New Suez channel helps to turn around National Marine Dredging

National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC), which was instrumental in delivering the New Suez Canal on time, has reported a significant turnaround in its fortunes for the second quarter.

It made a profit of Dh45 million, compared with a loss of Dh117m in the same period a year earlier. This was on the back of a trebling of revenue to Dh925m from Dh304m last year.

Revenue for the first six months of the year doubled to Dh1.4 billion – up from Dh693m last year – while a profit of Dh67m was declared, compared to a Dh155m loss in 2014.

A management report accompanying the accounts highlighted the company’s achievement in leading the consortium that completed the Suez Canal on time for its opening on August 6.

The chief executive Yasser Zaghloul last week said that the project was completed in nine-and-a-half months – way ahead of the 12-month deadline set by the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi, or the three-year schedule that had originally been requested by engineers.

The company also said that it paid Dh125m for new equipment during the first six months of 2015 – namely a hopper dredger and a backhoe dredger.

These will “enhance capacity and improve operational efficiency”, it said. It now has a fleet of more than 30 vessels, according to its website.

NMDC was started in 1976 as a dredging division of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and it remains as a largely government-held entity.

Currently, 32 per cent of its shares are held directly by the Abu Dhabi government and a further 20 per cent is held by Abu Dhabi United Group for Investment and Development – an entity that also owns Manchester City football club. About 41 per cent of NMDC’s shares are publicly owned.

Bassam Atiyeh, regional manager of the Belgian dredging firm Jan de Nul, which was part of the Suez Canal consortium, said that the regional dredging market is relatively quiet.

“The market is OK. It’s certainly not the boom of 2005 to 2010, but at the same time it’s not totally dead. There are projects continuing.

“You can’t compare with 2003 to 2010. There were much more projects then. Until 2008 we did maybe 30 per cent of our entire turnover in the Middle East. Today that’s nearer 4 to 5 per cent.”

He said that there was still plenty of infrastructure work that will require dredging companies around the GCC, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

“There are still projects to come in Qatar and dredging work at the new port in Kuwait. Iran also has a lot of work to do, but that depends on the sanctions. If it does open, there is big potential there.”

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