H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), has announced that the Agency is building the Middle East's most advanced research vessel, as part of EAD's ongoing commitment towards protecting the environment and the marine biodiversity in Abu Dhabi and the overall UAE marine ecosystem.
The state-of-the-art, multipurpose marine conservation and fisheries vessel will use environment-friendly technologies in conducting specialised research.
"After the resounding success we have achieved with the dramatic improvement of fish stock numbers in Abu Dhabi waters, due to new policies and legislation, we are proud to be continuing our research on fisheries and all marine biodiversity to maintain the momentum of the significant work we have done so far. The addition of a new cutting edge, scientific research vessel to lead our marine research is a momentous achievement that will enable us to monitor and conserve our fish stocks and marine biodiversity in addition to fostering the passion of our young Emirati marine scientists for years to come. I am excited about the addition of a new multi-purpose research vessel to pioneer our oceanographic and fisheries research in our deeper waters," H.H. Sheikh Hamdan said.
Operating in the UAE’s waters of the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and further afield, the 50-metre vessel enables EAD to complete new marine and fisheries scientific waters in the previously largely unstudied waters 10 metres and deeper. It will be designed and built for the conditions of the region – where the Arabian Gulf is characterised by being shallow and its high salinity.
The vessel will be manned by up to 30 personnel and in addition to state-of-the-art research equipment it includes five laboratories to process samples on vessel, a remotely occupied vehicle and SCUBA diving functionality. It has the integrated functions to complete comprehensive marine and fisheries surveys including deepwater marine ecological baseline surveys; fisheries resources assessment surveys; deep-water habitat surveys of coral and seagrasses; marine water and sediment quality; and megafauna surveys of the likes of cetaceans – dolphins; dugong and turtles.
It will also enable EAD to respond to the threats facing the marine environment including marine debris; climate change and invasive marine species, in addition to assessing marine sites and habitats and environmental rehabilitation perspective and conducting other marine studies.
For his part, Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs and EAD's Vice Chairman, said, "At EAD, we always strive to be a step ahead and be at the helm of progressive scientific research, using the most innovative tools and equipment. The development of this new and innovative research vessel will allow us to maintain our edge in marine research and in the sustainable management of fisheries – which is one of our main strategic priorities and one of our main success stories."
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD's Managing Director, commented, "Using the latest technology and ensuring that all the equipment and protocols on the vessel are environmentally-friendly, we will continue to put Abu Dhabi on the scientific map as a leader in environmental affairs and sustainability. Moreover, the way in which we revived our fish stock can serve as a benchmark in the international community. Our future vision of continued improvement through this research vessel is an example of our commitment to the sustainability of our marine environment."
Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General of EAD, said, "At EAD, we ensure that all of our policies and strategies are supported by science - the accumulation of knowledge, data and information. We live in an extremely rapid paced world and as an organisation, it is fundamental for us to keep up with the times. This new research vessel will be our flagship marine research initiative and of fundamental importance to our research division – particularly our fisheries which we are always striving to stabilise and accentuate, while it plays a key role in qualifying and developing UAE talents in the field of marine ecosystems, as well as supporting research and studies conducted by universities and research centers in the country."
She added, "Despite how far we have come and after announcing the past two years that there was an evident improvement in our fish stock, we will not stop now. We know that we can always do better, which is why we are working on the design and build of this contemporary vessel which will play a significant role in helping us to devise management strategies and plans to facilitate maintaining our positive fish stock figures. The vessel will also be completing comprehensive deep-water marine ecology baseline seasonal surveys to further our understanding of our critical habitats - coral and seagrass, and key indicator species – turtles, dugongs and cetaceans."
The vessel will be built by FRIERE Shipyard in Vigo, Spain with Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding managing the build in support of the EAD team. Design of the ship commenced in January 2021 with it scheduled to arrive in Abu Dhabi in December 2022. As EAD’s representative for the project, Abu Dhabi Ship Building will be responsible for management of the design and supervision of the build in Vigo, Spain with the first steel to be cut on the vessel in June 2021.The initial sea trial will be carried out in Vigo in late 2022 with Gulf condition trials taking place after the voyage of the ship to Abu Dhabi.