With 5,325 registered superyachts currently on the world’s waterways, divided between 4,492 motor yachts and 833 sailing yachts, Abu Dhabi is on a journey to becoming a major destination for the global superyachting industry.
According to a report entitled ‘New Winter Oasis for Maritime Luxury Experience – Abu Dhabi’s Quest to Become a Global Superyacht Destination’, published by Abu Dhabi Maritime (AD Maritime), custodian of the Emirate’s waterways and part of AD Ports Group, the Emirate has achieved a number of important milestones that superyacht owners consider when selecting their destinations. The whitepaper was launched at Monaco Yacht Show, the annual international trade show dedicated to the world of superyachts held from 28 September to 1st October 2022.
After extensive consultation with industry experts, the report identified four key criteria that give Abu Dhabi significant comparative advantages, including: favourable seasonal weather and sea conditions; advanced maritime infrastructure and related services; established legal and regulatory environment; and world-class attractions incorporating social, cultural, and entertainment elements.
Superyachts, which represent the pinnacle of maritime leisure craft design and luxury lifestyle, are vessels of more than 30 metres in length predominantly residing in fewer than a dozen countries around the world. While designs may vary in terms of size and flare, superyachts all tend to have similar traits: wealthy owners, charter companies, maintenance-intensive operational requirements, and a strong demand for picturesque cruising opportunities.
With more than 150 new superyachts set to finish construction in 2022, representing a total fleet value of more €4 billion, Abu Dhabi’s entry into this exclusive industry sector could deliver significant economic benefits for the Emirate and the nation.
Captain Ammar Al Shaiba, Acting CEO of Maritime Cluster, AD Ports Group, said: “We developed this whitepaper to showcase the significant progress that Abu Dhabi has made in recent years in developing its unique offering to superyacht owners, and to identify areas where more work is still needed in order to achieve our vision. The findings demonstrate that the Emirate is becoming a destination of choice among the superyacht elite, with a wide range of services, attractions, and climate benefits. Multiple agencies and organisations are working together under the guidance of our wise leadership to achieve this goal.”
Capt. Saif Al Mheiri, Managing Director, Abu Dhabi Maritime, AD Ports Group, said: “The superyachting sector is a growing cornerstone of the UAE’s wider maritime leisure economy that leverages our nation’s strategic location, attractive coastline, favourable seasonal weather, advanced infrastructure and a friendly regulatory environment to welcome leading industry players and visitors from around the world to our shores.
“As our latest study indicates, our team at AD Maritime is working closely with our broader maritime community to grow Abu Dhabi’s value proposition, and we look forward to welcoming the global yachting community to our shores and unlocking the full potential of what our Emirate has to offer.”
Developed from a range of qualitative interviews with international experts conducted in 2021 and 2022, the report examines the factors that attract owners to venture beyond traditional destinations such as Mediterranean Sea ports like Marbella, Capri, Saint-Tropez, Antibes and Monaco, and Caribbean Sea ports such as Antigua, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas.
Experts interviewed suggested that the rise in superyacht ownership over the last decade, underpinned by the changing nationality profiles of owners, especially those based in Asia and the Middle East, has encouraged individuals and companies to look beyond these typical destinations. Furthermore, the geostrategic location of Abu Dhabi coupled with its natural abundance of pristine waterways and islands has helped to raise its profile among these new owners.
Sea conditions in the Arabian Gulf, with their low winds and calm waters year-round, along with moderate low season temperatures, mean that vessels do not need to be lifted from the water and stored at great expense, thereby increasing Abu Dhabi’s attractiveness.
The report also highlighted Abu Dhabi’s extensive leisure and entertainment offerings to the global superyachting community, including untouched coastal desert beauty featuring marine protected areas and a collection of scenic islands, beaches and anchorage destinations. The Emirate is also home to a number of world-class annual sporting events including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Formula One Race, Mubadala Tennis Championship, and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Golf Tournament, alongside renown cultural destinations including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim, among many others.
One of the areas where the Emirate has made significant progress, according to the whitepaper, is in the development of the legal and regulatory framework in support of superyacht owners and their crews, many of whom are not full-time residents in the country. The recent launch of comprehensive and fully-digitised Safety Maps of all waterways within the Emirate, identifying anchorage areas, zones for motorised and non-motorised craft, and speed limits, was cited as one key improvement. The maps, developed by the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) and AD Maritime, are available on the latter’s digital portal, www.admaritime.ae, and via a dedicated interactive navigational app, Al Nalia, available on App Store and Google Play.
Furthermore, Abu Dhabi has made significant progress in the development of advanced maritime infrastructure and related services for superyachts. There are currently approximately 100 superyacht reﬁt yards around the world, and Abu Dhabi offers a number of market-leading facilities in this area. In addition, the emirate is home to two full-service superyacht marinas that can host yachts of all sizes and are backed by a full suite of premiere accommodations, services and amenities.
One superyacht owner interviewed for the report, who chose to remain anonymous, concluded: “Abu Dhabi is quickly becoming a must-visit superyacht destination; it is a place where we want to spend more time. It ticks many of the boxes already, and the authorities are always making things faster, easier, and better for owners and our captains to choose to spend time there.”
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