The UAE is an ideal place for refurbishments, conversions and drydocking, and there are well-established companies supporting these activities.


The UAE as a hub for maritime construction

December 13, 2023

Anil Abraham, CEO of APT Global, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s most important verticals and how the UAE has become an ideal hub for ship refurbishment, conversion and drydocking. APT Global is a technical service provider in marine, dredging, oil and gas, offshore, construction and energy.

Which of APT Global’s key verticals have become more important in recent years?
APT Global began operations in 2003 and is now a leading shipbuilder, equipment manufacturer and technical service provider across marine, dredging, offshore, oil and gas and energy. Our verticals are several, including shipbuilding and repair, dredging equipment, offshore wind, offshore oil and gas, energy and industry services, general engineering and green ship recycling.
Shipbuilding and repair was the core of what we did in the past, representing around 70% of our activities.
Energy trends worldwide have led us to radically shift our approach. Today, offshore wind comprises almost 40% of our total volume of work, while shipbuilding and repair contributes 30%, hydrocarbons 10%, ship recycling 10% and industrial installation 10%. Given the growth in the market, we aim to increase our revenue from USD 65 million to USD 100 million in the next three years.

How has the UAE become an ideal hub for ship refurbishment, conversion and drydocking?
Shipbuilding has slowed down in the UAE. It is very difficult to compete with countries such as Japan, Korea and China. In any case, the pandemic has hit the shipbuilding industry very hard. Yards are now making a lot of equipment for ships, but they’re not receiving orders for new builds. There must be around 10 relevant shipbuilders in the UAE today.
While shipbuilding is going through a difficult time in the UAE, the country has become an ideal place for refurbishments, conversions and drydocking. The country is geo-strategically located, and there is an array of well-established companies in the UAE that can support these activities. The UAE is in a unique position for refurbishment and conversions and is a true hub for these activities.

What new dredgers and dredging parts are you building?
Over the years we have successfully constructed several 500 and 650 cutter suction dredgers for several clients. After a decade of specialisation in dredger part and component fabrication and repair, we positioned ourselves as a recognised player in the market for dredger construction and as the preferred supplier for spare parts and components for all major international dredging contractors and OEM partners.
We work hand in hand with NMDC [National Marine Dredging Company] to do repairs, refurbishment and new builds and to supply parts. Following NMDC’s acquisition of NPCC, we worked on several of NPCC’s vessels. Recently, we manufactured and installed the mooring system on their newly procured vessel. This project took around three months and was finalised in Q1 2023.
We are looking to work on upcoming projects with NPCC and are capable of doing barge conversions, split hopper conversions, split hopper dredgers, fall pipe vessel conversions, spreader pontoon conversions, pipe laying and cable laying and providing accommodation vessels.


What is the nature of your work in offshore wind, and what recent projects have you completed?
Offshore wind has become a key area for our company in recent years. We are building structures which move the offshore structures from the shore to the sea. These robust structures ensure that the 80-metre monopiles can be transported from point A to point B. We also fabricate the pieces which bind the support tower of the windmill to the turbine and blades.
Additionally, we are now working on one of the largest vessels in the world for offshore construction. It will be for transporting the monopiles and will have a crane with a 3,800-tonne capacity. We are equipping it with blade racks that will be able to transport 40-metre and 60-metre blades. We are also making the heavy grillage structures which will eventually hold the monopiles in our yard in Ras Al Khaimah.

How challenging is green ship recycling?
We are the first company in the UAE certified by Bureau Veritas as a ship recycling yard. This addresses sustainability and the circular economy, which are of elemental importance today.
However, recycling has to follow certain protocols. Audits are made at every stage of the recycling process with respect to how it is being done and whether the components are recycled according to the established protocols. The certification and audit process to begin ship recycling was very complex.
The recycling process is intricate. We take the asset to a certain location and start dismantling it. Every component – including gaskets, nuts, bolts, doors, steel, copper, tin, mechanical equipment, and so on – has to be separated.
Certain components are easy to sell, such as aluminium or copper, whereas you need a certain certificate to further recycle other components. Ships are dismantled and recycled within the scope of EU legislation and national legislation and Basel, IMO [International Maritime Organization] and ILO conventions. We purchase ships that have completed their economic life, and we bring them to our facilities at RAK.
We have authorised partners who are licensed to recycle metal, hazardous and non-hazardous waste in strategic locations across the world. They are the offtakers. As soon as everything is done, we grant a green certificate stating that this vessel has been recycled according to the protocol. Over the last two years we have recycled 12 vessels complying with the green ship recycling regulations for major companies in Europe.

What expansion has APT Global made into the European market, given Europe’s wind potential?
We established our APT marine and offshore facility in the Port of Vlissingen (Flushing) in the Netherlands. We have 100 people working on a permanent basis there who are fully dedicated to full-cycle activities, including the engineering, design, procurement, construction, and installation. In other words, our team focuses not only on the engineering but also on the construction and late stages of the commissioning of a given project.
We recently established a new operations unit for marine construction installation works in Belgium. This unit is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and staffed by experienced engineers and technicians.
It will focus on providing marine construction services. These include the fabrication of offshore structures such as wind turbines, oil and gas platforms and other types of marine infrastructure and installation support services. Strategically located in Belgium, it will allow us to easily serve customers in the North Sea region.

Tell us about your yard capacities spread across the UAE and beyond.
We have three yards in the UAE. The first one is in the Dubai Investments Park and covers an area of 10,000 square metres. It includes a machine shop, a fabrication yard and a workshop for mechanical, electrical and AC/refrigeration, and we also have an engineering team at the yard.
At Dubai Maritime City, our facility is designed for dry docking and new building. It includes 6,000-tonne and 3,000-tonne ship lifts, a 720-tonne boat hoist and a berthing area of 1,500 metres. Our facility at RAK Maritime City in Ras Al Khaimah includes a 300-metre private quay wall, a 150,000-square-metre yard and a heavy fabrication facility with loadout.
Apart from this, we have an important facility in Doha with a 10,000-square-metre yard, where we do heavy steel fabrication. We also have a blasting and coating yard, a mechanical workshop and a machine workshop and a facility in India of 50,000 square metres catering to the local market.
All our facilities work on short lead times, quality work and minimised vessel downtime. These are also certified by DNV, so we have the highest quality, safety and environmental standards in the market.

In what ways are you incentivising hydrogen-based power solutions in the region?
The UAE is a pioneer in its commitment to reducing carbon emissions, and accordingly, we have partnered with ABC Engines to install hydrogen-fuelled generators for our power requirements. By converting conventional diesel generators to hydrogen-powered generators, we are making a positive commitment to sustainability and leading the industry in the Middle East with respect to green energy solutions.
Our use of hydrogen power generation will be the first of its kind in the country. We are now the regional sales and service representative for ABC Engines, and we promote their products in the Middle East. We are in contact with ADNOC and many small shipbuilding companies regionally, as we believe that hydrogen could be an ideal solution for many offshore companies.

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