x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The leaking sub and the skipper in a Dubai court on a depth charge

Cemal Burak Koza, a Turkish marketing manager, was fined Dh1,000 for operating a submarine without a licence. While no-one is entirely sure what licence he needed, experts say submersibles are becoming a must-have executive toy.

The impounded submarine that was left on JBR beach.
The impounded submarine that was left on JBR beach.

DUBAI // As submarine dramas go, it wasn't exactly The Hunt for Red October.

While rogue captain Sean Connery defied the might of the US and Soviet navies in a cat-and-mouse pursuit in the Atlantic Ocean, Cemal Burak Koza made things a little easier for Dubai police.

His little two-man vessel sprang a leak 30 minutes into a test dive, and, exhausted after hauling it up Jumeirah Beach, he simply left it there and went home. Mr Koza, 34, a marketing manager from Turkey, made the news after a court fined him Dh1,000 for operating the craft without a licence. And while his case is still so rare that no one is entirely clear what sort of licence he was prosecuted for not having, experts say submarines are becoming a must-have executive toy.

"Submersibles are the new helicopters," said Marc Deppe, of the US company Triton Submarines.

His company is in talks to supply five small-sized luxury craft to Dubai and Qatar. "There's clearly a growing demand for mini-subs in the Middle East. There's no doubt about it."

Ben Gibson, sales manager at Pearl Watersports,said there was definitely a market for luxury marine toys such as submersibles. "There's a massive demand for unique toys, especially among the more affluent," he said.

Another company, U-boat Worx, reported a high degree of interest among regional buyers at the Dubai Boat Show this year.

The Dutch company's marketing manager, Charlotte Schroot, said most people who bought the submersibles, which can cost Dh4 million upwards, had one thing in common - cash.

"It can be anyone who has money," she said. "It can be people who just want it for leisure or for their own explorations."

Mr Koza's outlay was rather more modest. He bought his submarine, which can travel at 8kph and dive to 40 metres, for Dh35,000, and refurbished it himself.

He had intended either to sell the vessel for profit or lease it out as a leisure craft to a hotel in Turkey, and didn't apply for a licence because he wanted to test it first to see if it worked.

He said he had never intended to abandon it permanently. "We were going to come back and do another test, but the conditions weren't good," he said. He thought it was OK to leave it as it was a public beach.

He was fined for using the craft without the proper licence, but it remains unclear whether any such commercial licence exists for private submarines, as the market is so new.

"I'd have no idea what you'd class it as, or what sort of licence they would expect you to own," said Mr Gibson at Pearl Watersports.

His company does not sell submarines, but other items such as jetpacks that hover above the water, and torpedo-shaped speedboats. Many of these are operated under "counts-as" licences for similar craft such as jet skis or super boats.

Meanwhile Mr Koza's sub has been impounded by police, and he is awaiting a call to tell him when he can have it back.

He says he doesn't mind if officers want to try the vessel out themselves while the paperwork is being processed. "I will sell it to them if they want it," he said.

His short-lived career as a submariner had been fun, he said. "I definitely want to try it again.

"But maybe not here."

mcroucher@thenational.ae