Abu Dhabi tourist arrivals to pass 4 million as new cruise terminal opens

Tourist arrivals in the capital will exceed 4 million for the first time this year, a top official from Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority said.

“We have stretched our target and we now expect 4.1 million tourists this year,” Sultan Al Dhaheri, the acting executive director at TCA Abu Dhabi, said on the sidelines of the opening of the new cruise terminal at Zayed Port.

He said that the growth in the capital’s tourism sector in the next five years will be driven by infrastructure developments such as the cruise terminal, the Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi airport and the completion of cultural attractions, including the Louvre and Guggenheim museums.

In June, TCA Abu Dhabi had raised the initial target for 2015 from 3.49 million to 3.9 million, as guest numbers surged by 20 per cent in the first four months of the year, with key source markets such as the UK, India, China and Germany contributing to the bulk of the increase.

Mr Dhaheri said that visitors from Russia to the capital, however, had witnessed a small decline this year, without providing a figure.

According to figures from TCA Abu Dhabi, Russian tourists to the capital in the first half fell by 10 per cent mainly because of a sharp fall in the value of the rouble against the dollar and economic troubles.

He declined to comment on next year’s target for overall visitor arrivals. However, Abu Dhabi Ports did reveal further details on the growth of the cruise sector.

“Cruise passengers will increase by 15,000 in the 2016-17 season,” Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports, said. That works out to a year on year increase of more than7 per cent as figures from TCA Abu Dhabi and the ports operator show that about 205,000 cruise visitors from 112 ship visits were expected this season.

The cruise season starts in September and runs through May.

Next season, 220,000 cruise passengers are expected in the capital from 117 ships expected to call on Zayed Port.

The ports operator expects that figure to reach 300,000 passengers from 130 ship calls in 2019-20.

Next year, Celebrity Cruises will join MSC Cruises in using Zayed Port as its home port and seven ships will visit Abu Dhabi for the first time.

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Aston Martin is making its presence felt in Abu Dhabi.

The luxury marque, best known for its appearance in James Bond films, yesterday announced it plans to open a showroom in Etihad Towers in the first quarter of next year.

It also launched the track-only Aston Martin Vulcan priced at £1.5 million (Dh8.3m).

Richard Foulds, the head of property management at Etihad Towers, said he expects to “imminently sign a deal” with the car maker.

The 450 square metre showroom will be capable of displaying five cars. Meanwhile Aston Martin will sell branded merchandise through an outlet at the Avenue, also in the same complex.

Aston Martin said it plans to limit the production of the 800-plus bhp Vulcan to 24 units, with the cars being sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Simon Croft, the launch strategy manager at Aston Martin, said the company plans to hold at least three track day events for Vulcan owners next year.

The first will be held at the Yas Marina circuit in February next year, followed by Silverstone in the UK in June, and Spa in Belgium in September.

Aston Martin’s arrival in Abu Dhabi comes as some of its key markets including the Gulf and China, face economic headwinds.

Analysts see sales of high-end luxury car makers holding up, despite the current economic slowdown.

BMI Research expects the region to be an “outperformer” in its sales forecasts for both this year and next.

“We have emphasised in recent years that we see the UAE and Saudi Arabia as safe havens for growth within the GCC, given their stability and economic strength, even in the face of lower oil prices,” said Anna-Marie Baisden, head of autos research at BMI Research.

IHS, however, is more cautious in its outlook. The consultancy expects sales of high-end luxury cars such as Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Rolls-Royce to climb this year but dip back again for the next couple of years.

“Although the oil price is likely to be partly behind this move, there is also model cycle factors which come in to play,” said Ian Fletcher, an IHS analyst.

Some models such as Rolls-Royce Wraith, Lamborghini Huracan and Bentley Flying Spur, are starting to lose that initial lustre and their sales are likely to be affected, Mr Fletcher said.

In May, the ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service changed its outlook for Aston Martin to stable from negative because of the sufficient funding it has received from its existing shareholders to support its critical product development plan over the next 18 months.

Kuwait’s Investment Dar is a key shareholder with a 24 per cent stake.

The company’s shareholders had agreed to inject new capital in the form of preference shares to the tune of £200m.

“Unit sales growth will accelerate within 18 to 24 months, reflecting core model renewals,” Moody’s said.

Forecasts from IHS show Aston Martin’s global sales reaching 3,665 units this year, rising 2.9 per cent to 3,772 next year and jumping significantly to 6,169 units in 2018.

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Dubai Airshow: Abu Dhabi’s Royal Jet to press on with $700 million fleet renewal

Royal Jet is proceeding with its fleet renewal programme as planned, its chief executive said yesterday, as makers of business jets raise concerns about the regional outlook for the executive segment of the aviation sector.

Since last year, Royal Jet has been in the midst of a US$700 million renewal programme, so far utilising $200m to purchase five aircraft. The company has acquired two Global 5000s and a Learjet 60XR, and two Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) are on the way.

“Our goal is to have 20 airplanes by 2020,” said the chief executive Patrick Gordon.

The Abu Dhabi-based private charter operator uses 11 aircraft, six of which are BBJs, making it the world’s largest single operator of the aircraft.

Mr Gordon said the company was equipping all of its planes with an enhanced vision system (EVS), a navigational aid that allows the aircraft to operate in poor weather conditions such as fog.

The second BBJ will be delivered next month and will undergo the same process before joining the fleet.

Mr Gordon, who replaced Shane O’Hare as the chief executive in October last year, said the company’s medical evacuation service has posted 20 per cent growth in the past year.

Under Mr O’Hare there were plans to build fixed-base operations at the capital’s Al Bateen Airport, and it had also tied up with the high-end UK luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent.

But since taking over, Mr Gordon has changed the company’s focus. Royal Jet, he said, would do what it does best – offer planes for charter. Mr Gordon said that the business aviation segment in the region remained strong and was growing much more quickly compared with other parts of the world.

He cited figures which said the sector in the Middle East would be worth $1.3 billion by 2020 from $515 million last year.

However, France’s Dassault Aviation and other business jet makers have voiced concerns about the impact of falling oil prices on the region’s economies.

Nevertheless, its chief executive said Dassault remained committed to its operations here.

“We are forecasting continued, although slower, regional growth in the short term, due to prevailing economic conditions, and will continue to invest in the region so we can continue to support our operators with maximum effectiveness,” Eric Trappier said.

Ben Moores, a senior analyst at IHS Aerospace, Defence and Security, said that while the Arabian Gulf had traditionally been a key driver for the large business jets market, it was likely that the narrative at the Dubai Airshow would “reinforce the downturn in this segment”.

But that has not stopped the makers of business jets from showcasing their latest wares in Dubai including the Dassault long-range Falcon 7X and the new mid-sized Legacy 500 from Brazil’s Embraer.

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The advancements in 3D printing technologies that has helped the aerospace industry to save time and costs was on show in Dubai on Sunday.

Nasdaq-listed Stratasys unveiled the largest 3D printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which it said was built in half the time it would have otherwise taken using conventional manufacturing at the Dubai Airshow.

This year’s event features for the first time a dedicated 3D print pavilion – 3D Printshow Dubai – showcasing the latest advances in the sector.

The company known for its 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology teamed up with Virginia-based aerospace company, Aurora Flight Sciences, to build the aircraft that can reach a top speed of more than 240 kilometres per hour. The UAV, which has a 3-metre wingspan and weighs only 15kg, used 3D printing for 80 per cent of its design and manufacture.

“This is a perfect demonstration of the unique capabilities that additive manufacturing can bring to aerospace,” said Scott Sevcik, the business development manager at Stratasys.

Additive manufacturing is a process by which 3D design data is used to make a part or component in layers by depositing material on it, and companies in aerospace and defence have been quick to leverage the technology.

Companies including Rolls-Royce, GE, Boeing and Airbus are using the technology to make parts from additive manufacturing.

The European aircraft maker used more than 1,000 parts on the wide-body A350 aircraft in place of traditionally manufactured parts, helping it to reduce costs and save production time, while GE is testing and developing engines with 3D printed parts.

A report this month from the US market research firm ReportLinker said that global revenue for additive manufacturing in aerospace and defence will reach US$920 million this year with strong growth expected up to 2025.

Jay Shelby, the applications engineer at Stratasys, said that the industry is projected to grow to $20 billion from 2015 to 2020.

The consultancy PwC said 3D printing is emerging as a viable fabrication process that can be used to build prototypes and small-volume production.

ReportLinker however tempered that optimism. It said that some issues facing the sector that need to be addressed include quality control, regulations and limitations to the current technology. The research firm did not specify the steps that need to be undertaken.

PwC said that “if 3D printing remains confined to prototypes, demo units and spacecraft, then it won’t be much of a game changer for industry”, adding that the biggest hurdle to mass production is processing speed.

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As far as cricket goes, a new partnership has taken shape – and it’s not just at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium where Pakistan are making England toil.

Nissan Motor on Wednesday signed an eight-year agreement with the International Cricket Council that will see the Japanese car maker sponsor major cricket tournaments including the ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC World Twenty20.

The partnership will see Nissan get extensive broadcast and digital rights at all ICC events until 2023.

“We’re excited to be part of the global cricketing family and to be involved in some of the world’s most prestigious and popular tournaments,” said Roel de Vries, the global head of marketing and brand strategy at Nissan.

Mr de Vries however declined to provide a value for the deal, but said “it is a significant investment – double digits in the millions of dollars.”

He said that Nissan has been increasing its marketing budget, a significant part of which is being increasingly allocated to sport.

According to some reports, Nissan has a global marketing budget in the range of US$163 million in 2013. GM was the tope automotive sponsor that year with an outlay of $266m.

The move extends Nissan expanding its sponsorship of global sporting events.

As the official car brand of the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio, it will provide 4,500 cars to transport journalists and athletes. In April 2014, Nissan signed a four-year as a sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, taking over from rival Ford.

Analysts view this marketing move as significant.

According to Anna-Marie Baisden, head of autos analysis at BMI Research, this is part of their wider push in India, along with their strategy of adding up to 100 dealerships by March 2017 and promoting the more affordable Datsun brand.

“They have picked a sport with a huge audience in the country, so from that perspective it is a big statement of intent.”

Kaushik Madhavan, the regional head of automotive and transportation at Frost & Sullivan, said the collaboration is part of Nissan’s global overall plans of associating themselves with popular sporting events.

“With India having significant viewership for cricket, this can potentially be a very good move to improve its visibility in the Indian market. Nissan in India today suffers from poor visibility and awareness, especially in tier 2 and 3 cities. This collaboration could significantly change it.”

Nissan is looking to push its Datsun brand in India which was introduced in early 2014.

“It hasn’t been a great success story so far. As a brand, Datsun is struggling to increase its sales volumes,” Mr Madhavan added.

According to figures from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, car sales rose 6.2 per cent in the six months from April to September compared with the same period last year. But figures from Frost & Sullivan show sales of Nissan brand cars in September fell 58.5 per cent from a year earlier to 1,297 units, while sales of Datsun model last month rose 29 per cent to 1,318 units from a year earlier.

“Nissan is far behind the likes of Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai in terms of market share and has been underperforming the market for the year-to-date, so to expect a turnaround overnight would be a stretch,” said Ms Baisden.

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Nissan bats for Indian market with eight-year cricket sponsorship deal

Nissan Motor hopes to boost its appeal among cricket-loving Indian motorists through a major sponsorship deal with the game’s governing body.

The Japanese car maker yesterday signed an eight-year agreement with the International Cricket Council as Nissan looks to increase its market share in India.

The company will sponsor major cricket tournaments such as the ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC World Twenty20.

Under the partnership, Nissan will have extensive broadcast and digital rights at all ICC events until 2023.

Roel de Vries, Nissan’s global head of marketing and brand strategy, declined to provide a value for the deal, but said “it is a significant investment – double digits in the millions of dollars”.

He said Nissan had been increasing its marketing budget, a significant part of which is being increasingly allocated to sport.

Anna-Marie Baisden, the head of autos analysis at BMI Research, said the deal reflected Nissan’s wider push into India, along with its strategy of adding up to 100 dealerships by March 2017 and promoting the more affordable Datsun brand.

“They have picked a sport with a huge audience in the country, so from that perspective it is a big statement of intent,” she said.

Kaushik Madhavan, the regional head of automotive and transportation at the consultancy Frost & Sullivan, said Nissan’s tie-up with the ICC was part of its global plan of associating with popular sporting events.

“With India having significant viewership for cricket, this can potentially be a very good move to improve its visibility in the Indian market,” he said. “Nissan in India today suffers from poor visibility and awareness, especially in tier two and tier three cities. This collaboration could significantly change it.”

Nissan is looking to push its Datsun brand in India, which was introduced to the country early last year.

“It hasn’t been a great success story so far. As a brand, Datsun is struggling to increase its sales volumes,” said Mr Madhavan.

According to figures from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, car sales rose 6.2 per cent year-on-year in the six months from April to September. But figures from Frost & Sullivan show that sales of Nissan cars last month fell 58.5 per cent from a year earlier to 1,297 units, while sales of Datsun cars rose 29 per cent to 1,318 units.

“Nissan is far behind the likes of Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai in terms of market share and has been underperforming the market for the year-to-date, so to expect a turnaround overnight would be a stretch,” said Ms Baisden.

Mr de Vries said that as India was likely to become one of the top three car markets by 2020, Nissan was aiming to garner a 5 per cent share of the market over the next five years.

In April last year, Nissan signed a four-year deal as a sponsor of the Uefa Champions League, taking over from its rival Ford.

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Iran holds huge potential, but hurdles for foreign car makers remain in the short term even if economic sanctions are lifted.

“There will be a rush by foreign players to position themselves in the market,” said Pierluigi Bellini, the manager for Middle East and Africa at IHS Automotive.

“But the Iranians will want to keep control of the market. They have a lot of regulations in place to limit imports and will insist on transfer of technology to domestic car makers.”

A report from IHS Automotive said that among those well placed to benefit from the opening of the market include French car makers “who have always been there”.

Chinese car makers also have a strong network of importers in the country which was set up before the embargo came into effect. Korean and Japanese manufacturers such as Hyundai, Kia and Toyota look set to benefit because of their strong position in the GCC states.

However, car makers refuse to be drawn in about entering the market.

“As a matter of US law, Ford will remain in full compliance with existing US sanctions and will monitor any changes that occur as a result of the preliminary agreement,” said a spokesman for Ford.

South Korea’s Hyundai also refused to comment.

IHS expects domestic output to rise from next year and hit 1.3 million in 2107.

The Iranian market is bigger than the GCC market. Car makers moved a total of 1.7 million cars a year in Iran in 2010 and 2011, before the impact of the sanctions began to squeeze sales. Sales began to fall in 2012 and were at 800,000 in 2013 before showing an improvement last to 1.1 million units, according to Mr Bellini.

IHS says the market will start to grow from 2017 onwards, when the country is fully integrated into the world financial system. By 2020, the market is expected to eventually grow to sales of 1.8 million units.

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GCC car sales to slow as weaker oil prices put brakes on economic growth

Car sales in the GCC are expected to increase at a much slower rate this year compared with the double-digit jump of 2014, as consistently lower oil prices put the brakes on economic growth.

Data from the consultancy IHS Automotive show that first-half sales in the GCC were 890,000 units. Overall sales this year are expected to reach about 1.88 million units compared with 1.78 million last year – a growth of 5.6 per cent.

“The market is growing but not at the rate seen last year,” said Pierluigi Bellini, manager for the Middle East and Africa at IHS Automotive. “We have seen varied performance across the region.”

Oil prices have fallen by more than half since June last year and have been hovering around the $60 mark in recent months.

As a result, the IMF has revised growth forecasts lower for the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the past few months. The UAE’s GDP growth of about 4.2 per cent last year is expected to slow to 3.2 per cent this year. Saudi Arabia, which gets nearly 88 per cent of its revenue from crude exports, will grow 3 per cent this year compared with 3.6 per cent last year.

According to IHS Automotive, the UAE led the region in car sales growth during the first half of this year at 3.5 per cent compared with last year. Saudi Arabia followed at about 3.2 per cent, while Kuwait barely showed gains of about 1 per cent. Oman, meanwhile, was the only country to record a decline in sales.

“Oman is a one of the major re-exporting hubs in the region. Some of the countries to which these cars are redirected have experienced economic slowdown because of insurgency and some other factors,” Mr Bellini said.

Average growth across the GCC in the first half of this year was more than 3 per cent, “which is still good considering the drop in oil prices”, Mr Bellini said.

Ramadan, which this year straddled June and July, generally provides a boost to sales. It is traditionally the best period of the year for dealers as buyers take advantage of incentives ranging from cash discounts to extended warranties and service packages.

Al Masaood Automobiles, the Nissan dealer for Abu Dhabi, said sales doubled during the holy month.

In May the Japanese car dealer reported bumper sales in the Middle East during the 2014-15 financial year. The bonus King Salman distributed among government employees in January resulted in Saudi citizens splurging on new cars, Nissan said.

Samir Cherfan, Nissan Middle East’s managing director, said that he expects to sell 80,000 cars this year and does not expect industry volumes in the kingdom to decline this year despite the drop in oil prices.

The German luxury car maker BMW last week said sales in the Middle East – comprising 12 markets – increased 6 per cent to 16,700 from a year earlier.

The US car maker GM reported a 21 per cent increase in sales in the Middle East in June, which was led by strong growth in the UAE, Oman and Qatar.

Ford said it sold 39,600 vehicles in the first half of the year in the region, up 2 per cent from the same period last year.

Hyundai, meanwhile, said sales rose 1 per cent year-on-year in the first half to 171,000 units.

Addressing the impact of the deregulation of oil prices in the UAE from next month, Mr Bellini said that an increase in petrol prices will have only a marginal impact on sales in the beginning. “The government will be determining pump prices. When they fully liberalise prices you might have a negative impact on sales. It is a win-win situation for the UAE – they save on subsidies and export more oil.”

According to the IMF, fuel subsidies cost the UAE about $29 billion and nearly $9bn on petroleum products alone.

However, car sales growth is expected to bounce back in two years’ time. “Oil is expected to average between $60-$70 a barrel in 2016. You might see bit of a slowdown but will continue to grow as oil returns to $100,” Mr Bellini said.

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Car sales in the GCC are expected to increase at a much slower rate this year compared with the double-digit jump of 2014, as consistently lower oil prices put the brakes on economic growth.

Data from the consultancy IHS Automotive show that first-half sales in the GCC were 890,000 units. Overall sales this year are expected to reach about 1.88 million units compared with 1.78 million last year – a growth of 5.6 per cent.

“The market is growing but not at the rate seen last year,” said Pierluigi Bellini, manager for the Middle East and Africa at IHS Automotive. “We have seen varied performance across the region.”

Oil prices have fallen by more than half since June last year and have been hovering around the $60 mark in recent months.

As a result, the IMF has revised growth forecasts lower for the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the past few months. The UAE’s GDP growth of about 4.2 per cent last year is expected to slow to 3.2 per cent this year. Saudi Arabia, which gets nearly 88 per cent of its revenue from crude exports, will grow 3 per cent this year compared with 3.6 per cent last year.

According to IHS Automotive, the UAE led the region in car sales growth during the first half of this year at 3.5 per cent compared with last year. Saudi Arabia followed at about 3.2 per cent, while Kuwait barely showed gains of about 1 per cent. Oman, meanwhile, was the only country to record negative growth.

“Oman is a one of the major re-exporting hubs in the region. Some of the countries to which these cars are redirected have experienced economic slowdown because of insurgency and some other factors,” Mr Bellini said.

Average growth across the GCC in the first half of this year was more than 3 per cent, “which is still good considering the drop in oil prices”, Mr Bellini said.

Ramadan, which this year straddled June and July, generally provides a boost to sales. It is traditionally the best period of the year for dealers as buyers take advantage of incentives ranging from cash discounts to extended warranties and service packages.

Al Masaood Automobiles, the Nissan dealer for Abu Dhabi, said sales doubled during the holy month.

In May the Japanese car dealer reported bumper sales in the Middle East during the 2014-15 financial year. The bonus King Salman distributed among government employees in January resulted in Saudi citizens splurging on new cars, Nissan said.

Samir Cherfan, Nissan Middle East’s managing director, said that he expects to sell 80,000 cars this year and does not expect industry volumes in the kingdom to decline this year despite the drop in oil prices.

The German luxury car maker BMW last week said sales in the Middle East – comprising 12 markets – increased 6 per cent to 16,700 from a year earlier.

The US car maker GM reported a 21 per cent increase in sales in the Middle East in June, which was led by strong growth in the UAE, Oman and Qatar.

Ford said it sold 39,600 vehicles in the first half of the year in the region, up 2 per cent from the same period last year.

Hyundai, meanwhile, said sales rose 1 per cent year-on-year in the first half to 171,000 units.

Addressing the impact of the deregulation of oil prices in the UAE from next month, Mr Bellini said that an increase in petrol prices will have only a marginal impact on sales in the beginning. “The government will be determining pump prices. When they fully liberalise prices you might have a negative impact on sales. It is a win-win situation for the UAE – they save on subsidies and export more oil.”

According to the IMF, fuel subsidies cost the UAE about $29 billion and nearly $9bn on petroleum products alone.

However, car sales growth is expected to bounce back in two years’ time. “Oil is expected to average between $60-$70 a barrel in 2016. You might see bit of a slowdown but will continue to grow as oil returns to $100,” Mr Bellini said.

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Abu Dhabi Ports’ contribution to the emirate’s economy has grown by a third.

The ports operator, which controls Khalifa Port Khalifa Industrial Zone (Kizad), Mina Zayed and Mussaffah Port, contributed Dh14.1 billion to Abu Dhabi’s GDP last year, up from Dh10.6bn in 2013 – a 33 per cent year-on-year growth, according to a study conducted by the Oxford Economics and Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi.

Work at Abu Dhabi Ports accounted for 2.9 per cent of non-oil GDP last year, which stood at Dh486bn, compared with 2.3 per cent of non-oil GDP in 2013.

“As a result of these activities we were able to create 39,500 direct and indirect job opportunities, or nearly 2 per cent of overall employment in Abu Dhabi’s non-oil economy,” said Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, the chief executive.

“One in every 50 jobs in Abu Dhabi’s non-oil sector can be attributed to Abu Dhabi Ports.”

The strong performance continued into the first quarter of this year, with a 30 per cent increase in containers, bulk and general cargo, according to figures from ADP.

Mr Al Shamisi said that as the port operator’s activities grow substantially over the coming years, it is expected to contribute Dh49.6bn to the emirate’s GDP by 2030, resulting in more than 100,000 jobs.

The official said he did not expect the weaker oil price to hurt the port’s operations. “No projects have been delayed because of the oil price,” Mr Al Shamisi said.

One of the companies to invest in Kizad is Gulf Precast, the largest precast concrete company in the UAE. It said it would spend Dh50 million to establish a precast concrete manufacturing plant.

ADP said it had signed nine musataha agreements valued at Dh853m. Musataha agreements establish property rights to build on, mortgage, lease, sell or buy a plot for a fixed period.

Total investment in Kizad has reached Dh47.7bn.

“We expect 10 of our investors to start operations by the end of this year,” Mr Al Shamisi said.

Although he declined to name specific companies, Mr Al Shamisi said they were involved in aluminium, printing and packaging, logistics and trading.

Meanwhile, work on the cruise terminal at Mina Zayed is progressing on schedule and is due to open in December. The terminal will be capable of handling 2,500 passengers and three ships simultaneously.

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