Regional demand for fast vessels carrying between eight and up to 300 passengers could exceed 400 over the next 10 years, said shipbuilders from countries such as the Netherlands, Turkey, Norway and Australia hoping to win a share of orders.
“We are anticipating there is going to be a huge demand for passenger transport of all kinds,” said Martin de Bruijn, Middle East sales director for Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands which recently announced a joint venture with Albwardy Marine Engineering of Dubai.
De Bruin was speaking at the Workboats Middle East - the region's only dedicated event of its kind – which runs at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre until Wednesday (30 April) under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister for Public Works and Chairman of the National Transport Authority.
“Exactly what kind of craft will be required is still a big question mark but, quite simply, this has never been done before on such a scale,” he added, announcing that Damen had provided the design for water taxis which Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority are putting out to tender.
Labranda of Turkey has also just announced a new joint venture with Al Jaber group of Abu Dhabi to pursue the water bus market in the region. “No-one knows exactly how big the market will be but we expect it to exceed 400 over the next ten years,” said Aykut Ozgulsun, Sales and Marketing Director for Labranda. “That would make it the biggest market of its type in the world.”
Apart from transport for resort guests and residents of luxury villas and apartments, utilitarian water buses of varying sizes will be needed to ferry workers to and from their jobs on the Palm and island developments in the same way staff and municipal buses are used on land. Qatar and Bahrain, as well as Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, are also engaged in massive offshore developments which will need water bus services.
The Workboats Middle East exhibition and conference features more than 100 key suppliers from the region and beyond as the Gulf becomes the major centre for the workboat industry with multi-billion dollar offshore land reclamation developments along with major projects in oil and gas. The term workboat covers a range of vessels from offshore supply vessels, ferries and crew boats, barges, dredgers, tugboats and specialised craft. More than 2,000 workboats are docked or repaired in the Middle East.
Middle East Workboats has gained wide industry backing with sponsors including: ADNOC/ESNAAD/IRSHAD, Det Norske Veritas, Hadef, Lamnalco Group, NICO International, Svitzer Middle East Ltd, Wärtsilä Corporation and. Zahker Marine International. Supporting organisations include the International Marine Contractors Association and the Royal Institution of Naval Architects.