By David Robinson

A shortage of yacht servicing facilities and regulations were two areas of concern at the Gulf Boating Conference, held today as part of the Dubai International Boat Show. The conference, attended by over 50 delegates from some 15 countries, provided a comprehensive overview of where the market is at.

The shortage of yacht service and refit facilities was highlighted in a presentation by Paul Lane from International Waterfront Consultants entitled ‘Projects with purpose – Waterfront development decisions and how not to do it’.

The value of waterfront land in Dubai means that it is not the best place to site a refit and repair facility. A previous repair facility in Dubai Marina, for example, was replaced by a tower block.

Lane indicated that there is a growing need for yacht repair and maintenance facilities, as well as fuelling facilities, as the number of the boats in the GCC increases.

“Abu Dhabi is much better at zoning these facilities than Dubai,” Lane commented. SB is aware that a number of Abu Dhabi-based shipyards are now including yacht work in their activities.

Also a hot topic was regulation and a number of the delegates put forward strong views, as this is seen as a key area for supporting growth of the yacht industry in the region. The focus here was mainly on the UAE but there is a requirement to have a common approach to regulation across the GCC region.

Nawfal Al Jourani, director of communications at Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), told the conference: “We have introduced several regulations which in a number of cases are much further ahead than many more developed maritime nations.” He emphasised that DMCA wants to implement rules that have been well consulted on with local yacht industry stakeholders.

Some frustration over the communication of rules was expressed by conference delegates, but Jourani responded by saying that DMCA was aware of many of these and gradually working on them. “We only received our implementing regulations six months ago so we are working hard to address issues.”

Most recently, the staying time for visiting foreign yachts was increased from 21 days to three months.

Another issue highlighted was the fact that yachts visiting more than one of the seven Emirates in the UAE have to clear in and out of each Emirate despite it being one country. The rules between each Emirate can also vary.

The local yacht agency sector was also mentioned by delegates as being inefficient and not well informed enough to assist visiting yachts.

In a look at the global market, Mike Derrett, an industry consultant and sister title IBI’s Asia correspondent, gave an overview of the main happenings in the market since the global financial crisis. He suggested that the GCC region has some 40,000 boats over 5m (16ft), of which 15,000 are in Kuwait. There are now more than 60 marinas in the GCC and local boatbuilders have about 50% of the market. He saw the best markets as the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

Looking ahead, Derrett sees Africa as the new China with market opportunities in Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Tanzania and Uganda. In Asia he suggested the markets with good prospects are Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.