Powerboats, marine drones, freestyle jet-skiing and some of the largest and most luxurious yachts in the world lined up as the first Abu Dhabi International Boat Show dropped anchor yesterday at the Adnec marina.
Over the next few days, more than 20,000 visitors are expected to get on board as the exhibition gets under way.
Adrenalin-pumping displays such as wakeboarding, water jetpacks and flyboarding, where people shoot out of the water on boards, will all feature. At least 90 boats will be on display at the 31,000 square metre marina along with 270 participating companies from 25 countries.
Visitors can also view the latest unmanned surface vessels, which are a type of marine drone. A twin-engined firefighting USV, made by UAE company Al Marakeb, can be quickly sent to fires to gather data and even start tackling the blaze.
It comes with a price tag of $500,000 (Dh1.83 million).
“USVs are where regular drones were 10 years ago,” said Al Marakeb’s David Dubois.
The company can even convert a piloted boat into a drone.
Visitors will also learn how to sail, ride a traditional abra water ferry and take up a “try before you buy” sea trial.
Humaid Al Dhaheri, chief executive at Adnec, said the exhibition was a response to demand in the emirate.
“We felt that the time was right to showcase Abu Dhabi’s growing leisure marine potential to the global market,” Mr Al Dhaheri said.
It is the first time Abu Dhabi has hosted a major boat show, and organisers will perhaps aim to replicate some of the success enjoyed by the long-established event in Dubai.
The annual Dubai Boat Show began in 1992 in the very dry surroundings of the city’s World Trade Centre.
Two decades on, it has become arguably the region’s main boating event.
Local yacht builder Gulf Craft sold five boats worth a combined Dh85m at this year’s event. Can Abu Dhabi make a similar or greater impact?
Abeer Al Shaali, executive managing officer at Gulf Graft, said the company expected sales.
“Gulf Craft is really excited about this show,” Ms Al Shaali said. “We’ve been wanting an event to bring us back to Abu Dhabi.”
Gulf Craft’s Majesty 135 is the largest yacht at the show. Measuring 43 metres, with five cabins and featuring a baby grand piano, the vessel will set you back about Dh50m.
Gulf Craft is also introducing a new sports cruiser, the Oryx 37, at the show.
“We believe the Abu Dhabi market is a great one with people interested in fishing as well as yachts,” Ms Al Shaali said.
For anglers, the show will host a game fishing zone, live demonstrations, talks on new regulations and the chance to buy the latest fishing kit.
Organisers are also encouraging families to attend and have set up performances, music and food stalls. The Emirates Autism Chamber Society Orchestra will be performing.
One of the aims of the show is to highlight the marine heritage of Abu Dhabi, so traditional abras float side by side with superyachts, and as visitors enter the marina, archive photos display the pearl diving and fishing heritage of the emirate.
“We are confident the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show will lead to the signing of several important deals and consolidate the growing reputation of Abu Dhabi as a leisure marine hub,” Mr Al Dhaheri said.
Abu Dhabi International Boat Show runs until Saturday.
Admission is Dh30 at the door but Dh20 if booked in advance. Under-15s are free if accompanied by an adult. Visit adibs.ae
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