An increase of 25 per cent in cruise liners calling at Zayed Port will provide a near 50 per cent increase in the number of cruise tourists.

This season about 94 vessels are expected to bring 185,000 tourists, compared with 125,000 passengers arriving on 75 vessels over the previous period, Abu Dhabi Ports said yesterday.

Cruise tourists for the Middle East are mainly from Europe and the UK, according to Abu Dhabi Ports. A recent survey showed that 57 per cent of visitors were Germans, followed by Italians at 12 per cent.

Abu Dhabi Ports said that four new vessels arrived in Abu Dhabi between November and January. Most of the vessels are on Middle East tours, which include Dubai, Bahrain, Muscat, Khorfakkan and Khasab.

In terms of passenger capacity, the biggest cruise liners were the Costa Serena, which accommodates 3,700 passengers, MSC Orchestra which has capacity for 3,200 passengers, and Queen Mary 2, which takes up to 2,600 passengers.

To support the cruise industry’s growth, Abu Dhabi Ports started work on a cruise terminal building. The construction will be carried out in three phases, with the first ending in April.

The second phase, which has already started, includes the building’s exterior and will be completed this month.

Meanwhile, the third phase, which is due to start in two weeks, will include the building’s interiors.

The new building will be launched by the end of this year, in time for the next season, said Abu Dhabi Ports.

“With the new cruise terminal building and the new island stopover on Sir Bani Yas Island, we will significantly enhance the visitor experience,” said Mohamed Al Shamisi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports. The arrival of MS Rotterdam, which called at Zayed Port on October 25 opened the 2014-15 season.

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Oshkosh Defense, a unit of the US-based Oshkosh Corporation, expects its share of revenue from the Middle East to grow to almost 45 per cent .

The company was in Abu Dhabi this week at the International Defence Exhibition & Conference, where it introduced the mine-resistant M-ATV tactical ambulance and showcased its unmanned ground vehicle technology.

The Middle East accounts for about 35 per cent of the company’s latest revenue figures, said John Urias, the president of Oshkosh Defense. “I would say it could grow to be as high as 40 to 45 per cent” in the current fiscal year.

Oshkosh Corp, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, began its financial calendar on October 1.

In 2013, the UAE signed a deal with Oshkosh to purchase 750 M-ATVs that are popular with the US military in Afghanistan.

“We delivered those 750 vehicles in 13 months and they were a very impressive success,” said Mr Urias.

Since then, Oshkosh Defense has developed eight variants of its M-ATV.

“We don’t have any orders for those yet, but there has been a tremendous amount of interest,” he said, adding that the company was talking to Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

While US defence spending has been declining, Mr Urias said that revenue coming from its home market could pick up by the end of the summer.

Oshkosh is competing in the US defence department’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) programme, which will designate a replacement for the long-used Humvee.

“We think we will win,” said Mr Urias.

He added that there would not be “a one-to-one replacement” of the Humvee, but a “sizeable number of 55,000 vehicles” are expected to be ordered by the US military.

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The American company Sikorsky Aircraft expects to sell about 400 helicopters in the region over the next five to 10 years as it expands its presence in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“There are dozens of aircraft to be delivered in the region,” said Anand Stanley, the company’s vice president and general manager for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

“We are actively working at expanding our presence and commitment to investment in the UAE, the GCC and the broader region.”

Sikorsky plans to open a regional office in Abu Dhabi in the second half of this year. The company, part of the United Technologies conglomerate, will also open a business unit this year in Saudi Arabia to provide services for commercial and military aircraft.

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin are founding members of Ammroc – an advanced military maintenance, repair and overhaul centre in Abu Dhabi.

There are about 400 Sikorsky aircraft operating in the region and the company expects fleet modernisation initiatives to drive future demand.

“There are significant plans in this region for modernisation and this is going to continue. We believe this will expand the existing fleet,” said Mr Stanley.

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Abu Dhabi Ship Building will partner with the French company Thales to provide maintenance services to naval forces across the region as it diversifies its business away from vessel construction, its chief executive said.

“We signed an agreement with Thales group regarding a partnership of repairs, services, and maintenance to ships from different navies – not only in the UAE, but GCC and more,” said Khaled Al Mazrouei. “Abu Dhabi Ship Building wanted to partner with a company that has been doing this for many years and we realised that Thales is the right partner.”

The Abu Dhabi-listed firm, which is 40 per cent owned by Mubadala, expects more revenue to come from the services side of business. In the nine months to September 30 last year, the company registered a loss of Dh53.5 million compared to a profit of Dh38.9m in a year earlier, after delays in securing new contract wins. It won a support services contract with the UAE Navy in the first quarter of last year with hopes to expand its scope, and it also aims to extend its maintenance services beyond that to ships that are built by other companies in both the military and commercial sectors, it said.

“We are concentrating on services. We are looking that it will be the prime generator of revenue for Abu Dhabi Ship Building in the coming years,” said Mr Al Mazrouei.

“When you have services, you have sustainability of revenues.”

A increase in its services business will help the company overcome the lost revenue from gaps in activity for its new build operations, Mr Mazrouei said.

Separately, Thales said it is bullish on the Middle East region, expected to account for 20 per cent of its group order intake this year, up from 15 per cent last year, which was worth about €2 billion (Dh8.31bn).

Thales operates in the aerospace, space, defence, security and transportation sectors and has provided ticketing, telecoms, and supervision systems to Dubai’s green and red metro lines. It has also recently won a deal to develop Doha’s metro, as a part of a consortium.

The French company is currently modernising the signalling system of Egypt’s Cairo-Alexandria railway line. The €109m deal was signed in May 2013. The first phase of the 220- kilometre project will be completed this summer, while the entire project is due the end of 2017, according to Pascale Sourisse, the Thales senior executive vice president of international development.

Yesterday at Idex, the UAE armed forces announced Dh3.95 billion worth of orders for ammunition, helicopters and assault rifles from defence manufacturers.

The biggest contract went to Tawazun Dynamics, for its ultra-precision guided ammunition, valued at Dh1.53bn. The second biggest deal was a Dh864m contract between the armed forces and Emirates Advanced Research and Technology Holding (Earth) for development and technical support for its Oshkosh all terrain vehicles.

The third biggest went to Caracal International, a subsidiary of Tawazun Group, for 80,000 CAR816 assault rifles, in a deal worth Dh763m.

The Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer August Westland won a Dh732m contract for nine of its helicopters. Six will be used for search and rescue purposes and the rest will go for VIP use.

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Talks are at advanced stages with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to implement the Thaad weapons system, which intercepts short and mid-range ballistic missiles, a senior Lockheed Martin official said yesterday.

Qatar, which notified the US Congress in 2012 of its intention to buy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (Thaad), is working with Lockheed Martin on its “architecture and configurations”.

“We will see an announcement of the Thaad sale. It could be at the end of the year or some time early next year. They will announce that they will buy Thaad in whatever quantity they decide and we will begin the building and delivery process,” said Michael Trotsky, the vice president of air and missile defence systems at Lockheed Martin.

He said that news of a deal with Saudi Arabia could come in the next 12 to 24 months.

“They are very interested in discussing Thaad and determining if it’s right for their country and how it is going to work with their architecture,” Mr Trotsky said.

Lockheed Martin said in December that it expects to begin delivery of Thaad to the UAE by the end of this year, making the country the first to deploy this technology outside the United States. In 2011, the UAE became the first country outside the US to order two Thaad systems and additional maintenance and support equipment. The UAE already has Lockheed’s short-range Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (Pac-3) surface-to-air missile system. In 2012, the UAE ordered 48 Thaad missiles, parts and logistical support at an estimated cost of US$1.13 billion. The country also placed an order in 2013.

The UAE is also in talks with Lockheed Martin over the multibillion-dollar sale of 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft.

Arabian Gulf countries, including the UAE, are boosting defence spending as terrorism threats intensify amid the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The UAE is expected to more than double spending on military imports this year, according to a study released this month by UK-based IHS Jane’s.

The country was ranked the second-biggest defence importer in the Middle East, behind Saudi Arabia, and is forecast to be the world’s No 3 defence importer this year, according to IHS Jane’s.

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Canada is chasing C$3.5 billion (Dh10.21bn) worth of defence deals from the ­Middle East this year as western defence budgets are slashed.

The country was determined to make an impact at Idex by splashing C$2.5 million on its pavilion at the show, where 53 Canadian companies are displaying their products – up from 42 at Idex 2013.

“We still see the GCC as one of the primary regions in the world for military procurement,” said Martin Zablocki, the president and chief executive of Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC).

“In the current economic environment, they are spending more money than many other regions.”

Regional governments are spending heavily on arms purchases as the rise of groups such as ISIL, Boko Haram and Al Shabab across the Middle East and Africa encourages investment in the industry.

“For us in Canada, we serviced the US for many years – and this is an area where definitely their budgets are going down.

“So with the dynamic and with the money being spent in the Middle East, it’s a strategic region for Canada in many fronts,” said Mr Zablocki.

Last year Canada’s General Dynamics Land Systems signed a US$10bn deal with Saudi Arabia to provide armoured vehicles.

“The big Saudi deal has brought a lot of momentum for the purchases from Canada,” said Mr Zablocki.

The CCC – which acts as performance guarantor between Canadian companies and governments – will meet Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala and its defence arm Tawazun this week.

It will be promoting its light army vehicles and simulators.

Canada already trains Saudi pilots and is seeking more military training in the ­region.

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