A UAE body is set to go head to head with the likes of shipping giants Lloyd's Register of the United Kingdom and Bureau Veritas of France by providing classification services to merchant vessels using the country's ports.
The Emirates Classification (Tasneef) has signed a partnership agreement with Dubai Drydocks World to start regulating merchant vessels - the first service of its kind in the Arabian peninsular, the Emirates news agency Wam reported yesterday.
Under the new agreement with Dubai Drydocks, hundreds of ships being built, repaired or passing through Dubai will be able to obtain shipping surveys and certificates - something they need to do to get insurance - through the new body.
The move could also encourage more ship owners to register their vessels to sail under the UAE flag, Tasneef said, and thereby increase authorised freight.
"Tasneef can become one of the most important classification establishments in a short period of time," said the Dubai Drydocks director general Khamis Abu Ameem.
He said the agreement would boost national shipping services and help to support firms in the UAE's growing and lucrative shipbuilding and repair sector. Lloyd's Register had an operating income of £893 million (Dh5.07 billion) last year - up 3.4 per cent on 2011.
Classification societies have been assessing the condition of sea-faring vessels since the 18th century. Although there are more than 60 established classification societies around the world, only 13 operate under the banner of the global International Association of Classification Societies (IACS).
Currently, UAE-based vessels can follow regulations provided by any IACS-accredited society.
The work of authorising ships is mostly shared between five long-established societies; Lloyd's; Bureau Veritas; the American Bureau of Shipping; the Norway-based Det Norske Veritas; and the Japanese body Nippon Kaiji Kyokai.
Rashid Mohammed Al Habsi, the chief executive of Tasneef, said that the company aimed to be a member of the IACS before the end of this year. He said Tasneef had already been recognised by the International Maritime Organisation through the UAE's National Transport Authority, which represents the UAE in that institution.
"This recognition represents a major step for Tasneef to provide services to the maritime sector, issue compulsory certificates for ship registration and provide technical and engineering services as well as training," he said.
In January, Tasneef revealed it would be forming a three-year partnership with the Italian-based classification society Rina Group and would be adopting its classification system in the hope of setting up its own society.
"This is a turning point in this industry and we hope to see national engineers in the shipping industry soon," said the UAE Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ibrahim Salem Mohammed Al Musharrakh, who was present at the agreement-signing ceremony in Dubai.