UAE boat builder Al Marakeb aims to make waves in unmanned vessels

Sharjah-based company wants to become the world’s first mass producer of Unmanned Service Vessels.

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The UAE boat builder Al Marakeb aims to become the world’s first mass producer of Unmanned Service Vessels (USVs) for use in sectors including marine defence and international shipping.

The Sharjah-based company yesterday announced that it had signed a deal with Theyab International Group (TIG) for the sale and marketing of the so-far unnamed vessels to military and commercial organisations around the world.

“The agreement that Al Marakeb has signed with TIG represents a number of firsts for the region,” said Al Marakeb’s managing director Basel Shuhaiber. “Not only are we the first local company to set up a production line of USVs, we are also the first to bring capable and reliable solutions for many problems experienced by maritime and coastal organisations, both in this part of the world and abroad.”

Marakeb estimates the market for USVs in the Middle East region will be worth as much as US$4 billion in the next five years.

While several companies worldwide produce USVs on a bespoke basis, Al Marakeb is the first company in the world to mass-produce such vessels, said Mr Shuhaiber. The company produced its first USV prototype in 2009, and began designing mass production facilities for the vessels in May of this year.

Marakeb and TIG will formally begin taking orders for the new vessel when it goes on display at the International Defence Exhibition (Idex), the world’s largest defence exhibition, to be held at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre in February.

Marakeb has already started taking pre-orders for the vessels, said Mr Shuhaiber, declining to give any details.

In addition to defence industries, shipping lines are expected to be one of the largest customers for the USVs, which can help with piracy detection, cleaning and anchoring, he said.

TIG – a diversified business group chaired by Sheikh Theyab bin Khalifa bin Hamdan Al Nahyan – has a wide defence and security portfolio that includes the manufacturing of unmanned aerial vehicles, air traffic radar systems and maritime protection and detection systems and programmes.

The group approached Al Marakeb almost a year ago seeking a sales and marketing relationship, said Mr Shuhaiber.

“We know what the market needs and wants and we know how to deliver the requirements,” said TIG’s vice chairman Khaled Al Alawi. “Our new relationship with Al Marakeb sees us promoting the technology of a proven autonomous system that is integrated entirely in the UAE and installed on to the perfect carrying vessel.”

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