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Middle East Ship Finance Conference Discusses Global Boom

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

06 November 2007

With global ship finance booming, and a world shipping loan book currently at an estimated $275 billion, the impact on the regional maritime and financial industries came under the spotlight recently at the Middle East Money and Ships conference.

Delegates at this year's conference, held on 3 and 4 of November in Dubai, considered a number of topical issues affecting the global and regional shipping industry, including the potential impact of a weakening dollar, and predictions that oil could hit $100 a barrel.

Held at Mina a’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah, the conference is the region’s premier networking symposium for senior executives from both sectors. The brand was developed by Seatrade over 30 years ago, to examine the changing relationships between shipping and finance. It has previously been held in other major maritime centres such as London.

In addition to financing options for ship owners, including debt and equity, Shariah compliant instruments and Islamic insurance, the conference debated the regulatory environment and procedures for the registration of ships in the region.

Discussions are currently underway to make it more attractive for ship owners to fly the United Arab Emirates flag. One of the aims of the UAE Ship Owners Association which, alongside DP World, is a supporter of the conference, is to promote the UAE flag internationally by proposing amendments to authorities and streamlining procedures and associated legislation for the registration of ships under the UAE flag.

The association’s president, Major General Sharafuddin Sharaf, also Vice Chairman of Sharaf Group, gave a keynote address at the conference on the state of the maritime industry in the region. He addressed the scope of the shipping business in the UAE, in terms of volume and scale, and its contribution to the UAE economy. Other key industry figures contributing to discussions on market sectors and growth drivers in ship owning, included Jamal Mayahi, Technical Director of the National Iranian Tanker Company; Ahmed Hareb Al Falahi, CEO of Gulf Energy Maritime of the UAE; and panelist Saleh Al Shamekh, President - Oil and Gas, of the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia.

A Charterers Forum examined the supply and demand outlook; quality in shipping; and inspection regimes. As a measure of the importance of the regional shipping industry to the tanker trade, bookings of supertankers sailing from the Middle East to Asia account for 47% of global demand.

“Middle East Money & Ships is the premier debating forum for the region’s maritime future,” explained Chris Hayman, Chairman and Managing Director of the symposium’s organiser, Seatrade. “It is also where the leaders of both sectors meet, renew relationships and benefit from an outstanding business networking programme.”

The principal sponsors of Middle East Money & Ships were the National Iranian Tanker Company, the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, and TJ Shipping and Logistics. Other sponsors are Dubai Maritime City; Dubai Drydocks; Fichte & Co; IRISL Group; Emarat Marine, Lloyd's Register and Transworld.

Seatrade is among the shipping world's most respected brands, specialising in publications, events, management training, awards schemes and websites covering all aspects of maritime activity.

In 2004, Seatrade Middle East opened in Dubai, emphasising the company's commitment to the region.

Next year, Seatrade will hold two major UAE-based shows for the maritime industries. Middle East Workboats (28-30 April, ADNEC, Abu Dhabi) will be the workboat sector’s first dedicated exhibition and conference event in the Middle East. At the end of the year, Seatrade Middle East Maritime, the biggest shipping event in the region, will return for the fourth time to Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre (DICEC) from 14-16 December 2008.

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