From the early days of fishing and pearl diving, the UAE’s lifestyle has flourished around its pristine waters. And with standard of living rising, favourable year-round weather conditions make yachting a potential option for those seeking this indulgence. But who can buy a yacht and how much do boats cost in the UAE? You don’t necessarily have to be a millionaire but there are so many different types of boats and the cost of owning one extends beyond its price tag.

Not all yacht owners in the UAE are wealthy

You may instinctively associate yachts and boats with wealth – after all, these items of luxury are seen as status symbols. But in the UAE, it is not uncommon to see small yacht owners from the middle class portion of the population. These include thirty-something year old young professionals who earn monthly incomes of anywhere between AED25,000 and AED55,000. In Abu Dhabi, where there are no restrictions on 24-hour boat occupancy, you may also find older yet adventurous individuals living at sea to escape the hustle and bustle of life inland.

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What is the starting cost of buying a boat in the UAE?

Probably not as much as you think! A used catamaran on can be bought for as low as AED20,000 while a speed boat may cost AED25,000. Such boats can be moored on land and have no additional berthing costs. Used yachts can be had for upwards of AED150,000. With super yachts becoming more and more sophisticated, the prices can go beyond AED36 million for a yacht big enough to accomodate around 10 people. This year’s Dubai International Boat Show will have on display the full range of marine crafts, from the small to the the higher end of the spectrum. The show runs from 3 – 7 March 2015 at Mina Seyahi Dubai.

Cost and requirements of buying a boat: essential extras you need to prepare for

1) Berthing fees

If you are thinking of buying a boat, regardless of make and model, you will need to account for annual maintenance fees ranging from two to three per cent of the boat’s cost. Fees for berthing a boat in any of the emirates vary according to size of the boats. On the lower end of the spectrum are Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quain, where berthing fees per square foot will cost you between AED330 and AED660 a year. While in Dubai, the cost rises significantly ranging for from AED20,000 to AED75,000 a square foot annually. A detail that is often overlooked by boat owners, berthing fees can really add to the cost of owning your boat. So factor these in before you make your purchase.

2) Licensing

Before you buy a boat, you will need to obtain a certified license from the Dubai Maritime City Authority. In fact, in Dubai it has become mandatory from January of this year for all boat owners (even those registered in other emirates), to be licensed if anchoring their boats or indulging in fishing or water sports.

To obtain the marine craft driving license, you need to gain a certificate from a certified training institute, authorizing you to drive your yacht or boat. This condition is waived if you submit proof of driving a marine craft for not less than one year in the UAE. You will also have to pass a test at the authority to drive a pleasure marine craft of up to 12 meters. So make sure you are prepared!

If you have an international foreign driving license or certificates from training institutes that are not certified by the authority, you can apply for Certificate Equation and submit all the required documents. These include:

  • Filled Marine Crew Licensing Application form.
  • Passport, UAE family book or Emirates Identity card copy for UAE National, or Passport, UAE valid visa or Emirates identity card coy for expats.
  • The original marine craft driving certificate.
  • No objection certificate from sponsor for non-UAE national.
  • Medical fitness certificate from approved medical centers.

Service Fees vary from AED 300 – AED 1,000, depending on the license and marine craft. Additionally, you may be required to pay a fee of AED 150 for the medical test.

3) Insurance:

Plenty of insurance companies cover boats and yachts. Depending on the insurance plan you choose, the cover spans cost of loss or damage to your boat including engine, belongings on board and trailer as well as your third party liabilities in case of accidents. Some insurance policies cover loss at sea, in docking at berth or on land and even in transit. Depending on your lifestyle you may also want to take racing and water skiing cover. Examples of providers who offer insurance for boats include AIG, ADNIC, AXA and Orient Insurance.
Be aware that if you choose not to insure your own vessel, you will still need to get third party cover.
A note on premiums: this will depend on a number of factors such as age of the craft, cruising limits (UAE or international waters), size and type of craft, engine horse power and location (inboard or outboard), and berthing area. For crewed boats, experience and certification of the captain will also impact premium.

Money matters: how do you finance the boat you’ve selected?

There are banks that offer marine finance products in the UAE and finance rates range from 3.85% to 7%.
Alternative sources of finance may include personal loans or goods murabaha products. But you will need to check with your bank if this is applicable to boat purchases. Finally, make sure that you work out what your budget is if you do decide to go boat shopping.