Riding the wave
Gulf Business|March 2021
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
VARUN GODINHO

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.

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