x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Outdated rules hamper growth of leisure yachting in UAE

Archaic regulations governing the country's marine industry are acting as a brake on the growth of boating as a leisure activity in the country, says yacht maker.

Despite facilities such as Yas Marina, growth in maritime leisure is becalmed by regulations.
Despite facilities such as Yas Marina, growth in maritime leisure is becalmed by regulations.

Archaic regulations governing the UAE's marine industry are hampering the growth of boating as a leisure activity in the country, says the chief executive of one of the region's largest boat makers. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have pumped billions of dirhams into the development of marinas to attract boat owners from around the world, and the UAE.

But bureaucratic procedures governing travel in the country's waters, including a two-week limit on stays by foreign vessels, are among a number of factors understood to be deterring maritime tourists. "Right now, movement between ports is bureaucratic," said Nasser Alshaali, the chief executive of the boat maker Gulf Craft, which is based in Ajman. "Just exiting a marina is bureaucratic." For example, to travel from Dubai to Umm al Qaiwain for a day trip, a yacht owner would have to obtain a permit in Dubai to leave the marina and request permission from Umm al Qaiwain to enter the port there - a process that includes providing copies of passports for everyone on board, Mr Alshaali said.

"This is restricting the growth of the marine and yachting industry," he said. "This is a spontaneous leisure market and if you take away the ability for spontaneity you kill the market." Yacht trips among Abu Dhabi's islands can also be spoilt when the Coast Guard or security guards turn boats back because they have cruised too close to islands with private residences. The fact that boats visiting from abroad could stay for a maximum of two weeks was also a major hindrance, Mr Alshaali said.

A boater visiting Abu Dhabi from Kuwait and intending to go on to Dubai would have to leave UAE waters and acquire a separate permit before sailing there, Mr Alshaali said. Many yacht owners around the world offset the vast expense of owning and maintaining their vessels by chartering. But restrictions in the UAE prevent an owner from doing this unless the service is provided through a company. "We want to make sure we can grow the industry and not kill the industry," Mr Alshaali said. "The rules are antiquated, really.

"There are some legitimate security reasons for these regulations, but they need to find a smarter way to have security measures while promoting the industry." rbundhun@thenational.ae