x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Concern over boat motor rules in the UAE

A planned blanket ban on outboard motors that cause pollution could be scrapped as new recommendations are being made to the National Transport Authority.

Tony Hajj who has a boat at the marina. Delores Johnson / The National
Tony Hajj who has a boat at the marina. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // A planned blanket ban on outboard motors that cause pollution could be scrapped as new recommendations are being made to the National Transport Authority.

Tasneef, a company involved in offshore classification, conducted a study into better regulating motors for boats, based on the emissions they produce, not simply their type.

At present, a ban on fitting boats with two-stroke engines is expected to come into force by the end of the year. Tasneef said this is not the right way to tackle the issue, as many new two-stroke models are far less environmentally damaging than older versions.

It proposed instead that outboard motors should simply meet a standard for emissions, regardless of their type. Under the new system, engines would be assessed for their environmental impact and only be forbidden if they produce too high a level of toxic fumes.

Tasneef's emissions standard could also outlaw some four-stroke engines that would be allowed under the planned rules.

In the past, two-stroke engines were widely held to be cheaper to produce but far more polluting and noisier than four-strokes.

As technology has improved, more companies are producing two-stroke engines that are cleaner.

Tasneef has been working closely with authorities and hopes their proposals will be accepted and implemented by the end of the year, but no guarantee has been given.

Omur Sahinoglu, Tasneef's business development manager, said the aim is to reduce pollution and also provide clarity for boat owners.

"Let's take this opportunity to make a proper regulation reflecting the best practices across the world," Mr Sahinoglu said.

He said Tasneef's proposed rules would not come as a shock to owners or the industry. "There should be a proper transitional period for owners and manufacturers, otherwise it would be a disaster."

Concerns were raised earlier this year when the NTA published its revised two-stroke ruling, which would have banned the engines from the end of this year. That would leave owners facing hefty bills to replace their engines and devastate many local companies that produce the motors.

One company that would be hit hard by the new rules is Evinrude. It only makes two-stroke outboard motors so would lose its market in the UAE by the end of the year.

It claims that its engines are far less polluting than many other brands and fully conform to international emissions standards.

Dennis Schabilon, service manager for Evinrude, said better rules would mean a cleaner boating industry in general.

"The UAE supplies most of the boats here," he said. "Most of the small boats for the Middle East come from the UAE, they leave here with engines, so if they leave with clean engines that will be better for the whole GCC."

Tasneef's recommendations would bring the UAE into line with many other countries, including Australia and the US.

"There are models for this across the world, it is not like we are reinventing the wheel," said Randy Bradley, quality manager for Tasneef. "There is widespread support from the industry for this. The committee has queried the industry stakeholders to ensure that their opinion is valued and that we do not affect the consumer too hard."

The details of the emissions standard decree have not been finalised but are to be published in due course.

ksinclair@thenational.ae