Industry insight: Captain Al Mheiri on how Abu Dhabi plans to become the next superyacht hub

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Written by SuperYacht Times

SuperYacht Times’ founder Merijn de Waard caught up with Captain Al Mheiri of Abu Dhabi Maritime at the Monaco Yacht Show 2021, to discuss the capital city’s maritime history, its relationship to the superyacht industry, and initiatives it has undertaken to expand the presence of superyachts.YAS Marine Abu DhabiThere are several companies from Abu Dhabi here in Monaco. How important is the maritime and yachting industry for Abu Dhabi?

It is very important. We have a very historic connection to the sea, with records of trade and artefacts dating back to 2600 BC. Pearl diving was an industry in the region in the United Arab Emirates for the past 2,000 years, with documentation indicating it existed under the period of Alexander the Great.

In modern times, the maritime industry still consists of over 90% of the country’s trade, stemming from the export and import of goods. The yachting industry is something we are very proud of. We are taking lots of initiatives focused on yachting, from ensuring the proper infrastructure, facilities, fuel stations, and maintenance and refit facilities are available. We are also undertaking the creation of destinations. Abu Dhabi is home to over 216 islands, with a majority of them being inaccessible. We are working closely with our colleagues in the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi to develop them in tandem with the requirements and the needs of the superyacht industry.

That is all very exciting, as is the 45-metre project that Abu Dhabi Ship Building has announced. How important is it that Abu Dhabi starts building vessels locally?

Having a yacht building industry in Abu Dhabi is something we aspire for. There are a number of shipbuilders right now in Abu Dhabi, but they are focused on smaller boats, some of which are relatively medium size yachts. Abu Dhabi Ship Building is embarking on building this shadow boat, which I think is an excellent move towards reaching the superyacht industry. We are very proud of their achievements.

Nautilus 45 from SNO Yachts How do you see Abu Dhabi developing as a yachting destination in the next five years?

This is our focus right now. We have a massive plan to make sure that Abu Dhabi is positioned in the top five maritime global cities. Our initiative is multi-faceted, relating to aspects such as meeting regulations and international requirements, while also focusing on ensuring the availability of facilities that are required by the industry, and more specifically, to the superyacht industry, such as the number of berths and available marina space. Ensuring the proper infrastructure is a crucial aspect of this.Amadea yacht by Lürssen in Abu DhabiPhoto: ImperialFrom the destination side, we are working to ensure that we are activating Abu Dhabi’s maritime sector for the industry. We’ve announced a partnership with the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi. We are activating the maritime to accommodate superyachts while ensuring the protection of marine areas. These protected areas have lots of restrictions and we managed to install mooring buoys to ensure the preservation of the seabed, while still allowing guests to ensure snorkelling, diving and more. For very large superyachts, though they cannot make use of the designated mooring buoys, we have dedicated certain areas close to the protected spaces to make sure it is also accessible to them.

How important is Formula One as an event to attract yachts to the area?

Superyachts and Formula One go quite well together. Because of Formula One’s esteem, having a major event such as a Gran Prix helps to attract superyacht owners. The event, which will take place at the beginning of December – when the weather in Abu Dhabi is absolutely marvellous – makes Abu Dhabi an enticing destination.YAS Marine Abu DhabiAre there plans to develop more marinas in the area?

We are delivering new marinas every year. These are typically marinas, which accommodate smaller yachts. But we plan to identify more locations for marinas that can accommodate superyachts. This is our current focus.