Thursday, June 20, 2013

Boats boats boats boats bobbing up and down again

The principle of having to obtain some sort of certificate of competence before being allowed out with a motor vehicle is a sound one. Imagine the chaos if anyone with access to a car could simply leap in and drive it without any tuition.

This lack of compulsory training has been the norm for boats since forever, although various agencies have introduced voluntary schemes over the years. The Goat passed his BSAC Diver Coxswain exam many moons ago, which gave him an instant Powerboat 2 certificate from the Royal Yachting Association. He subsequently qualified as a Diver Coxswain Instructor and Examiner.

Here’s the thing. As of yesterday, the Goat learned from the local media that Dubai has introduced a ‘Boat Driving Licence’. It is now not permitted to take any form of powered craft on to Dubai’s waters without the ‘driver’ being in possession of this driving licence. Jet-ski pilots are apparently exempt.

The Goat spent a happy hour searching Los Interwebs for information relating to this ‘boat driving licence’. He found these:

This one says the new licence is the first step in regulation of jet-ski usage. Which is a bit odd, given that Dubai Eye 103.8 said jet-skis were exempt… The Goat missed this one when it was published in March, but it's not like there's been much ‘Get Your Boat Driving Licence’ publicity over the subsequent three months. Perhaps the Goat should spend more time hanging around the docks. 

Neither one spells out the requirements; nor does the Dubai Maritime City website. The Goat phoned DMCA and learned that there were indeed no rules, regulations, or requirements for the new licence posted on the website. He suggested that posting something appropriate might prevent DMCA’s telephone helpline from being overwhelmed by concerned boat owners.

As a public service, here is the list of DMCA requirements before a boat owner is permitted to set the iron topsail:-

·        The application form, obtainable from Dubai Maritime City.
·        One colour mugshot.
·        Copy of passport, residence visa, and ID card (because the ID card alone isn’t sufficient).
·        A certificate of fitness, obtained from the Ministry of Health.
·        A police Good Conduct certificate.
·        Evidence of training. A RYA Powerboat certificate is seemingly enough, but a list of suitable qualifications is not currently available.
·        AED600 fee.

The Goat asked how long the licence is valid, but Mr Helpdesk didn’t know. He’ll phone back in a few days, he said.

It seems to the Goat that this is a monstrous pile of fuss and palaver to be foisted on the maritime community at, apparently, one day’s notice. It may be that, once the Clarification is issued, it’ll only apply to commercial outfits and not Joe Public and his water-ski speedboat, nor the local dive club.

Another point of concern that falls way off the edge of the map is what befalls all the qualified BSAC boat handlers. Do they now all have to lash out AED600 and jump through the above list of hoops? Or will they simply limit their boating to Fujairah?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cui bono?

International and emirate borders across the UAE exhibit a strange and wacky arrangement. It’s largely the fault of the pesky meddling British who, way back in the days of the Trucial States, sought to establish once and for all the limits of each tribe’s influence. Teams of squaddies toured the region and interviewed each tribal leader, wali, with one fundamental question: “To which sheikh do you owe allegiance?”

The teams went back to headquarters and presumably stuck coloured pins in a huge map. Then someone drew borders between areas of different colours, picking mountain ridges or other geographical features where nobody lived, so that the situation of “But I live exactly on the border between…” should never arise.

And that’s why there’s Nahwa, an enclave of Sharjah, UAE completely surrounded by a doughnut-shaped exclave of Oman which is, in turn, surrounded by Sharjah, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah all of the UAE. The northernmost tip of the Musandam peninsula is an enclave of Oman, only accessible by land via the UAE.

This brief geopolitical lesson goes some way to explaining the strange arrangement over at the towns of Dibba in the north east corner of the UAE. Dibba Al Fujairah is the southernmost of three Dibbas; Dibba Al Baya in Oman is just over the border and represents a gateway to the Musandam. Sandwiched between the two is Dibba Al Hisn, which is part of the Sharjah emirate. There have been various border disputes among the Dibbas, but Wikipedia (source of all true knowledge and wisdom) asserts that these were resolved in the 1990s.

And now:this! Women who wish to travel to Dibba Al Baya must, it has been decreed, obtain written permission in advance from a male relative or employer before they’re allowed to cross the border. That’s women who don’t hold GCC passports or UAE tourist visas. The latter can continue to do what blokes do and simply show up at the border with a passport and/or Emirates ID card. (Whether you need one, the other, or both depends on the border guard). Apparently you sometimes need evidence of a hotel or dhow trip booking before the Omanis will let you in.

But this new inconvenience has been brought to you by the Government of Sharjah. It’s impossible to get to the border post without crossing Sharjah territory, and the whole thing looks like being inconvenient for shits and grins. It can’t be for morality reasons because guys, GCC passport holders, and tourists aren’t affected, and the border crossing isn’t being upgraded to a full ‘You are now leaving the UAE and entering Oman’ with visas and passport stamps.

What is probably nearer the mark is the tourist trade. Dibba Al Baya is the base for lots of diving and sightseeing dhow trips up the Musandam. Presumably the plan goes something like this: if getting a hair’s breadth over the border involves an unreasonable pile of paperwork, tourists will instead choose to use dhows based at Dibba Al Hisn. And they’ll drive up the night before and stay in a dry Sharjah hotel instead of a Fujairah or Oman one where ‘special refreshments’ are available.

The linked article from The National says that the Omani ministry of tourism was not available for comment. Curiously, the same story picked up by Explorer says that the new rule is Sharjah’s doing.

I wonder how long it’ll be before the Omanis come to some arrangement with Fujairah and simply pick up their divers at Dibba Al Fujairah?


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Princess of wails

There’s an ongoing special offer at one of Dubai’s home appliances and electronics emporia. Sharaf DG states that “If we don’t have it, you get it free!” It’s a brand promise, not some temporary offer.

My first reaction on hearing of this promise was unsurprisingly to take the pee and ask for a Princess V48 motor yacht, in the sure and certain knowledge that they’d not have one, and thus save myself around $650,000. And that might be for a secondhand one.

Alas, the offer doesn’t extend to items that are not on Sharaf DG’s normal stock list. According to the company’s website, “This means if any customer does not find what he is looking for, he can register his requirement with our sales team who will procure the product within a stipulated time. And if we cannot deliver as per our commitment, the customer will get the product absolutely free.

Assuming, presumably, that the product in question ever shows up.

When Beloved Wife went in search of printer cartridges that were out of stock, and a special order was placed, they should have been in store and available for collection 24 hours later.

So when the SMS arrived after three days, I went with receipt in hand and collected the printer cartridges that were now available as a special order. Well, two were. The receipt said three, but two’s better than having to throw away the printer.

At the checkout, I asked about the “If we don’t have it, you get it free!” thing. I was told that this would only have applied if Sharaf DG had failed to produce the product within 24 hours. But when I pointed at the dates of the order, the SMS, and today’s calendar, the checkout girl grinned and noted that I’d already paid. And when I checked the full terms and conditions, it became readily apparent that there was no way I was ever going to get free cartridges.

Tom Waits was right: The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.


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