x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Creek holds on to key cargo role

Citing the dhow harbour's rich history, Customs officials have shelved a proposal to relocate the site.

The dhow wharves along Dubai Creek.
The dhow wharves along Dubai Creek. "Every dhow is inspected," says a Customs spokesman.

DUBAI // Citing the dhow harbour's rich history, Customs officials have shelved a proposal to relocate the site, one of the emirate's most popular tourist attractions, to Al Hamriya Port and are now examining ways of expanding it. Customs had recently investigated the possibility of relocating the operations at Dhow Creek Port, which have played a key role in the development of the city for the past 100 years, to Al Hamriya, which is undergoing expansion as part of a Dh300million (US$82m) plan to develop and renovate Dubai's historic ports.

However, a Customs spokesman said officials are now looking to invest in expanding and modernising the Creek operations because of the port's "historical significance" to the emirate. "The Creek Port will be expanded because it's the heritage of the city and carries a historical significance that dates back centuries," said a senior spokesman. "Life started with the Creek; it's a tourist attraction, a money spinner and good for local business."

He said that new security measures introduced at Ras al Khor, an offshore customs points for dhows 1.5km away from Dubai Creek, meant there were no concerns about drug smugglers or illegal immigrants entering the country. "We work with the border troops, the Department of Naturalisation, ensuring that every dhow is inspected and no illegals are on board at Ras al Khor checkpoint," he added.

Last week, The National reported that Customs was planning on moving all long-haul operations to Al Hamriya amid fears of security breaches in the heart of the city. "The [new] feasibility study is for expanding the creek's current operations but that programme is not confirmed," said Mohammed Matar al Marri, the director of cargo operation at Dubai Customs. Customs cargo operations are located at the Shindigha and dhow wharves on the east bank of Dubai Creek next to Maktoum bridge.

"This is good news, and would further help our business," said an Iranian trader who owns several dhows. "All the paperwork is usually carried out at Ras al Khor and sailors have long-term work visas so there is no fear of people coming here illegally," he added. Customs officials have warned that Dubai's rapid growth as a shipping hub has increased their security concerns, especially with ships departing from Iran.

In late 2008 Mr al Marri told The National that Dubai Customs had set up an inspection task force with mobile laboratory vessels to inspect inbound vessels to Dubai. Dubai Customs last year trained its inspection staff in the detection of weapons, nuclear devices and equipment that can be used in biological warfare. shafez@thenational.ae