x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Boat owners told: move it or lose it

Dubai Municipality has warned owners of abandoned boats in Dubai Creek that they have until May 6 to remove them, or the boats will be destroyed.

Dubai Municipality has warned owners who have abandoned their vessels on the creek that it will confiscate and destroy them if they do not try to remove them by May 6.
Dubai Municipality has warned owners who have abandoned their vessels on the creek that it will confiscate and destroy them if they do not try to remove them by May 6.

DUBAI // Partly sunk, waterlogged, full of holes and tilting dangerously, the large wooden dhow appeared to have been long forgotten.

The shell was perhaps left to its fate more than two years ago, but on Wednesday authorities dragged it to the banks of Al Jadaf from where it was left, about 100 metres into the Dubai Creek.

The boat may have once travelled the high seas, transporting cargo, or it may have simply ferried people across the creek. No one will ever know for sure unless its owner turns up within the next 10 days to claim it. Otherwise, it will be destroyed.

This week, Dubai Municipality warned owners who have abandoned their vessels on the creek that it will confiscate and destroy the boats if they do not try to remove them by May 6.

Private companies will provide free services to the municipality as part of their corporate responsibility, authorities said.

The wooden dhow in Al Jadaf is one of 10 boats, six large and four small, that the municipality says are "neglected, dilapidated or abandoned for a long time along the banks of Dubai Creek".

"Some of them are sinking, they are partially inside the water," said Yaqoob Al Ali, the head of the specialised cleaning section of the municipality's waste management department.

"Some have been left for repairing. After 10 days we will remove them. We will destroy and throw them in the dumping yard."

Mr Al Ali said most of the vessels were sitting opposite the Dubai Festival City and were an eyesore.

"People going by can see them," he said.

The 10 boats, aged between two and 12 years, were scattered in deep and shallow waters. They were once cargo ships, floating restaurants and tourist ferries. Their sizes range from 25 feet to 95 feet.

In an official announcement this week, the department urged dhow owners to act quickly, as many of the crumbling wooden and fibreglass boats were "distorting the appearance of the emirate and endangering the marine environment".

"It gives a bad view for Dubai and can be dangerous for other boats and the environment," said Adel Al Karrani, the head of the waste management department's waterways unit.

This is the third consecutive year the municipality is hauling away old boats that have been left behind by neglectful masters.

"In 2010 we removed 14 boats," Mr Al Karrani said. "That was the first time we were doing this and it was a big challenge as some boats had been on the creek for nearly 20 years.

"They were in a very bad shape and it was really hard finding the owners and removing the boats."

Last year the municipality removed six boats. This year, the final phase of the clean-up operation in Al Jadaf is expected when authorities remove the last batch of old vessels.

Mr Al Karrani said most boats were left there because it was a "dead" part of the creek, rarely used by commercial and tourist boats.

A boat captain now regularly patrols the area to monitor the cleanliness of the creek and keep an eye on abandoned watercraft.

Mr Al Karrani hopes these regular inspections will ensure vessels are not left behind for too long.

His department takes boats to the dumping yard only after several notices have been sent.

"We put out many warning letters and try hard to contact the owners," said Mr Al Karrani.

"Some people are very co-operative and they take out the boats when they see the letters.

"The problem is when we don't know the owners. Most of them don't come back as the boats are in very bad condition and it is very expensive to lift them from the creek. Maybe they have left the country."

Mr Al Karrani said the municipality did not fine people when they returned to stake their ownership.

"It is very easy for us when they do that," he said.

"We don't have to take them to the dumping yard then."

pkannan@thenational.ae