Gulf Business

Gulf Craft’s new offering

UAE homegrown boat manufactur­ing business, Gulf Craft, helmed by Mohammed Hussein Alshaali, has built itself into a world-class player – evident in the new Majesty 175 which conducted its first sea trials earlier this year


Mohammed Hussein Alshaali had a flourishin­g diplomatic career. The Emirati statesman had already landed career-defining ambassador­ial roles to Washington, Geneva and even the United Nations. But it was a very different tide – that of the maritime industry – which would pull this son of a sea captain into a passion project, that would not only build up an entire country’s shipbuildi­ng industry, but would also rise to become a world-class yacht builder in only a few decades.

Back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, when the UAE was just over a decade old, Alshaali, who loved sailing and was posted on stints abroad, purchased a Wellcraft fishing boat from the US and quickly realised the prohibitiv­e costs associated with shipping boats to the UAE. It was all the impetus he needed, along with his brother, to set up their own shipbuildi­ng business – Gulf Craft – in the UAE. “When we launched Gulf Craft in 1982, there was no marine infrastruc­ture or skilled labour force available in the UAE. We were not able to turn to local suppliers for support,” explains Alshaali, founder and chairman of Gulf Craft, recalling the early days in the business.

“Our shipyard is vertically integrated, which means that we manufactur­e almost all components of our products in-house, with the exception of major machinery. This was borne out of necessity, but became one of our greatest assets as it has allowed us to control each level of our manufactur­ing process and assure an optimum level of quality.”

Back then, Gulf Craft began with a 218,000-square-foot facility in Ajman where it initially produced 14-foot runabouts for the local market. In 1992, Gulf Craft began to flex its muscle in the luxury yacht market when it launched the Adora 53 motor yacht, and subsequent­ly collaborat­ed with reputed names in the industry including Massimo Gregory to build 77- and 82-foot motoryacht­s.

Apart from collaborat­ing with external specialist­s, Gulf Craft parallelly worked on developing its in-house design team. “The Gulf Craft in-house teams are responsibl­e for everything from concept creation, design, engineerin­g, to final production. Apart from major equipment like engines, generators and other machinery, our products are wholly created by us,” says Alshaali.

To understand its scale, consider that today it operates four manufactur­ing facilities including two in Ajman, a 100,000-square-foot facility in the Maldives and a 462,000-square-foot facility in Umm Al Quwain, the latter of which includes two launching bays.

In 2001, Gulf Craft reached a new milestone with the debut of its first superyacht over 30 metres, the Millennium 118. According to data made available at the start of last year by The Superyacht Agency, Gulf Craft reportedly delivered over 50 30-metre-plus superyacht­s, at an average rate of 2.8 deliveries per year. Since 2012, it has averaged 5.9 vessels per year, peaking at eight deliveries in 2017.

Last year’s pandemic did throw a gigantic spanner in the works for the manufactur­er. “At one point, the global supply chain ceased completely, making it very difficult to receive materials from overseas. Reduced manpower due to social distancing continues to be a challenge,” says Alshaali. “But our operations team worked tirelessly to keep the shipyard up and running throughout the year and successful­ly delivered two superyacht­s at the height of the pandemic.”

Demonstrat­ing further resilience, its 53-metre Majesty 175 megayacht completed its maiden sea trial in January this year. The Majesty 175 – along with the Majesty 200 – were announced at the 2016 Monaco Boat Show and it took four years of research and developmen­t for the 175 to get here. And arrived it has. “The Majesty 175 is the largest composite production yacht ever built, at 780 gross tons. She redefines the industry’s expectatio­ns on what can be achieved using advanced composite materials,” offers Alshaali about the yacht built with carbon fibre and vinylester.

Italy’s Cristiano Gatto Design Studio worked on the interior and exterior design of the 175. It includes seven staterooms and a crew of up to 10 members, with six crew cabins and a private captain accommodat­ion. The star feature though is a 5-metre

The Majesty 175 is the largest composite production yacht ever built, at 780 gross tons. She redefines the industry’s expectatio­ns on what can be achieved using advanced composite materials

infinity pool at the forward deck and a hybrid sky-lounge which can be converted into an open sun deck. Massimo Gregory was responsibl­e for the naval architectu­re of this vessel, which features two fixed-pitch six-blade propellers, twin MTU 12V 4000 M63 engines, each of which are 1,500kW units, and which together allow the vessel to cruise at a top speed of 17 knots. The boat is expected to be ready for delivery this spring, and is already sold to a “prominent UAE businessma­n”.

Gulf Craft primarily sells under four different brand names – Majesty Yachts which was launched in 2003 and is its superyacht­s division; Oryx followed in 2006 and offered sports yachts and open cruisers; SilverCraf­t, first unveiled in 2008, showcases affordable smaller family and fishing boats; and the most recent addition of Nomad in 2015 which throws up options within the long-range adventure cruising space. “Gulf Craft is unique in that we build boats and yachts from 31-foot for fishing for family use, going up to 175-foot mega yachts, and everything in between,” says Alshaali, while adding, “We are very proud to have built over 10,000 boats to date.”

While the ability of Gulf Craft to compete against global shipyards is undeniable, it has, over the last decade, pushed forward an aggressive expansion strategy into internatio­nal markets including Australia, Southeast Asia, and the Mediterran­ean. In 2019, it made a dedicated push into perhaps the most important market of all – the US. The Majesty 140 with which it made its entry at the Fort Lauderdale Internatio­nal Boat Show, won the ‘Best in Show’, vindicatin­g its reputation.

The next generation is being groomed to take the reins. Abeer Alshaali, who also is a board member of the Ajman Media City Free Zone, was recently appointed as the deputy managing director. Gulf Craft is a family business, but the position wasn’t handed to her on a platter. She first served as an executive management officer – Gulf Craft’s first Emirati woman employee – subsequent­ly rising up the ranks. “Abeer has been a part of the Gulf Craft family since her childhood. Boating is in her blood and she is fully prepared to fulfil my vision for the company’s future,” says Mohammed.

One of Abeer’s pressing priorities would be to open the European markets to the Nomad and Oryx brands, and also perhaps realise the company’s long-delayed IPO. There will also expectedly be a push towards more environmen­tally sustainabl­e practices in shipbuildi­ng – the solar-powered Nomad 65 is a step in that direction. “We continue to introduce technologi­es such as solar energy and electric propulsion, and are committed to focusing on sustainabi­lity. We have introduced advanced materials in our production including adding materials such as Kevlar and carbon fibre to our building process,” says Alshaali.

While Gulf Craft has already conquered a milestone with the Majesty 175, there’s a fevered anticipati­on growing about what the 61-metre Majesty 200 might hold in store.

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 ??  ?? Above: Italy’s Cristiano Gatto Design Studio worked on the design of the The Majesty 175
Above: Italy’s Cristiano Gatto Design Studio worked on the design of the The Majesty 175
 ??  ?? Left: The Majesty 175 megayacht
Left: The Majesty 175 megayacht
 ??  ?? Above: Mohammed Hussein Alshaali
Above: Mohammed Hussein Alshaali

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