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Business News
Dubai Builds Maritime City

STRADDLING Europe and Asia lies the emirate of Dubai, arguably the place to be now if you're in the maritime industry. The port has long been considered the best in the region, with last year's award for 'Best Seaport - Middle East' at the Asia Freight and Supply Chain Awards capping 13 consecutive wins. Complementing Jebel Ali is Jadaf Dubai, a premier ship repair and industrial marine facility. Dubai shares an intimate relationship with the sea, relying on it almost exclusively for its major commercial activities. Pearling, or the practice of diving for pearls, was once common along the shores of Dubai. It was also a major port of call for Indian merchants, owing to its geographic proximity.

But Dubai's fascination with the sea is not just limited to industrial ventures. Late 2006 saw the first residents move into the Palm Jumeirah, a palm-shaped artificial island which is the first of three similar projects. Other residential waterfront projects include The World, an artificial archipelago of islands reconstructed to resemble a map of the world, and the Waterfront, a conglomeration of artificial islands and canals which will encompass 1.4 billion square feet of water and land when completed.

Not content with having successful marine-related commercial and residential projects, the emirate has embarked on what is arguably its most ambitious accomplishment to date: the Dubai Maritime City. Billed as the world's first purpose-built maritime center, the 2.27 million sq meter project is divided into six precincts which cater to the needs of both domestic and international companies, as well as their staff. The city will offer many benefits, including an educated multicultural workforce and a pro-business environment. It offers free-zone benefits and is part of the Dubai World Group, which is the holding company for Dubai Drydocks, and a host of other companies. What sets this project apart, other than its sheer size, is its ambitious attempt at integrating the maritime industry. In a sense, the Dubai Maritime City is trying to become a maritime hub, placing warehouses next to academies dedicated to all things maritime; condominiums alongside offices filled with domestic and international maritime firms - and the fish are biting. Already, all the plots of land in the city have been sold. Fareed Mohamed Ahmed, Dubai World secretary general, said: 'We look forward to witnessing the vision and creativity of the developers and contractors who will consolidate the long-term success of this first-of-its-kind project through their iconic creations.' With infrastructure on the island set to be completed by the end of the year, the team behind the project has begun to recoup their initial investment of AED3 billion (S$1.13 billion).

As the project enters its third and final leg of development, domestic and international companies have been quick to register. Current estimates place the total number of companies who have registered at approximately 1,000. The mega project has also highlighted the need for its contractors to follow green building principles, or adopting environmentally-friendly architecture. These include measures to produce buildings that are designed, in general, to consume less energy and produce less waste. CEO of Dubai Maritime City, Amer Ali, said: 'Environmentally sustainable construction, in terms of land and infrastructure development, is the key element of Dubai's long-term maritime success as it will distinguish the city as a sophisticated maritime location that addresses pertinent global issues.' The city's six precincts create a self-sufficient space for maritime companies to operate.

The industrial precinct: This section of the city offers ship repair facilities, yacht repair and manufacturing, as well as workshop units. The precinct will be overseen by the management of Jadaf Dubai. A 1,270-meter stretch of wet berthing has been made available in this precinct, alongside 42 dry berths of various sizes. The inclusion of yacht building and repair facilities taps on a growing leisure boating industry. The renowned Sydney International Boat Show, for instance, rakes in an estimated A$500 million (S$630.5 million) in sales every year. The large number of berthing spaces available here also help to alleviate a space crunch for boats in Dubai. The group says that 30,000 to 50,000 boats are predicted to be moored in Dubai within the next five years, and plans to build extensive berthing facilities in addition to those currently planned, to accommodate this surge. Mr Ali said: 'With more berths, better marine facilities, and more suppliers, we expect boat ownership to really take off in the near future, especially in the leisure boats and yachts categories.'

More than 100 workshops and warehouses complete the industrial precinct, offering a comprehensive range of facilities to businesses. Academic Quarter: In the middle of Dubai Maritime City sits the Maritime Academy, which will offer a syllabus that includes marine engineering, marine transportation and naval science, among others. The academy will provide the opportunity for companies to constantly renew the knowledge of their staff without the need to leave the city. In addition, this area will also see the construction of a mosque, a world-class business hotel and a seafarers club. The Maritime Center: While the academic quarter may be located in the center of the city, the true heart of the Dubai Maritime City pulses from the maritime center. The central business district of the city comprises eight waterfront and three interior parcels, which will serve as an international hub for maritime businesses, and is the first purpose-built maritime cluster in the world.

Harbor Offices: The gateway to Dubai Maritime City will see 19 development plots offered for office tower development. This zone overlooks the harbor and is the nearest precinct to the causeway linking the project to the rest of Dubai. The Marina District and Harbor Residences: The district includes a group of mixed-use activity areas which cater to yacht owners and also houses restaurants, retail outlets and entertainment facilities. Fourteen development plots have also been allocated to the construction of the harbor residences. The Dubai Maritime City has a significant presence at the Asia Pacific Maritime 2008 exhibition, where it hopes to consolidate its position as one of the most exciting developments in the global maritime industry. Mr Ali said: 'Dubai Maritime City is right on track to fulfilling its mission of becoming the central maritime hub in the region and a powerhouse in the global maritime industry.'

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