x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

CNIA simplifies 'e-passport' process

The agency overseeing maritime safety in Abu Dhabi stretches its office hours and will now open on weekends, following complaints of inconvenient timings.

ABU DHABI // Boat owners should find it easier to navigate red tape now that authorities have made it less difficult to obtain the tracking devices they must install on their vessels. The Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA), the agency responsible for maritime safety in Abu Dhabi, yesterday announced revised working hours and procedures that will make it easier to register for the mandatory electronic tracking devices, or e-passports, and have them installed on boats.

The move came after local sailors complained that the operating hours at the CNIA registration and installation centres at Mina Zayed free port in Abu Dhabi and the two ports in Al Gharbia made it difficult to obtain the Dh7,000 (US$1,900) trackers. Having to pay the fee at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company offices in the city added to the problem, they said. Owners said it had proved difficult to obtain the trackers and have them fitted within the current 8am to 2pm, Sunday to Thursday, time slots, particularly for those who worked during the week and were forced to take time off to complete the process. The CNIA said it had not received any complaints from boaters. However, it said that from this Friday, the revised timetable at the e-passport centres would be: noon until 6pm from Sunday to Friday; and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays. In addition, the fees would be collected at the installation centres at each port.

The CNIA has said the fees, which cover insurance costs, are refundable should a boat owner decide to stop using the vessel. Cyril Lincoln, who owns a 24ft pleasure boat, said the new timetable would prove helpful. "I think that will help tremendously," the South African expatriate said yesterday. "I still think there's a bottleneck there, but expanding the hours will go some way towards improving it. It's a definite step in the right direction."

He also suggested the problem could be solved by sending mobile teams of technicians to the marinas to install numerous trackers in one go, rather than making each boat owner travel to the ports. "A couple of vans and technicians can do the work quickly." Mr Lincoln is "halfway through the process" and plans to complete it this weekend. "I'm going to go and see if these expanded hours will make it easier," he said.

The authority's operations department said it had revised the times "to simplify and improve safety procedures". In June this year, the CNIA introduced the e-passport rule that requires all boats under 300 tonnes to be fitted with a tracker. The device allows any vessel fitted with one to be located and assisted in the event of an emergency. The deadline for having a tracker fitted, which was reportedly set for the end of this year, may be further extended.

Boat owners caught without a valid e-passport once the deadline has passed would be subject to a fine of Dh500, the CNIA said. mkwong@thenational.ae