Dubai Creek has been the centre of the dhow trade in the Gulf and beyond for several centuries.
Dubai is seeing a strong revival in wooden dhow trade this year with the recent establishment of the Marine Agency for Wooden Dhows, an agency set up by the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) to streamline and regulate the activity of the traditional vessels in the emirate’s waters.
Dubai saw exports through wooden dhows touch 365,632 tonnes and imports reach 260,001 tonnes in the first half of 2021. Established in July last year, the Marine Agency for Wooden Dhows facilitated the entry of more than 5,383 wooden ships into the ports of the emirate in the first half of 2021 carrying merchandise from countries across the Mena region and beyond.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, said the Marine Agency for Wooden Dhows, which is exclusively responsible for regulating the activity of wooden dhow ships in Dubai waters, has simplified and expedited various procedures related to the docking, departure, and clearance of merchandise of the vessels in Dubai. It also coordinates with government agencies to manage all aspects of maritime safety of wooden ships and safeguard the rights and interests of seafarers working on them.
The Agency also provides several commercial options for the vessels such as facilitating long-term contracts for their services, in addition to protecting their merchandise from damage during loading and unloading operations at Dubai ports.
A major historical commercial destination, the Dubai Creek has been the centre of the dhow trade in the Gulf and beyond for several centuries. Traditional dhows, now powered by modern engines, continue to ply routes between ports across the Mena region trading goods ranging from foodstuff to furniture. Merchandise carried by the traditional vessels are a major source of supply for traditional souqs located along Dubai Creek as well as the emirate’s fruit and vegetable and livestock markets.
The dhow trade plying through Dubai has also seen a digital transformation with DP World’s introduction of the NAU digital marketplace. Launched officially in February 2020, NAU connects dhow owners with traders allowing them to search, negotiate and book shipments. The app uses the latest AI technologies to connect traders with the boat captains. Dhow Captains (locally called ‘Naukhda’) have the facility to view business requests from traders that match their planned trade routes and available dhow space. Accordingly, the app helps ‘Naukhdas’ to effectively plan their trips, optimise efficiency in dhow space utilisation and ultimately generate higher revenues. Traders, on the other hand, can search for availability of cargo dhows in Dubai, based on their requirements.
“NAU by DP World”, a digital marketplace and an aggregator of cargo ‘dhows’, traditional wooden vessels, has achieved a shipping volume of more than 255,000 tonnes in 2020, with 1,762 dhows registered in the application.
NAU connects Dhow owners with traders allowing them to search, negotiate and book shipments. The platform represents a digital transformation of the traditional industry, effectively ushering in a new era of smart trade that DP World enables and promotes.
The app uses the latest AI technologies to connect traders with the boat captains.
This has increased the number of cargo operations through the application from 295 operations in October 2020 to 394 in November and 477 in December.
NAU has been a very useful tool in supporting cargo movement activity for traditional dhows on Dubai creek. From 2009 to 2018, Dubai’s external trade through Dubai Creek made Dhs122b, and the volume of shipments reached 10.564 million tonnes. Goods included textiles, phones, air conditioners, electric appliances and foodstuff.
The Marine Agency is an organisational unit managed by the PCFC and works according to regulations in coordination with the competent government authorities.
Dubai is a key destination for dhows carrying various types of merchandise and goods from several Middle East and North Africa, MENA, region countries. Each year, dhows transport over 720,000 tonnes of goods. The move also aims to consolidate the safety and security of dhows in Dubai waters.
The Marine Agency will is the only entity responsible for dealing with dhows during their presence in Dubai waters. It collects fees, wages and expenses due to the concerned government authorities from dhow owners or operators and pay them on their behalf. The agency also monitor seafarers’ work as dhows are docked at the ports and harbours until they depart. The agency coordinate with the relevant government authorities on marine safety of dhows, and coordinate with the competent authorities in case of any marine accidents or emergencies.
The agency also collaborate with relevant government entities to facilitate its tasks and operations in Dubai waters, including the Dubai Police, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Dubai Customs, Dubai Municipality, the Roads and Transport Authority, the General Authority of Ports, Borders and Free Zones Security, Coast Guard and the Dubai Civil Defence.