Posted On: 10-09-2018
The first event of its kind that gathers decision makers in the maritime industry to discuss methods to develop the legal and procedural framework of the UAE ports in addition to improving the efficiency of its infrastructure and technology
Dubai – United Arab Emirates – 10th of September 2018: Under the patronage of the Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime “FTA”, Tactics Maritime Media and Marasi News have successfully arranged “The UAE Maritime Leaders Roundtable Discussion” under the theme of “To what extent do the UAE ports meet the current demands of the shipping industry?”.
The event brought together prominent UAE maritime leaders from private and government sectors who discussed the status of the UAE maritime industry and the main obstacles that are facing ship owners and Marine Services Companies in dealing with ports in the UAE and what are the issues hindering raising the UAE flag on the vessels owned by Emirati companies and businessmen.
The roundtable’s participants came up with effective solutions that will be presented to the concerned authorities to take the necessary actions in order to drive the UAE’s ports towards innovation and efficiency. The roundtable was held with a significant support from Emirates Classification Society “Tasneef” and was sponsored by major maritime entities including Dubai Maritime City, Gulf Navigation Holding, the Norwegian Classification Society “DNV GL”, Folk Shipping, WIN GD, Ince & Co. and Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.
The core of maritime in the Silk Road
Commenting on the initiative, H.E Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development and the Chairman of the Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime explained, “The UAE government prioritizes its competency and leading status globally. Today, we are celebrating the achievements of our utmost efforts to maintain our country’s prosperity and progress in the maritime sector. The UAE ports have been ranked as being the largest and preeminent ports worldwide. Moreover, we are ranked amongst the world’s top five countries for being a maritime hub and we are keen on becoming the core of maritime located at the new Silk Road. That’s why, we have carried on our founding fathers legacy to enhance and develop the UAE’s ports infrastructure to become one of the preferred destinations for ships and shipping lines.”
Al Nuaimi added, “In order to achieve this goal, we are following our wise leadership instructions to listen carefully to the concerns of ship owners and the maritime service companies. That’s why, we have been keen on joining the IMO Executive Council in order to be able to listen to the global maritime industry concerns. Today and through this roundtable that gathers top maritime decision makers in the UAE, we are listening carefully to what they need. Moreover, we are willing to make decisions that will meet their requirements and to further foster UAE's maritime sector. We have kept our promise and have issued a number of decisions based on the recommendations of the first roundtable and today we are waiting for more recommendations that shall make UAE’s ports one of the prominent ports in the world.”
Decisions to fulfill the maritime industry requirements
H.E Eng.Hessa Al Malek, Executive Director of Maritime Transport at FTA clarified: “During the first Maritime Leaders Roundtable, we have tackled a number of issues and came up with recommendations that shall satisfy the maritime sector needs in the UAE in order to reinforce UAE’s position as a preferable destination for maritime investment. After that, we have submitted these recommendations to the governments and they have responded immediately by issuing a number of decisions. I would like to take the opportunity and extend deep gratitude and appreciation to our wise leadership for supporting the maritime sector and abolish obstacles in front of business leaders and maritime companies in order to develop services in the country and encourage further investments.”
The Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime has issued a number of decisions in response to the first Maritime Leaders Roundtable recommendations. These decisions covers a number of aspects, such as H.E Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi declaration during the annual meeting, to draft a new maritime investment law that is different from the trade law and takes into account the dynamics and specifics of the maritime industry. In June 2018, the FTA joined the Convention of Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention). This will facilitate all procedures related to maritime investment. In addition to communicating with Ministry of Justice in order to establish a court specialized in maritime issues.
Regarding shipowners requests to abolish the requirements of the navigational licensing certificates that significantly hinder ship owners in the UAE and is an obstacle for foreign vessels wishing to enter the UAE territorial waters for maintenance or other services such as marine classification. The decision came in July 2018 stating that a letter from the port is enough instead of prolonged contracts. Moreover, FTA is working on the necessary measures that facilitate the requirements for ship navigational licenses and change related laws in a way that significantly serves the interests of ship owners.
Furthermore, FTA has announced including a special section in the new maritime law in order to increasing the UAE's ability to attract ship owners. This required an in-depth study of the key aspects that sector leaders look for in the host country. These include ease of doing business and building a resilient and flexible mechanism to regularly review and update maritime laws to facilitate procedures in order to attract foreign investments. This mechanism should overtake the red-tape requirements to amend laws and decrees.
Regarding revising the Value-Added Tax (VAT) law and drafting new and developed provisions for the maritime sector that take into account exempting the sector from all VAT-related measures. This includes obtaining insurance services, supplying support staff and services, and other issues related to the sector to ensure its competitiveness and help it attract companies from other countries. FTA has announced preparing for a meeting with the VAT committee in order to discuss drafting new provisions related to the maritime sector.
Currently, FTA is coordinating with the Ministry of Education to include maritime curricula in the basic educational stages to underline the importance of the sector among the younger generations, rebuild the image and reputation of Emirati seafarers in the minds of the younger generations. Moreover, FTA is studying the possibility of including A Seafarer' Day as a national holiday and they have met with Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development to spread awareness regarding the same. Finally, FTA is conducting an in-depth study to unify the UAE Maritime industry as a standalone sector.
Potential opportunities ahead of the UAE ports
Regarding the UAE ports and developing legal and procedural framework, H.E Khamis Buamim, Board Member, Group CEO and Managing Director of Gulf Navigation Holding clarified: “UAE’s ports are overlooking the Arabian Gulf, known for being the world’s oil tank located among the most important routes for maritime trade. Moreover, the UAE’s strategic location makes it an ideal hub for shipping and logistic services. Our ports can provide integrated services that shall add value to the national economy as a whole. With the changes in the future of trade and ports, we need to absorb newly established companies through incubator centers that shall open up employment opportunities, promote more sustainable economy, stimulates innovation and attract expertise who will discuss the issues in the sector that will turn into challenges to the business. We need to use the competitive advantages of each port to support the overall marine sector and allow us to take the lead globally.”
On another note, Eng. Ali Al Suwaidi, General Manager of Dubai Maritime City commented, “Port management entities should invest in the opportunities offered by the "UAE Maritime Cluster", that has an exceptional competitive value by itself, that is not available in any other places. Moreover and by enhancing cooperation and exchange of data between ports, the UAE will become the preferred destination for global shipping lines.”
Regarding the development of the UAE’s ports infrastructure, Mr. Geir Fuglerud, Maritime Area Manager, Middle East & Africa, DNV GL emphasized, “The UAE ports and marine facilities are known for being advanced which puts the UAE ahead in this field. However, constant development is needed to ensure that UAE keeps its leading position amongst the top countries with advanced ports located on the new Silk Road. I believe that the UAE should start taking progressive steps to equip its ports and marine facilities with advanced technology needed for several fields; such as conducting & facilitating inspection services by using smart drones in addition to establishing infrastructure for LNG bunkering.”
In this regard, Eng.Ibrahim Behairy, Managing Director at WINGD, Specialized in supplying container ships and oil tankers stated,“We have chosen to invest in the UAE because of its strategic location that attracts major mega ships that are our target and its important to collaborate with the ports in the UAE as having companies providing technological solutions in the country will contribute to enhancing the UAE’s position as a preferred destination for ships coming from all over the world. These international companies can find maintenance services and spare parts during the period of anchoring in the ports for loading goods or refueling, and we need to work with the ports to invest in this opportunity, and turn the UAE into a global hub for marine technical services.”
The UAE’s Flag of Convenience
Regarding raising the UAE’s Flag of Convenience on the ships owned by Emirati companies and businessmen, Suha Obaid, Deputy CEO, Folk Shipping commented, “Raising the UAE’s Flag of Convenience on the ships owned by Emirati companies and businessmen is considered as a commitment towards raising the UAE’s position and enhance its presence globally based on the size of its fleet. However, this commitment is putting a huge financial and operational burdens. We request revising all these procedures and treat seafarers like the normal employees working in offices and lives at their homes. In addition to establish a new structure to raise the national flag on the UAE’s ships, in order to make this flag more attractive to shipowners, so that the UAE’s actual fleet is equivalent to the fleet that raises its flag.”
The UAE Maritime Legal System
Regarding the UAE legal and legislative systems in place to support smooth port development and operations, Rania Tadros, Managing Partner at Ince & Co Middle East LLP explained,“The UAE ports infrastructure is highly developed, however, the legal system has some catching up to do to ensure that it has in place the necessary rules and regulations to give certainty to those operating in the region that their positions are protected and to allow them to understand the risks of their business. We are optimistic about the outcome of today’s roundtable.”
Tarek Saad, Partner at Baker Mckenzie Habib Al Mulla concluded, “The UAE is witnessing remarkable developments in the legislative structure at all levels, with the new Federal Companies Law, the new Federal Arbitration Law and the proposed Federal Maritime Law all focused on best practice in line with international standards to attract and reassure investors in the UAE. The new laws have a particularly positive impact on the maritime sector - whether through new arbitration procedures that make it easier for investors to resolve disputes more easily and quickly, through provisions of facilities and incentives in all areas of marine investment, including ship ownership and flying the UAE flag, and through consistent health and safety regulations of UAE ports. This roundtable is an excellent forum to discuss recommendations of key decision-makers for inclusion in the new maritime law.”
The Impact of discussions and the media partnership
On another note, Capt. Gamal Fekry, Managing Director at MC Ship Management and one of the moderators in the roundtable declared: “The FTA has proved that it’s listening to the requests of the maritime leaders by promptly responding to the first roundtable recommendations. In turn, this has raised the level of confidence in the support of the responsible entities in the sector to facilitate maritime business in the country. The amendment currently being made to the navigational licensing certificates and amending the VAT law is an exceptional step. Therefore, I would like to extend appreciation and gratitude to the FTA team. Moreover, I would like to thank “Tactics Marketing Management” team for organizing this roundtable and Marasi News media platform that shed the light on the requirements of the operating companies in this sector to win top decision makers support.”
Moreover, Fazel Fazelbhoy, the CEO of Synergy Offshore, emphasized the importance of the discussions that are taking place at the Roundtable to develop the UAE maritime sector, saying: “I am extremely pleased with the dialog that is developing between Senior Officials of the Maritime/Federal Transport Authorities and the business leaders of the Maritime Community around the Roundtable. It is critically important that the members of the Administration take cognizance of the maritime communities concerns and use their expertise in an advisory capacity to implement the necessary changes to propel the UAE into one of the leading global maritime hubs. I believe that the initiative will raise the UAE’s competitiveness and capabilities in the maritime sector; especially, in terms of ports and services to ship owners and managers. Furthermore, I believe that the maritime media soft power represented by Marasi News media platform will enhance the confidence of the other sectors supporting the maritime economy, especially the finance and the marine insurance sectors."