The United Arab Emirates has assumed a leading position on the world map due to the vital and crucial role played by maritime transport, in the development of the country’s economy. In an exclusive interview with Marasi News magazine, H.E Salem Ali Al Zaabi, Director General of the Federal Transport Authority - Land and Maritime (FTA), pointed out the leading role played by FTA in achieving sustainable growth, high efficiency, and enhancing competitiveness.
What are the priorities of FTA presently?
The priorities of FTA can be summarized in governing the sectors of land and sea transport, setting the legislative basis for their development by working on a program based on a clear vision, effective contribution and a well thought-out strategy to give the UAE the leading position in the field of land and sea transport.This can be achieved through the development of regional and international relations, proposing policies, enacting necessary laws and regulations through which we can ensure the efficiency, development and safety of land and sea transport; and the development of this vital sector in the country. In addition, we aim to unify the efforts of local institutions and present their achievements in international forums and conferences.
How do you assess the importance of conventions and regional and international partnerships between FTA and other companies and sectors?
FTA believes in the importance of regional and international agreements and partnerships.FTA has participated in many regional and international maritime transport meetings; notably the meeting of the committee of ministers of transport and communication in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); and the meeting of the representatives of the ministries of transport and communications in the GCC countries in October 2014 in Kuwait. We also participated in the multiple committees for land and sea transport meeting and the multi-modal meeting in Cairo last January; as well as in the meeting for creating a unified entity for sea ports in the GCC on the 20th of February in 2014 in the headquarters of the General Secretariat for the GCC in Riyadh.
One of the most important objectives of FTA is to govern the maritime sector in the country, and enhance its competitiveness in accordance with high quality, transparency, and efficiency standards. Could you give us an overview of your progress and how you achieve this level of leadership?
FTA is working on three major initiatives, in addition to a range of major and minor activities in accordance with the targets and performance indicators put in place to achieve the strategic goal of the country. These are to enhance the competitiveness of the UAE in the sector of land transport; improve the environment; promote maritime safety; enhance competitiveness in the maritime transport sector; and finally to promote cooperation with stakeholders in the maritime transport sector to achieve national indicators in maritime transport. In this regard, FTA plans to create a technical council for maritime transport that includes all the federal and local stakeholders in the sector.
FTA’s inspection department has intensified its inspections and controls operations on ships to ensure its compliance with technical, local and international requirements.The department increased its inspection and controls activities of both national and foreign vessels operating in national ports and in the regional waters. As a result, the number of ships inspected has increased substantially in 2014, with the total number of inspected commercial ships reaching 888 vessels by the end of October 2014.
How has FTA added unique value to the status of UAE as a pioneer in the maritime sector?
FTA is involved in many regional and international forums in the field of maritime transport, some of which have been referred to earlier. We are currently working to create a technical council for maritime transport that includes all the local authorities in order to develop and create a common framework that involves all the stakeholders in this sector.
Based on the vision of the chairman of the FTA and the Minster of Public Works, H.E Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Bel Haif Al Nuaimi, NTA is working to communicate with all the stakeholders in the maritime sector whether directly or indirectly.
What is your opinion on the importance of incorporating UAE cadres in the maritime sector?
FTA is working on improving the efficiency and qualifications of the national cadres working in the maritime sector as it is considered one of the most important logistical sectors where most Arab countries suffer from a scarcity of specialists and staff. We are coordinating with the Ministry of Education to create an educational route through secondary schools similar to that of engineering and mechanics, as well as coordinating with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research to launch specialized maritime programs. Technical colleges in the country are already offering one of these routes and coordination is underway to offer the rest of the disciplines.
Safety and security are among the most important issues in the world. What does it take to achieve your safety standards?
The inspection and control department in FTA is responsible for the inspection and control of vessels to ensure its compliance with technical, local and international requirements in order to achieve the highest safety and security standards as we inspect the vessels whether national or foreign operating in the ports of the UAE and regional waters.
Since FTA was the first to implement the regulations; what is your opinion regarding the safety regulations for ships that are not subject to international maritime treaties or what is known as the “GCC Code”?
The safety regulations for ships that are not subject to the international maritime treaties aim to set the minimum safety standards for new ships and existing ones currently operating in gulf waters. This code has been developed in response to increasing demand for a unified regional legal code in the GCC countries. Therefore, the GCC code is considered an important and effective step because with the economic growth the UAE is witnessing currently, it becomes only natural that its waters are susceptible to vessels not complying with international and local safety standards in maritime transport.
What are the positive impacts for implementing the GCC code in the UAE; and how will it contribute to the development of maritime transport and provide the solution to its problems?
Tasneef has contributed to the development of the maritime sector through the implementation of the GCC Code, maritime classification services, and the implementation of the Yacht Code which we believe will contribute considerably in the growth of the sector and improve the safety and security standards for vessels not covered by international maritime treaties. Setting safety and security standards for vessels not subject to international maritime treaties and performing inspection operations through a memorandum of understanding between FTA and Tasneef is considered an effective contribution to the development of the maritime sector via licensing ships that comply with standards and dispensing of the ones that pose a threat which leads to an increase in confidence in the maritime sector in the country.
How can we develop the maritime sector through legislation and legal frameworks for action?
FTA is currently working on updating the shipping act to be in line with the requirements of today’s world and global economic developments; and establishing the maritime technical council in the country in coordination with local governments. Due to the need for a legal reference for international investors to safeguard their financial rights in vessels operating in the UAE; the decision to create a specialized maritime court and its operating procedures, has been reviewed at the Dubai International Financial Centre. So there is the possibility of a wider adoption, since DIFC uses English for all verbal and written interaction in the court.
by Effat Mostafa