x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Modernised fleet to replace Dubai abras

The fleet of wooden abras that ferry people across Dubai Creek are to be replaced with modern boats that are safer and more efficient.

The fleet of wooden abras that ferry people across Dubai Creek is to be replaced from next year with a new generation of modern boats that are safer and more efficient, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said yesterday. The new boats will be lighter, faster, more flexible and more environmentally friendly than the motorised abras they are replacing but will look the same as the traditional wooden vessels.

The authority's Marine Agency said it would introduce some of the new abras in a pilot project next year. If they prove popular with operators and passengers, the existing fleet of 149 motorised abras - many of which are more than 30 years old - will be gradually phased out and replaced. Mohammed al Mulla, the chief executive of the Marine Agency, said: "The new generation of abras will be manufactured of materials other than the conventional wood. Instead, they will be made of composite fibre and aluminium sandwich with a mahogany wood coat and a thin film of wood to preserve the traditional shape. The new abras will have enhanced safety levels, and improved manoeuvrability on Dubai waterways."

The new boats, which will carry the same number of passengers, will be propelled by electric motors, eradicating the toxic gases emitted from engine exhausts. They will be able to travel at up to 10 knots - faster than existing abras - and perform 90-degree turns, which will allow them to manoeuvre more easily in and out of docking bays along the creek. The new boats will be painted with non-adhesive agents and can be more easily hoisted out of the water for regular maintenance.

Improved safety is one of the main reasons behind the modernisation scheme. The Marine Agency said each new abra would be equipped with 22 life jackets - one for each passenger - two life belts, and easily-accessed first aid kits and fire extinguishers. Protective rails and hydraulic doors will help passengers with special needs. As well as ferrying thousands of passengers a day across Dubai Creek, the new abras will also serve the residents of Nakheel's coastal projects such as Palm Deira, The Palm Jumeirah and The World.

The Marine Agency manages 149 privately owned motorised abras which carry 28 million passengers a year, a rate that is growing by seven per cent a year. Costing just Dh1 a trip, it represents one of the cheapest modes of public transport in the country. Marine mass transit systems are an essential part of the RTA's plans to reduce Dubai's road congestion. arichardson@thenational.ae