His Excellency Dr. Abdulla Bilhaif Al-Nuaimi, the Minister of Public Works and Chairman of National Transport Authority, has illustrated the current prospects to enhance the performance of UAE Maritime sector to cope with the highest standards stated by international conventions.
First of all, Your Excellency, we would like to know more about the maritime sector in the UAE, How do you look at it in terms of development and modernity?
No doubt that the maritime sector in UAE represents our biggest concern. We are aware of the important position it occupies in the concerns of the National Transportation Authority. For this reason, UAE has already joined all the agreements and international organizations related to maritime transportation and shipping such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and International Maritime Convention under which the National Transportation Authority has been operating, committed to all of its decisions. We believe that our country’s commitment with all the international
organizations concerned in maritime transportation and shipping enhances UAE’s image especially as a growing country compared to the other member states. I think this proves how much developed and modern the maritime sector in our country is, especially that nowadays ships with UAE flag on them are welcomed at all the ports of the world without any remarkable hinders.
What is the National Transportation Authority contribution to the development of the maritime sector in UAE?
In fact, the National Transportation Authority does not claim to have contributed to the development of the maritime sector that much compared to our contribution to the air transportation sector. Nevertheless, the maritime sector management, especially the inspection and follow-up department are doing a great job in following on the foreign ships; making sure they do commit to the international maritime conventions. Moreover, the Authority has implemented a technical system (LRIT) that tracks the country’s ships, reaching to a distance of approximately 1000 mile
In spite of that modest contribution as we would like to see it, we are still confident that we already have a well-established infrastructure on which we can build to develop a stronger future for maritime. Here at UAE, we have sea ports that are among the most developed ports in the world, such as Khalifa Port, Jebel Ali Port, Fujairah Ports, and a lot more. Whereas, the National Transportation Authority is still seeking more development and progress as we never felt that we had done enough, this is why we are planning to put more effort to get use of this developed infrastructure.
Is there any specific strategy the authority follows in the development of maritime sector?
Today, enhancing competitiveness is one of the biggest challenges we face. UAE has achieved, in deed, a great universal progress in many fields like air transportation, telecommu- nications, land transportations and roads quality, and we’re now moving confidently and steadily towards achieving this progress also in the maritime sector.
Hence, our strategy is based on competitiveness, aiming to get to higher positions every year until we achieve the first place.
What do you think of the level of maritime sector in the country and does it satisfy the ambitions our leaders want to achieve?
As I mentioned, we have always been seeking the higher positions in all the fields, this implies that even if we achieved the higher position, it will not stop us from keeping up with our passionate pursuit of perfectness, that motivates us to always lead the world in our work. For example, the status of roads in UAE is considered perfect and among the highest quality and modernity of roads in the world, yet we never stopped working on improving them; putting more and more effort to always stay ahead of the world in the field.
Nowadays ships with UAE flag on them are welcomed at all the ports of the world without any remarkable hinders
We have achieved great progress in several fields and I can say we have already claimed the high position we sought among countries. What I am trying to explain is that we never abandon our ambition of always achieving advancements, especially in the field of industry, to be always able to survive in the midst of competition, benchmarking our country as a lighthouse for others in all fields, in the maritime sector in specific.
Your Highness, are there any remarkable challenges facing the maritime sector in UAE?
Most of the challenges facing us in the development of the maritime sector are mainly related to technical issues not to infrastructure. Among these issues is the delay in the adoption of the amended Maritime Commercial Law to replace the current one that was executed in 1981
Another challenge we suffer from in the maritime sector nowadays is the shortage in specialized national workforce. A very limited number of national capabilities are enrolling in this field, which means we need to start applying the required measures to encourage UAE people to engage in maritime. In addition, some conventions on maritime are not yet successfully implemented here in our country, but we are moving steadily towards starting the process of implementing them.
We understand that the National Transportation Authority is responsible to come out with suitable solutions for those technical issues since it is the official legislator of maritime sector. This, honestly, is not an easy mission to be handled in a country like UAE where every city has its own operating institutions, requiring the legislator to acquire the consensus of all of them to approve any convention. To conclude, the authority needs to achieve teamwork, successful coordination with all authorities, and getting the approval of local governments to endorse any convention; all of these issues we cannot consider as problems as much as challenges we will work together on overcoming. This is UAE leaders’ philosophy; we do not deal with problem, we positively call them challenges and start looking for solutions. A great deal of those challenges has been solved, especially when considering the obstacles related to the organization of work within the institutions. For instance, here at the National Transportation Authority we managed to divide our scope of work into three areas; one for land transport, the other for maritime transport, and the third one for air transport; giving ourselves the chance to concentrate more on maritime sector to keep up with the great progress we have achieved in the land and air transport sections.
However, we still need to reconsider the regulations, laws, and legislation related to the maritime sector to go beyond all obstacles, especially that we live in UAE, which is one of the most advanced and successful countries, putting us under pressure to always keep this excellence achieving the high expectations that we are committed to. Therefore, when we meet to endorse a new law or issue a new decision we prioritize studying it carefully.
It is noteworthy that whatever laws or regulations, or even guides which we issue at UAE have become general regulations that are circulated all through the gulf countries, at least and later get applied with all of its items. This is what makes us keen to present the best for the world and become a model that can be followed in prescribing regulations and laws that fit with the modern era.
Elaborating more on the issue of shortage of national workforce in maritime, do you think that there is a pressing need to launch a maritime awareness campaign aiming to encourage national labor to get engaged in this field ?
Sure, we understand the importance of media and marketing in strengthening the maritime sector awareness. However, it is essential to formulate a plan for attracting national juniors to enroll in this field. We, in the National Authority, are currently working to formulate a road-map to launch an awareness campaign that aims also to encourage ship owners to register their ships under the country’s name to enhance our fleet.
Of course, it’s always possible to import expertise from abroad, and this is available for all, especially because the world has become an open space for anybody to surf in. But, we need national specialists who are able lead our fleets and institutions, forming the future of maritime in our country. In this domain, we are currently planning in coordination with several entities in the country, including the Emirates University to create a special section for graduate studies or to establish an institution to train national staff or even to grant them scholarships in foreign universities abroad to get high-qualified personnel who will be capable of handling our maritime issues.
As part of our 2014 strategic plan, we hope to have a minimum of 20 national specialists who are well-qualified to serve our maritime transpion section by 2016.
Your Highness, you were the first to announce “Tasneef” as an official society in UAE, can you tell us about the impact of this step in the area?
Two important points I would like to mention in this regard: first, it was an honor for me to be the first to adopt this society, as I believe any actions we do ,enhances the ultimate aim of localizing professions, is an honor itself. To be sincere, His Excellency Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak is the one who conducted all the hard work and supervision, our extended thanks to him of course. From my part, I gathered the officials in charge of TASNEEF, and I found out that there is a very good infrastructure that might actually allow us to present “Tasneef” to the world. My personal vision was that “Tasneef” should not be restricted inside national borders; but we have to hold it to the whole world transferring our experience and knowledge.
Accordingly, we decided to hold “Tasneef” with us to our next meeting with our counterparts, the Ministers of Transport and Communications in other Arab countries, to present it an official institution capable of working independently abroad, as well as on board, as it is well-equipped with all the required technical capabilities and financial resources qualifying it to stand alone in all Arab and foreign countries.
What about the impact of this announcement in the public opinion?
No doubt that the announcement had its good impact on everybody, it is impressing to know that now we have qualified society that is specialized in ships classification while other countries that have their long tradition in the Navy for hundreds of years have not yet established such a society.
Our announcement have been warmly welcomed and we received compliments from all Gulf States; many Arab countries encouraged us as well because everybody thought accomplishing this project would be difficult considering that the United Arab Emirates is new in this field compared to other countries who have hundreds of years of experience working in this sector.
What are your expectations for the role “Tasneef” will play in the near and distant future?
Speaking of the role of “Tasneef”, we need first to discuss the needs the area has to satisfy. There is a need in the region for an institution dedicated to this type of work, for that end, we studied “Tasneef” carefully because it will have to cover the local needs for this kind of service.
“Tasneef” is not the only institution conducting this kind of services; a lot of international companies in the Arabian Gulf are presenting the same range of services. Yet, what we aim for is not to become the only among other international institutions in the field, but to be the best, and to stay ahead of the competition as our constant strategy is. To conclude, we want “Tasneef” to be with local origin but present global services for the world.
After HH President Khalifa bin Zayed, may God protect him, have launched the Initiative of developmental projects which include opening Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center in Umm Al-Quwain, can we consider this step as a starting point for a promising future of the United Arab Emirates as regional center for maritime research?
Of course I can never rule out such an option, as UAE enjoys a distinguished geographical location that qualifies it to become a regional research center. To be able to achieve that, we have to have the capable staff and workers who are able to provide this service successfully.
Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center is still under construction and what we have to do is to start training staff to be qualified to work in it. We agreed with our colleagues in the Ministry of Environment, with the blessings of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Minister of Presidential Affairs, to launch initiatives over two to three years to attract more workers at this facility. Furthermore, there is a serious intention to start a cooperation agreement between the center and the Emirates University so that the center might become more susceptible to expansion and success, because any research center that is not correlated to academics becomes out of competitiveness on a global level.
Do you think there is need to increase the infrastructure of maritime sector?
A: The need never ends; it is part of the ambitions we look forward to achieve. When you have a great ambition the need becomes greater also, that is why we cannot say that United Arab Emirates have had enough of infrastructure, because we have a developed infrastructure that is capable to more expand and develop as actually our ambitions are larger than the existing infrastructure we have.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, always speaks of maintaining the first position, not only achieving advanced positions, so we work to always be the first. When we seek to assume the highest position, our ambition must be in line with this high position, and our investments should become also as high as this position is. Our infrastructure should be also able to extend and develop to we need to adopt any new technology needed to get along with this position. When it comes to all these constituents of success, we have all of them and we will always be seeking to achieve more, since anybody who says he has reached the top, he is sure dead.
How would expanding the shipping sector impact the land transport and air freight sectors, in your opinion?
Sure the correlation between the different sectors is complementary, so we cannot claim to have a first-class air freight sector without making sure we have a sea shipping sector that is capable to absorb the outcome of the first. Obviously, the air transportation sector is currently not only serving passengers, but also its larger part is dedicated to freight issues. The UAE can become a strategic center; this means that we should be able to distribute what we received from other countries of the world. In more details, what applies to air transport applies to maritime transport as it is known worldwide that international m
We want “Tasneef” to be with local origin but present global services for the world. Maritime transport contributes by over 80% to the total world trade revenue, whereas sectors of land transport or air transport are mainly distributing goods to be held on ships. This forces us to develop a sea transport sector that integrates well with the land transport or air transport sectors.
How can we achieve the development of maritime sector through legislation and legal frameworks?
System and organization are the basis of development. This means we will not be able to develop anything without having an established system as it determines the direction of work-flow and helps us set a good work strategy. We at the National Transport Authority consider ourselves privileged to be responsible for legislation in the maritime industry in the country; we believe thath this legislation, if not coherent, fair, deliberate and consistent with what is happening in the world, then we'll have to amend every two year! That's the reason why we think it's essential to cooperate with Federal Authority, which is governed by UAE maritime law, with the local authorities.
Again, if we have successful logistics, we’ll be able to achieve all goals, and this is what we seek to achieve; to assimilate all the current advancements in maritime, air, and land transportation sectors.
After Dubai has proudly won the bid to host Expo 2020, how will it contribute to the maritime industry?
Expo 2020 was a dream for UAE. I have always said that hosting expo at our land is going to refresh and revive all the sectors in UAE, including the maritime sector as well.
Today we are considering the tremendous amount of business and billions of dollars that will be invested in a limited period, which, of course, is ingratiating to all of us, but considering this deeply, Expo has also won being held at UAE. Every now and then, we seek to host an important event, and what happens usually is that UAE gets chosen among more than 90 different countries. No wonder why that happens, it’s because UAE has all the capabilities needed to organize such big events. World Trade Center, as an example, has a different event every day, no day passes without having a conference or a similar event held there.
That’s why I say Expo has won to be hosted in Dubai with all of its rich expertise, open minds, great potentials, and above all the security and safety factor everybody can see and feel here. Factors like safety and security are extremely crucial in choosing UAE as the host country for many important, international events.
Your highness, one last word for Marasi reader?
It was our pleasure to have you today at the Ministry and I actually was impressed by the quality of Marasi Magazine and the material presented. When speaking about such a specialized magazine like Marasi, you feel fascinated to have it presented by that extraordinary teamwork. It was my pleasure also to read the magazine and deepen my knowledge of maritime affairs. It actually changed some of the concepts I already had in the field. I would like to extend my thanks to the whole team for this special effort you exert on Marasi.