Abu Dhabi Ports Company has confirmed that an international shipping line is considering establishing a regional ferry passenger service in the GCC, using the UAE’s capital as a primary hub.
Speaking to Gulf News, ADPC CEO Mohammad Al Shamsi, said they’d been approached by a global shipping line, and that they’d encouraged them to look into the project.
“The shipping line approached us and we encouraged them [to go ahead with the project]. If they [shipping line] want, they can start the service immediately; the right infrastructure for such a service is already there,” says Mohammad Al Shamsi.
Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Port is currently being redeveloped purely as a passenger port for cruise ships, and will have the capacity by the end of this year to turnaround four large cruise ships simultaneously.
While demand for such a service clearly exists (a large number of people visit the UAE from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other GCC countries, especially during holidays), the service would also provide a massive boost to the Middle East’s standing as a source destination for cruise lines.
Many Middle East cruise passengers that board cruise ships in Dubai, drive from Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and even Kuwait and park their cars at the Dubai Cruise Terminal, taking advantage of the free parking afforded to cruise passengers.
A ferry service from these regional destinations would make the process of travelling to your cruise ship in Dubai much more convenient and comfortable. “You drive to the port, park your car, board the ferry, take a rest, enjoy the scenery…and the following morning you are in Abu Dhabi or Dubai,” says Mohammad Al Shamsi.
According to the UAE Ministry of Interior, three million people cross the land border into the UAE from Saudi Arabia alone, providing a major potential market for a passenger ferry service. It is unclear, however, whether the ferry service will include a roll on-roll off provision for vehicles.
While ADPC have been reluctant to suggest which shipping line is looking into the proposal, P&O Ferries are the largest ferry operators in the world, and are also majority owned by Dubai-based DP World. However, P&O Ferries, although one of the largest ferry operators in the world, primarily operates in the English Channel.
Another possibility would be Stena Line, or TurboJet, which has more experience operating fast ferries over short distances between small autonomous countries. TurboJet provides a ferry service between Hong Kong, Macau and China, but does not include vehicle transport.