Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 October 2019

Portrait of a Nation: the James Bond of the UAE saving lives at sea

Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi keeps the public out of troubled waters as head of the maritime rescue department at Dubai Police

Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi, right, head of Dubai Police's maritime rescue department, has dedicated his career to keeping people safe. Pawan Singh / The National 
Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi, right, head of Dubai Police's maritime rescue department, has dedicated his career to keeping people safe. Pawan Singh / The National 

From daring helicopter leaps to life-saving sea rescues, the "James Bond" of Dubai Police is a real-life action hero with the scars to prove it.

Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi, head of the force's maritime rescue department, won the movie-star moniker because he is always ready to throw himself in the line of duty – even when he is on holiday.

The father of five, who joined the ranks as a police corporal back in 1991, inherited a love of the sea and nature from his parents, who brought him up in Dibba in Sharjah, surrounded by mountains and water.

It is a passion that comes with a healthy respect for the deadly power of the natural elements, gained from many years undertaking dangerous missions.

Lt Col Al Naqbi, has instilled into his own children, who are aged between 18 months and 25, the importance of dedicating your life to helping and saving others.

“Its hard to describe my feeling that moment when I carry a person to safety and know that they will be fine,” Lt Col Al Naqbi said.

“I try to be a role model for my children, teach them that giving and dedicating one’s life to saving and helping others is the biggest source of satisfaction.”

The veteran policeman recalls jumping from a helicopter – from one mountain to another – to reach a stricken plane which had crash landed.

“I remember it was a four-to-six-person jet. It crashed on the top of the mountain, then fell into the valley.

“It was very hard to reach. I jumped from one mountain to another and nearly fell before I safely got there,” he said.

Other heart-pumping missions included a helicopter plunging into the sea in Abu Dhabi while filming a boat race and people trapped by severe floods in Fujairah in 1998.

One rescue effort that has made an indelible on his life took place when he wasn't even on duty.

“I happened to be near the place by coincidence.”


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A man was drowning in the sea at Al Mamzar as his brother stood screaming for help.

“There was no time for hesitation, I informed the operations room then jumped in the water without rubber swimming fins. It was dark and the wind was very strong.”

He still bears a scar on his ankle from when he struck a rock while jumping into the waters.

“The challenge was not bad weather conditions, but the fact that when I reached the man, he was heavy, wearing a kandura and mentally challenged – communicating with him was impossible.”

Lt Col Al Naqbi placed the man on his back until a rescue boat arrived and took them to dry land.

“Huge crowds welcomed us by clapping hands and giving us the thumps up,” he said.

Lt Col Al Naqbi says much has changed during his years of service of ensuring all isn't lost at sea.

“It was very different when I started – the tools and equipment were very modest,” he said.

The force had far fewer rescuers to call on, with the team also having to deal with a greater number of incidents.

He admits his job has caused his family plenty of anxious moments over the years.

His mother often offer prayers for his safety while his wife was terrified when first told of his occupation.

“But they are supportive, and they value what I do, because they know how rewarding it is to save a person’s life,” he said.

His job can take him out of the UAE, to provide aid in disaster-hit countries.

“I have been sent as part of a fully-equipped team to several countries hit by floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

“It is not a strange thing for a country that takes saving lives as one of its major priorities,” he said.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, that he has picked up the nicknames "Agent 007" and "Jackie Chan" for his dedication to to the cause.

“I saved a three-year-old girl from drowning when on holiday in Syria years back, because once a rescuer, always a rescuer,” he said.

Updated: December 27, 2018 07:44 PM