The new cruise terminal in Dubai’s Mina Rashid Port, located alongside the iconic Queen Elizabeth II liner, proved a fitting setting for the launch of the 1st Dubai International Superyacht Summit.

The organisers of the two-day summit, P&O Marinas and marina consultant Fabmar, put together a comprehensive program under the theme ‘The Emirati Riviera - A new world hub for yachting’.

The first session of the day was entitled ‘The United Arab Emirates as a yachting destination’. Speakers included Dave Canfield from marina consultants ATM, who said: “The number of marinas in the UAE have grown from eight in 2008 to 35 in 2018 with a total of 5,700 berths. 55% of the marinas are in Dubai Emirate where the number has grown from five in 2005 to 16 now.”

Challenges in the market were identified as navigation restrictions due to low bridges and strict bureaucratic immigration issues.

Security issues were covered by Tim Bilborough from Northcote Global Solutions, who confirmed: “Sea piracy incidents in the Red Sea and other parts of the region are much reduced due to enhanced naval presence but are likely to flare up again if this is reduced. Although superyachts are a soft target, mainly due to their low freeboard, they are generally not involved in piracy incidents. The main threat in the future is cyber security where many superyachts have weak IT systems that are vulnerable to attack.”

Erwin Bamps, CEO of local yacht manufacturer Gulf Craft, spoke about the need for the UAE to become more user-friendly to visiting yachts, pointing out: “The UAE borders at the airports and on land are open 24 hours a day but for visiting yachts they are not and planning for short notice local trips within the UAE is difficult, requiring advance clearance with the coast guard.”

The final session of the day was ‘How to build the future of the Emirates as a new superyacht hub’. Adnan Al Abbar from Dubai Ports World was the first speaker. He presented a profile of the new Mina Rashid Marina development, including some interesting ideas for developing the existing commercial port infrastructure for the leisure boating market. “We intend to introduce an all-year-round boat show in one of our old warehouses and even develop an organic garden area for boat owners and residents in our new complex,” he said.

Laurent Monsaingeon from LMNP consultancy gave a case study of the French Riviera, pointing out important factors that are relevant to new markets such as Dubai.

The results of the first day proved that the vision of the organisers was correct – a successful and informative event that is meeting a need in the UAE for a platform to address the issues of developing a superyacht hub in the Middle East.