Young UAE residents are increasingly buying boats. Here's why

Explained: Who owns these leisure vessels and the two main reasons why they invest


Sahim Salim

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Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 11:00 PM

Vehicles tugging private boats on the roads is a common sight in the UAE. Waters off the country get pretty busy, especially over the weekends, as residents and tourists set sail for an evening of fun.

So, who exactly are these boat owners in the UAE and what do they use their vessels for?

According to experts, recreational boating is seeing a fresh wave of new buyers, who are on average 15 years younger than they were 20 years ago, and less likely to come from boat-owning families. Millennial millionaires are increasingly looking to invest in yachts.

Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Speaking at the conclusion of the Dubai International Boat Show 2023, SF Yachts’ Francesco Pitea said: “We have seen a lot of new, younger customers compared to previous editions, which is a very important thing for the whole industry.”

Bush & Noble’s John Bush also reported seeing a change in customer profile at his stand. “(They are) people who’ve moved to Dubai in the last couple of years and recognise that the seasons are very long here and that the facilities are great. There’s been a real mix of nationalities and demographics as well, which is great.”

What residents use boats for

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Abeer Alshaali, chairperson of the Leisure Marine Association Mena and deputy managing director of Gulf Craft, said currently, there are about 10,000 boats registered in the UAE across all Emirates.

Photo: Abeer Aishaali
Photo: Abeer Aishaali

“Residents of the UAE have two primary uses for leisure vessels, either they have yachts which are used for family or social purposes or they have boats which are used for fishing or a few hours of cruising slightly off the shore,” she said.

Licence to boat

Abeer explained that to operate a boat, one needs a special licence “just like you would for a car or a motorcycle that reflects the type or size of the vessel”.

“In Dubai, Dubai Maritime Authority offers services for obtaining a licence. A future boat owner must first obtain marine craft training from certified sailing academies for example, a few of our members offer certifications such as Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, JLS Yacht Training Institute, and Xclusive Sea School.”

Owners must also be insured and registered with the relevant authorities. “In terms of purchasing a boat, there are showrooms where you can meet the importers of foreign-made boats, there are also many manufacturers located here in the UAE that are building high-quality boats custom-made for our waters and our people,” added Abeer.

How are boats ‘parked’?

This depends on the size of the vessel.

“Larger boats require berthing in a marina, we have many great facilities in the UAE with full services. Smaller boats are often put on trailers and parked on private property. Each Emirate has regulations on how those trailers are stored,” said Abeer.

Abdulla Binhabtoor, chief portfolio management officer, Shamal Holding, owner and curator of Dubai Harbour, said their marinas feature close to 700 berths that can accommodate yachts up to 160m in length. “They provide guests and crew with a full home port solution in one of the world’s most spectacular cruising grounds, with direct access to the open waters of the Arabian Gulf with no air draught limits.”

Fuelling and maintenance

Most marinas have fuelling stations at the site. “You just drive your boat from your mooring slip to the fuelling dock and then continue your journey,” explained Abeer.

Cafu provides boat refuelling services in Dubai. Additionally, Enoc Group has five marine service stations in Dubai to cater to the fuel demands of boat and yacht owners.

Abdulla said the Dubai Harbour facility consists of three dedicated marinas offering various fuelling options to cater to all vessels.

Owning a boat also requires cleaning and routine maintainence, the complexity and cost of which will depend on the size of the vessel. Abeer said: “Generally speaking, you can expect to spend up to one-third of the cost of a yacht on maintenance. Most vessels should be hauled out annually to clean and antifoul the hull after being in the water for 11 months, this is when you would do any major maintenance work. Of course, drains, pumps, etc. should be checked regularly.”

Why Dubai?

The UAE has seen a huge evolution in its maritime culture over the years, from trade to leisure, and continues to grow to offer a wide range of activities on the water, said Abdulla.

Photo: Abdulla
Photo: Abdulla

“Strategically, Dubai is centrally placed as a gateway to billions of people from across four continents, with some of the most scenic coastline in the world.

“With world-class local infrastructure and proximity to a plethora of sought-after destinations for tourists, the city continues to attract private boat/yacht owners from around the world.”


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