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Need to strengthen UAE ports’ leadership
By our business bureau September 11, 2018
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DUBAI: Under the patronage of the Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime (FTA), ‘UAE Maritime Leaders Roundtable’ was held on Monday under the theme ‘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 shipowners and marine services companies are facing 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 for necessary measures 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.

Commenting on the initiative, 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 prioritises its competency and leading status globally. The UAE ports have been ranked as being the largest and preeminent ports worldwide. Moreover, we are ranked among 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. 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.”

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.”

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 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 specialised in maritime issues.

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.

Regarding the UAE ports and developing legal and procedural framework, 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, 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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Moreover, Fazel Fazelbhoy, the CEO of Synergy Offshore, said, “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.”

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