region’s maritime industry has ‘never had it better’

Published November 12th, 2007 - 01:23 GMT

region’s maritime industry has ‘never had it better’

Region’s vital link between East and West emphasised at
Middle East Money & Ships

From supplies, bunkering and repair, to ship finance and maritime law, the Middle East is becoming a sophisticated global shipping environment, according to participants in the recently concluded Middle East Money & Ships conference in Dubai, UAE.

With global ship finance booming, the Middle East’s growing importance came under the spotlight at the region’s premier networking symposium for senior executives from both the financial and maritime sectors (4-5 November 2007).

In addition to financing options for ship owners, including debt and equity, Shariah compliant instruments and Islamic insurance, the conference also debated the regulatory environment and procedures for the registration of ships in the region.

In a keynote address, the UAE Ship Owners Association President, Major General Sharafuddin Sharaf and Vice Chairman the Sharaf Group, said it was vital ship owners speak with one voice on industry concerns.  He also highlighted the UAE increasing global importance.

“The maritime industry of the UAE has prospered over the years and in recent years has expanded beyond its shores through investments in major ports across the world,” he added. “The investment activities led by DP World have raised the profile of the country as a serious player in the global maritime industry. “

The Money & Ships brand was developed by Seatrade over 30 years ago to examine the changing relationships between shipping and finance. It had previously been held in other major maritime centres such as London. This year’s Dubai conference underlined that the maritime industry is one of the most dynamic sectors in the region, providing a vital link between the East and West. Nowhere is this more apparent than the tanker trade.

“One of the main reasons for this is because global investment in oil refining capacity is increasing,” Ahmed Al Falahi, CEO, of Gulf Energy Maritime, told delegates. “With new refineries being announced, ship owners have been encouraged to place new building orders, anticipating the huge demand on the energy transportation sector.”  Gulf Energy Maritime itself has placed orders to take its fleet strength to 19 by end of 2009, making it the largest private commercial tanker operator in the region.

A key reason has been easy availability of funding for large capital investments, Money & Ships delegates heard. Regional banks are providing attractive and low interest rates for ship financing as compared to real estate financing, Al Falahi said. “Margins range from 0.65% to 1.25%,” he added. “Even the terms are attractive – seven to10 years for tankers with balloon payment at the end of the tenure. I have seen deals made for up to 25 years for gas carriers.”
Other key industry figures, contributing to discussions on market sectors and growth drivers in ship owning, included Mohammad Souri, Chairman and CEO of the National Iranian Tanker Company; and Saleh Al Shamekh, President -Oil and Gas, of the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia.
A Charterers Forum also examined the supply and demand outlook; quality in shipping; and inspection regimes. Bookings of supertankers sailing from the Middle East to Asia account for 47% of global demand and the conference heard contributions from Kent Paulli, Director, ST Shipping and Transport; Mathieu Philippe, General Manager, BRS Middle East; Captain K.N. Ramesh, General Manager, TJ Shipping & Logistics; and John Sinders, Managing Director, Clarksons.

“As several speakers pointed out, the Middle East maritime industry has never had it better,” said Chris Hayman, Managing Director of Seatrade. “The figures are speaking for themselves with regional new building contracts increasing and double digit growth increases in regional finance for the industry.  Middle East Money & Ships provides the perfect forum for the ongoing debate.”

The principal sponsors of Middle East Money & Ships were the National Iranian Tanker Company, the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia and TJ Shipping and Logistics. Other sponsors included Dubai Maritime City; Dubai Drydocks; Fichte & Co; IRISL Group; Emarat Marine, Lloyd's Register and Transworld. 


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