News & Media

18 November, 2020

Inchcape launch boat lives on as UAE’s top dive spot

From ferrying vessel crews on top of the waves, to housing rare aquatic life beneath them, Inchcape 1 continues to serve a unique community in the welcoming waters of the UAE.

“I don’t think the naval architects behind Inchcape 1 originally designed the deck for seahorses,” laughs Frank Olsen, CEO Inchcape Shipping Services and himself an avid diver. “But, if they’re reading this, I’m sure they’ll be happy to learn about the vessel’s new crew.”

Head out from the eastern shores of the UAE, near Fujairah, and, if you’re qualified, dive down to depths of around 30 metres. Swim through the strong current, with the warm waters flowing into the Indian Ocean, and there, emerging from the deep blue haze you’ll find Inchcape 1.

However, rather than a ghostly wreck, intrepid adventurers will be rewarded with a ship teeming with life. Dive enthusiasts – and there are many both visiting and staying in the UAE – have long regarded this as the country’s prime site, with a huge array of aquatic creatures on show, including moray eels (there’s one called Fred apparently), barracudas, rays, puffer fish, snappers, lion and scorpion fish, and much more. Swim round to the stern of the vessel and there, drifting around the deck, you’ll find the crew of seahorses.

It is, reports suggest, an unforgettable experience, with a vessel that, quite simply, wants to live forever.

Added value commitment

Inchcape Shipping Services, a global leader in the ships agency segment, has the largest fleet of launch boats in the UAE, with seven of their 11 vessels based out of Fujairah. From here the craft, with capacities ranging from 20 to 50 PAX, zip back and forth transporting crews to and from vessels, ferrying technicians, surveyors and superintendents, and enabling Inchcape’s full-service proposition, which includes “all in one” bunker optimisation services. This, as Al Fujairah is the world’s third busiest bunkering port, is a key offer.

“We pride ourselves on supplying the highest service levels and most fully comprehensive service available to all our local customers, both on vessels and in surrounding oilfields,” comments Errol Seaman, Area General Manager - Southern Gulf, “but we also want to support the many communities where we operate.

“Inchcape 1 is a very tangible example of that commitment.”

Instant success

The 20m long vessel was donated to the UAE Tourism Industry in 2001, with Inchcape stripping it of all potentially toxic and non-environmentally friendly components before it was towed out and sunk. According to local dive experts it was colonised by its new ‘owners’ within 24 hours of being submerged.

In an article in the National, an English language Middle East news site, Dave Griffiths of Divers Down in Dubai and Fujairah describes it as “a huge ball of marine life” noting: “(the) wreck offers an amazing variety of beautiful coral and marine life… so much so that you often have to move (the sea creatures) out of the way to actually see the wreck properly.”

Olsen smiles when he hears this, noting: “The fact that this launch is still so important in the region, albeit with a slightly different group of customers, is fantastic to hear. We donated and submerged another ship, the Inchcape 10, in 2005 and certainly wouldn’t rule out repeating this in the future if the demand, interest and enthusiasm was there – either in UAE or elsewhere.”

Always on hand

Inchcape has recently welcomed another of its launch ships, Inchcape 23, back into more ‘traditional service’ in Ras Al Khaimah after it completed a charter in Saudi Arabia. The ship was locked down for three months in Saudi Arabia due to the COVID-19 pandemic before facing another 14 days quarantine in Dubai.

Olsen notes that Inchcape’s strong regional presence and dedicated staff ensured a smooth transition period in difficult circumstances, supporting all vessel and crew needs on a day-to-day basis.

He says: “We have over 240 offices, in 68 countries, covering around 2,500 ports, so we can make sure our people are always on the ground where and when they’re needed to support our customers and, in situations like this, our own operations and crew members. We have a truly global reach and the competence to deliver proven expertise, transparency and reliability, and, as the Inchcape 1 shows, real added value worldwide.”

In addition to transporting people (and housing seahorses) Inchcape’s launch boats also carry provisions, spares parts, gas cylinders, and accommodate the heavy equipment used by diving company’s when carrying out underwater inspections and hull cleaning.

Inchcape itself is now the world leading ship agency provider and has embarked on an ambitious journey to doubles its market share over the next five years.