Dubai sees large increase in boat ownership

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Increasingly scarce boat berths in Dubai are driving prices up and prompting yacht owners to dock their boats in neighboring areas, sparking more development of accommodations in the region.

The emirate’s economic rebound is boosting boat ownership as more people take to the water on weekends, but a shortage of berths and the cost of maintaining a boat is holding potential customers back, according to the United Arab Emirates-based publication The National.

“I bought a new boat last year and wanted an 11-meter berth in Dubai Marina Yacht Club, but they were completely full,” Pooyan Farnam, a sales director in Dubai, told the publication. “So we got a berth for 14 meters and are paying Dh65,000 a year (about $17,700). I know many people who have moved their boats to Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain because it is too expensive in Dubai now.”

A wave of waterfront development under way across the emirates and the wider region is set to improve the availability of berths for boat owners. The number of operational marinas is expected to reach 85 by 2016, increasing the number of berths from 9,000 to 16,000.

But the current lack of spaces in Dubai is pushing boat owners to seek berths elsewhere in the UAE, such as Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. Umm Al Quwain’s Marine Club charges Dh330 — about $90 at today’s exchange rate — per foot each year

“The shortage is there. Dubai requires more spaces,” said Abdulla Ali Al Noon, marina operations manager at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, which hosted the fifth Dubai Pre-Owned Boat Show last weekend. “There is room to create more mooring spaces and I think the government is aware of this, so they are building more.”

The Dubai Marina Yacht Club has four main berthing facilities starting from Dh2,000, or $544.50, per meter annually for boats ranging from 8 to 13 meters. That increases to as much as Dh5,500, almost $1,500, per meter for boats that range from 18.1 to 60 meters.

Projects such as Dubai Maritime City, Dubai Canal and The World are expected to push up the number of spaces, as well as demand for boats.

“When people are buying boats their main concern is the berthing,” said Nour Al Sayyed, architect and head of design and production at Al Marakeb, a Sharjah-based boatbuilder. “With more spaces opening up, not only will there be more vacancies, but it might push up boat sales.”

Many owners previously used their boats for fishing, but buyers are increasingly looking for larger vessels.

“In recent years there has been a slight change in trends,” Al Sayyed said. “People want weekend boats, so they prefer to have a cabin to stay out at night. This is something that is new here and becoming very popular.”

The Dubai Pre-Owned Boat Show attracted more than 8,000 visitors this year and displayed more than 90 boats.

“We have noticed that a lot of people are buying newer pre-owned boats from 2010-11. In the past few years it was a bit different, where customers were trying to find boats from 2006 and up,” Al Noon said. “We’ve had a lot of boats come in from New York to local owners over here that have established boat-selling companies.”

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