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Wed 14 Jul 2010 12:04 PM

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UAE ship builder eyes lucrative Saudi market

Gulf's only military ship builder chases deals in region's biggest defence spender.

UAE ship builder eyes lucrative Saudi market
MAKING WAVES: Abu Dhabi Ship Building is chasing lucrative deals in Saudi Arabia.

Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB), the Gulf’s only shipyard with the ability to build and retrofit military vessels, is actively tendering for contracts in the lucrative Saudi defence market.

“We’re working hard to establish ourselves in the Saudi market,” ADSB CEO William Saltzer told Arabian Business.

“We’re definitely looking to get ourselves through the door there. It’s a different country and a different business process, but we’re establishing relationships there and tendering for projects right now.”

Of all the Middle East countries, Saudi Arabia spends by far the most on the defence industry. But Saltzer said that ADSB was not currently looking to win contracts in another big local market: Iraq.

“The Iraq market is still a little bit confused for us because you have involvement from foreign powers. So we’re not really active in that market right now,” he added.

ADSB has close ties with Bahrain, to whom it delivered the third of four landing craft yesterday. Company chairman Homaid Al Shemmari told reporters that the shipbuilder was focusing on winning contracts in the MENA region, with a specific focus on Qatar, Kuwait, Algeria and Libya.

Saltzer also said that the first of twelve new ‘Ghannatha’ class vessels ordered by the UAE Navy in 2009 was currently under construction.

“As it’s a prototype with some brand new combat system equipment on it, it’s going to take until next year until it delivers,” the CEO said. He said that he expected the delivery schedule for the rest of the new vessels to be completed within a three-year period.

The ADSB contract with the UAE Navy – won at the IDEX conference last year – also involves the retrofit of twelve existing vessels. Saltzer said the retrofits would start later on this year, with deliveries back to the UAE Navy starting in 2011.

“The new Ghannatha vessels…have some new combat capabilities that didn’t exist before. They carry a small missile system as well as some guns and the new missile system is a new development from a French company,” Saltzer said.

“The retrofit vessels are carrying a new 120mm mortar system which is a new development from a company from Finland; that’s quite unique.

ADSB currently has 54 vessels on order, including steel Baynunah class corvettes, and will deliver ten ships this year.

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