A Dh10,000 fine for an airline pilot who hosted a boat party off Dubai Marina has come as a warning to the city's yacht charter companies.
Dubai Police hit the organiser with the penalty for allowing 25 people on to a vessel, some without masks, in breach of social-distancing rules. Officials did not name the pilot or the yacht operator.
Yacht rental companies were allowed to host gatherings from June - as long as their boats were at 50 per cent capacity.
Industry sources told The National that some companies have ignored that rule in an attempt to make up earnings lost during a tough summer.
The authorities have taken a keen interest as daily cases surged in the past week and amid tales of weekend revellers partying on packed yachts.
“Some are hosting parties with as many people as possible,” said Kasper Jakobsen, from New Zealand, who owns and manages Seven Yachts, a charter company based at the Bulgari Yacht Club at Jumeirah Bay Island.
“The regulations clearly state we cannot take more than 50 per cent capacity of the boat.
“There was a big rush when the restrictions first eased, which was challenging to manage.
“Not everyone was respectful of the rules so we had to enforce them.”
Seven Yachts has contracts with several high-end hotels in Dubai, and said it follows strict health and safety rules for all crew and guests.
For Dh25,000, day-trippers can hire a 21-metre Sunseeker suitable for eight guests whereas a 50-metre Benetti costs Dh160,000 plus VAT for a cruise along the UAE coastline.
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The company’s 27-metre vessels are licensed to carry 28 people, but legally they can now only take 14 guests.
No DJs are allowed on board, and dancing is also not permitted.
“Our crew always wear masks, but we leave the decision up to guests if they wear coverings as they are in and out of the water so it is not practical,” said Mr Jakobsen.
“Anyone going on to the yachts is temperature checked and they will not be allowed on board otherwise.
"Our crew are routinely tested for Covid."
Some guests even ask for the crew to get tested before a trip, he said.
One of the largest yacht operators in Dubai is Xclusive Yachts.
Marketing co-ordinator Wendy Espiritu said capacity has reduced by up to 50 per cent on some of the largest vessels.
“All guests must wear a mask on board, as well as captain and crew,” she said.
“They must keep a distance from guests as much as possible. We are informing our guests as per coastguard rules they must use masks on board.
“We do not provide any alcoholic drinks to the guests, only soft drinks, ice and water.
“Tourists are beginning to come in, weekdays are still quiet but the weekends are getting busier now."
Sheri Amat, manager at Luxury Yacht Rentals in Dubai Marina, said industry operators were well aware of the rules.
“If a yacht has a capacity of 10 people, we can only legally take five out," he said.
"Guests can go into the water but no music is allowed.
“Everyone must wear masks on board and will be temperature checked with thermal scanners at the main gate to Dubai Marina yacht club."
He said the industry was recovering and that good operators are "controlling things very well for everyone’s safety".