Huge growth potential seen for cruise tourism and commercial shipping


General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, said the Middle East has huge potential for commercial shipping and cruise tourism.

"Dubai and the UAE are already established as a major strategic hub for container operations and as a regional centre for ship management and a wide diversity of maritime service infrastructure, ship-repair and ship supply, ship classification and maritime law," Sheikh Mohammed said in a message to over 400 delegates from 27 countries attending the Seatrade Middle East Maritime conference.

"In cruise tourism, Dubai has already invested in a state-of-the-art terminal that will accommodate the increased volume of cruise calls in the region that is forecast over the next three years."

Dubai's ports handled 4,194,264 TEUs last year compared with 3,501,820 TEUs in 2001, representing a 20 per cent growth despite negative predictions by the industry.

Sultan bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corp (PCFC), said that the UAE's ports have maintained growth in much more difficult times than the present and will continue to do so despite challenges faced by the region.

"Our ports have maintained growth even in much more difficult times. Last year, Dubai's ports have shown 20 per cent growth in container traffic and this year we also hope to see a significant increase.

"The talk of a war against Iraq has been going on for some time. Some predict it might take place in two days, or weeks or maybe in two years.

"We have been through even bigger crises than this one and people in this region have become used to such challenges.

"I do not think the current situation in Iraq will have much of an impact on our business environment."