Middle East Cruise News

Abu Dhabi Ports leads collaborative investment in Bahrain cruise sector

Abu Dhabi Ports Group, Diyar Al Muharraq and the Eagle Hills Diyar Company have signed an agreement to investigate opportunities to develop and operate new cruise infrastructure in Bahrain.

The move by Abu Dhabi Ports comes just months after it signed a deal to develop a cruise terminal in Aqaba, Jordan, and will substantially enhance Bahrain’s position as a cruise destination in the Arabian Gulf.

Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamsi, Group CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports Group (centre)

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Under the terms of the agreement, the three companies will locate a viable site for a proposed cruise terminal, while Abu Dhabi Ports will oversee management of the terminal once it is complete.

The initial stage of the collaboration will involve a series of feasibility studies aimed at identifying avenues of investment, as well as the development of additional new infrastructure and services.

The investment is intended to build on Bahrain’s potential to become the fifth high-performing cruise destination in the Arabian Gulf, joining the UAE, Oman, Qatar and, more recently, Saudi Arabia.

“We are pleased to announce the start of our collaboration with Diyar Al Muharraq and the Eagle Hills Diyar Company, which marks the first step of a joint effort to modernise Bahrain’s cruise offering and enhance the region’s draw for the global cruise market,” said Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamsi, Group CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports Group.

Abu Dhabi Ports currently operates the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in the UAE’s capital, and is developing a cruise terminal in Aqaba, Jordan.

The move seeks to enhance Bahrain’s appeal as a cruise destination

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Abu Dhabi Ports appears to be set on expanding its cruise business internationally, like DP World in Dubai, which operates the Dubai Cruise Terminal, the Limassol cruise terminal in Cyrpus, and is looking to expand into Jamaica.

Bahrain is seen as having great potential as a cruise destination, although it currently receives only a smattering of cruise calls annually, due to its lack of adequate infrastructure and cruise services.

In 2019, the country welcomed 130,778 cruise passengers, a record high, but only a small fraction of the more than 1-million that cruise via the UAE’s Dubai and Abu Dhabi ports.

The development of a new cruise terminal in the country will increase its capacity to receive more passengers each year, and elevate the Arabian Gulf’s profile as a cruise destination with a variety of destinations on offer.

Located adjacent the Saudi Arabian port city of Dammam, Bahrain may also be able to capitalise on the recently entry of the country into the cruise market.

Saudi Arabian opened to cruise tourists for the first time this year, and has signed a five-year homeporting agreement with MSC Cruises, which is sailing Red Sea itineraries out of Jeddah aboard MSC Bellissima.

However, during MSC Virtuosa’s upcoming 2021/22 cruise season out of Dubai, she will be calling in Dammam for the first time, with other cruise lines sure to follow suit and Bahrain potentially able to provide an additional port of call in the coming years.

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