SHIP BUILDING

UAE, Sharjah 2017 | INDUSTRY | B2B

Sharjah's critical location and sophisticated facilities make it an increasingly attractive option for those who want land and sea access to one of the world's most critical trade routes. The companies facilitating this have never done better.

Lars seistrup
LARS SEISTRUP
Managing Director
Albwardy Damen

What is your impact on the marine industry in the UAE?

Lars Seistrup Our newest facility is in Sharjah, where we have had our head office for the last three and a half years. This is where we have our main activity and where we focus on ship repair, conversions, oil and gas, and new buildings. We are officially a Dubai-based JV company owned by Albwardy Investment Dubai and Damen, NL, and despite the depressed economy, we have a full scale and fully functioning new building yard. In Dubai, we have been operating now for 39 years as the company originally started in 1978. In Fujairah, we have a workshop that mainly does afloat repairs, meaning repairs to the vessels that are on the anchorage in Fujairah. We also have a diving division that works primarily out of Fujairah, and occasionally in Africa and Oman.

Basel Shuhaiber MAP Marine Technologies is a division dedicated to the development and production of unmanned solutions and other navigation systems with numerous applications in various fields within the maritime industry. For example, our autopilot device, MAP, is well suited for the fishing industry, allowing the captain to tend to his fishing and other tasks while the autopilot system controls the boat's course. Oil and gas sectors also benefit from our unmanning kit, MAP Pro, where unlike MAP it can be remotely controlled from a distant point off the boat, enabling the operators to run their data collection and surveillance rounds, communicating back to the main ship without having to send their team out to sea. Our MAP Marine Auto-Pilot is both practical and fun to use, making it the perfect fit for the leisure boat segment. It is patented as the first such system where you can control the operation on your mobile or tablet through a downloadable app whereby users set their course and entire route, like a self-driving car. If they want to change course they can simply steer left and right using their phone. We launched this product in 2017 and have already sold about 200 units, with about 25% of these sales in the UAE alone.

What are some aspects of your broader strategy?

LS We were founded almost 40 years ago in Dubai as Albwardy Marine Engineering. Damen came into the picture in 2008. When we came here we branded this place as Damen Shipyard Sharjah. That became confusing on the branding side, appearing as if we operate two entities when in reality it was only one. Albwardy Damen has excellent cooperation with the Sharjah government. There are two authorities here, the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority and the Sharjah Port Authority. The water part is covered by the Sharjah Port, and the land is managed by Hamriyah Authority. While the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority and Sharjah Port Authority are not one company, they are close. HE Sheikh Khaled Bin Abdullah Bin Sultan Al Qasimi is the chairman for both, lending their operations a sense of natural synergy. Sheikh Khaled also makes himself very accessible and proactive. The Hamriyah Free Zone is extremely business friendly and affords companies sufficient space and services to successfully run their businesses. We have seen numerous benefits from being located here. For us as a shipyard, it is a double bonus as we utilize the water and the land. The Sharjah Port is one of the most professionally run ports in the world, and its management really understands how business is done.

BS The introduction of MAP Marine Technologies (MAP-Tech) has shifted the majority of our clients from individual and recreational operators to industrial and defense end-users. Whilst of course we maintain all our target profiles—leisure, commercial, industrial—and continue to cater to them with our various products, being the only private company globally to produce readily available autonomous technology at competitive rates has greatly impacted our sales direction and allowed us to compete at government tenders for defence projects. To date, we have been awarded projects in the US and are engaged in discussions with Canada as well as several other countries in the GCC, Africa, and the Southeast Pacific region. Building a defence vessel involves more severe scenarios, both physically and with respect to communication. We have to consider that the vessel will be exposed to harsher conditions and will need to be more ruggedized. Furthermore, in terms of operation, we must secure the communication between the point of operation and the unmanned vessel from potential hacking attempts. In the commercial industry, the system should not be susceptible to hacking either, but the type of encryption is quite different.