AD Ports Group, the operator of industrial cities and free zones in Abu Dhabi, has signed an agreement with Dutch geodata company Fugro to expand the use of autonomous and remote technology in the Middle East's maritime industry.
The partnership aims to create a platform to put in place these innovations, which comply with the UAE's standards, and also ensure the efficiency and safety of companies' assets in the sector, AD Ports Group said in a statement on Wednesday.
The agreement was signed by Mohamed Al Shamisi, managing director and group chief executive of AD Ports Group, and Mark Heine, chief executive of Fugro, on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (Adipec).
Through this agreement, "we are expanding the range of remote and autonomous technologies available for the maritime sector, as we strive to build a safer, more sustainable and more impactful future”, Mohamed Al Yahyaei, chief harbour master of AD Ports Group, said.
The AD Ports Group and Fugro started their partnership in March this year before the arrival of the region’s first unscrewed surface vessel (USV), which will be stationed at Abu Dhabi's Al Mirfa Port.
USVs are unmanned vessels that can be configured for maritime missions, such as gathering ocean data for research. They are more versatile and less costly to operate and maintain, according to Fortune Business Insights.
The global market for USVs is expected to hit a revised value of $1.1 billion by 2027, from $534.9 million in 2020, growing at a compound annual rate of 10.5 per cent, according to Research and Markets data.
The industry is also increasingly digitising as it seeks to streamline operations. The global maritime digital products and services market is expected to more than double to $345bn by 2030, from $159bn in 2021. It is up almost a quarter from a previous projection of $279bn, a study from maritime consultancy firm Thetius showed.
Under the agreement, AD Ports Group and Fugro will develop procedures for the use of USVs in accordance with UAE regulations, as well as establish an approved remote and autonomous testing site for USVs.
The partnership also aims to create an industry-compliant training programme for UAE citizens and international mariners, covering the operation of USVs.
It is in line with AD Ports Group's agreement with the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council last month, in which they teamed up to create 7,500 jobs for UAE citizens in the next five years as it aims to hasten the pace of recruitment in the private sector.
“The introduction of our USV technology marks an exciting moment for the maritime industry in the region. The support we have received from AD Ports Group has played a large role in making this a reality,” said David Washbrook, director of marine asset integrity for the Middle East and India at Fugro.
AD Ports Group continues to explore more technology to boost its operations.
Last month, its digital arm Maqta Gateway entered into a partnership with Emirates Post and SkyGo to test drone deliveries in Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile, a number of UAE companies are already tapping into the potential of USVs.
UAE defence conglomerate Edge and Israel Aerospace Industries signed an agreement last year to jointly develop advanced USVs for military and commercial use.