26/09/2017 05:52 AST

The inauguration of two new cruise lines, ‘Norwegian Cruise Line’ and ‘Thomson Cruises,’ in Dubai recently has been listed as one of the factors reinforcing the emirate in particular and the country’s position as a global destination of choice for cruise tourism.

“This steady expansion will support the UAE’s nomination as a Category B member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO),” said the UAE Minister of Infrastructure Development and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport, Dr Abdullah bin Mohammed Balheif Al Nuaimi. The Minister further explained that the increasing number of cruise lines docking at UAE ports supports the maritime sector’s function as a significant global maritime player.

“The country’s tourism infrastructure is being rapidly expanded to welcome the surge in cruise tourists, while ambitious projects are being implemented to upgrade port infrastructure.”

He said the leading position of the UAE as a destination of choice for maritime tourism will “encourage international companies to manage their operations and conduct cruises through our local ports.”

According to the minister, Abu Dhabi has emerged as a major destination for marine tourism. “Abu Dhabi has launched a series of initiatives to develop its marine tourism sector which forms one of the pillars of its economic diversification strategy.”

He said that Port Zayed hosts the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, a state-of-the-art terminal renowned throughout the region and an ideal port of call for passengers traveling by sea to Abu Dhabi.

“At the end of last year, Sir Bani Yas Island in the Western Region was opened to cruise ships, becoming the only beach stop in the Gulf region.” Dubai, on the other hand, “saw its maritime tourists and cruises increase significantly by 15and 18 per cent, respectively, from 2016 to 2017,” said the minister. He said the emirate is home to the Middle East’s largest and most modern cruise facility which covers 36,500 sqm and extends at a distance of 2,200m. “Mina Rashid currently welcomes around 650,000 passengers annually, and is expected to attract a million tourists by 2020.”

“The other emirates are similarly working to drive maritime tourism as part of continuing efforts to cement the UAE’s leading position in the global ports industry,” said the minister.

The UAE is competing with 12 other countries for 10 available seats for Category B membership in the IMO to add value to global transport, trade, shipping and maritime tourism.

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