enjoying growth. "Forecasts suggest that this will continue for the next few years," Kommer Damen, Chairman of Damen Shipyards Group of the Netherlands, wrote in the company's latest newsletter. "This ongoing shipbuilding boom and the opportunities it brings have created solid order books and healthy results."

Damen, a major exhibitor at Middle East Workboats, recently bought 49% of United Arab Emirates shipbuilding and repair company Albwardy Marine Engineering of Dubai which also has facilities in Fujairah and Oman. The joint venture enables Damen to build vessels in Dubai for the local market as well as serving existing customers with repairs and services.

Damen Shipyards Group builds everything from tugs, barges, workboats, patrol craft, cargo vessels and dredgers to large yachts and ferries, delivering more than 4000 vessels since 1969. Albwardy will be relocating to Dubai Maritime City this year with new facilities including both ship repair and shipbuilding.

Among other UAE ship and boat building and repair yards exhibiting at Middle East Workboats are Abu Dhabi Ship Building, which specialises in the construction, repair and refit of naval and commercial vessels; Nico Craft, a subsidiary of Nico International, one of the leading manufacturers of aluminium boats in the region; along with Seaspray Marine Services and Engineering, of Hamriyah Free Zone, Sharjah, recently acquired by Gulf private equity and venture capital firm Arzaq Holdings.  Ship and boat yards from the UK, Bahrain, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will also be exhibiting.

The Middle East Workboats conference will examine the business opportunities in the region created both by the oil and gas industry projects and the unprecedented scale of offshore developments, port and land reclamation schemes.  In addition, speakers will discuss the industry's safety record and propose improvements in safety culture onboard and ashore.  Novel design concepts in sea-keeping capabilities will also be explored.

Middle East Workboats has gained wide industry backing with sponsors including: ADNOC/ESNAAD/IRSHAD, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), Hadef, Lamnalco Group, NICO International, Svitzer Middle East Ltd, Wärtsilä Corporation and. Zahker Marine International.  Supporting organisations include the International Marine Contractors Association and the Royal Institution of Naval Architects.

For more details about Middle East Workboats 2008, please visit:

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