Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilders, yesterday unveiled plans to extend the Al Fattan ship yard in Abu Dhabi as part of Etihad Ship Building (ESB), its new joint venture in the UAE.
The new facility, to be completed by 2017, will include a prefabrication shed, a large hull assembly and ship refit area and a 5,000 tonne shiplift, as well as workshops, warehousing and offices.
"Etihad Ship Building is set to become our main logistical hub in an area which is of strategic importance for Fincantieri with a view to building ships ordered by local navies in the region," said Alberto Maestrini, the senior vice president of naval vessels at Fincantieri.
The Italian company is already building three vessels for the UAE Navy at Italian shipyards, including an Abu Dhabi-class anti-submarine corvette and two "Falaj2" stealth-class patrol vessels due for delivery between the end of this year and early next year.
"The Middle East is of fundamental importance to our strategic plans, above all because there are business opportunities in this market both in the civilian and the military field, and it is here that we intend to consolidate and increase our presence," said Giuseppe Bono, the Fincantieri chief executive
The ESB joint venture, signed in 2010between Al Fattan Ship Industries, Melara Middle East and Fincantieri, is currently carrying out maintenance work on two Iraqi Navy patrol craft, with a contract for a further two to follow. The ships were originally built for Iraq by Fincantieri.
Mr Maestrini said the ESB joint venture was part of Fincantieri's strategy to expand its Italian base to yards in Brazil, theUS and India, as well as in the UAE, in order to tap a global market for submarines and surface warships in the 50 metre to 120 metre range expected to be worth €15 billion (Dh72.28bn) over the next five years. "The main objectives of the new ESB Company are the design, production and sale of both naval vessels and merchant ships, together with maintenance and refitting activities," Mr Maestrini said. "Today more than ever before, the acquisition of foreign orders means that the ships are built locally."
The aim is to position ESB as a prime contractor for naval vessels, he said. The yard was already actively seeking further maintenance and refit orders and was working on new design concepts, including a request from the UAE Navy to evaluate the new Skorpio project - a design for a 70-knot, 15 metre stealth patrol craft.