x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Mina Zayed harbour master finds port of call in Abu Dhabi

The Life: Captain Jaber Al Shehhi, 32, is the harbour master at Mina Zayed in Abu Dhabi. After spending one and a half years at Western Region ports, he is in charge of three ports at Mina Zayed.

Captain Jaber Al Shehhi overlooks the Mina Zayed port in Abu Dhabi of which he is the manager. Silvia Razgova / The National
Captain Jaber Al Shehhi overlooks the Mina Zayed port in Abu Dhabi of which he is the manager. Silvia Razgova / The National

Captain Jaber Al Shehhi has been the harbour master at Mina Zayed port in Abu Dhabi for more than two years, having previously spent 18 months as harbour master in the Western Region ports. The 32-year-old Emirati says he enjoys his current assignment even though he has to commute to Al Ain every weekend to see his family.


I wake up and prepare myself for work. I don't really have breakfast. It's not because I don't like to cook, but I live alone and I don't make the effort. My wife and seven-month-old daughter live in Al Ain and I commute there every weekend.

I am originally from Ras Al Khaimah but I like it at Mina Zayed. It was the main hub for Abu Dhabi prior to December and even now it is one of the main ports in Abu Dhabi. We will handle more and more cruise liners, especially during the season from October to the end of April, but we are still handling general cargo. We have three harbours at Mina Zayed: the main one and two smaller harbours for local vessels.


I arrive at the port. We have an average of four to six international vessels daily. At the smaller harbours we have more than 100 a day. Mina Zayed is controlled by Abu Dhabi Ports Company, which oversees 16 ports. The first thing I do is go on a safety check round of the vessels. I check whether they are securely moored on the landside or have the correct [country] flags. The rounds at the three ports usually take 15 to 20 minutes each.

Later I go over to board control on the quayside. The board controllers, who control vessel movement and traffic, are the eyes of the harbour master because they are there 24/7. There are 12 board controllers, with two on each shift of eight hours each. Every morning I meet them to check the expected arrival and departure of vessels, the availability of pilots who navigate vessels to port, the condition of navigational lights and other issues. This takes around 30 minutes.


At my office, I read my emails and check pre-arrival notifications of vessels besides their flags, port of registry, insurance documents, classification and other safety requirements under International Maritime Organization regulations.

We have a lot of meetings with marine service providers, customs, immigration, coastal ports authority, police and the CID.

I am responsible for implementing and enforcing international, national and local legislations.

I am excited about my job because it requires leadership skills and involves many challenges. For example, if there is bad weather I have to decide to reject the vessel and it cannot enter the harbour. For the vessel, a delay costs them extra [money] but my concern is safety of the port, vessel, property and environment. From the operations side, I get to learn new things and deal with new issues.


I get home around this time and this is when I have my lunch and dinner rolled into one. Sometimes I have snacks at the office during meetings, but otherwise this is my only meal for the day.

I regularly call Pizza Hut and other cafeterias. Sometimes I have Yemeni mandi, it is a traditional Yemeni dish with rice and meat.

After I come back from work, I take a siesta of 10 minutes and enjoy rest of the evening with friends eating snacks at coffee shops.


I return home and prepare to sleep but I always have my BlackBerry with me. We do approvals to enter the port for certain vessels over email, such as for foreign navy vessels, oil tankers or oil rigs. Moreover, if anyone at the port has issues or questions at night, they call me straightaway.

I have had calls for clarifications at 3am and 4am. If there needs to be any investigations at night, I go there so that there is no breach of regulations.

Over the weekend, I am in Al Ain enjoying my time with my family but also reading my BlackBerry.