How to start a ship chandling company in Dubai

How to start a ship chandling company in Dubai

- Olivia Baikova

Ship chandlers play a pivotal role in maritime commerce, supplying vessels with essential goods and services—from food provisions and cabin stores to deck and engine supplies, ensuring they are fully stocked and equipped for their global journeys.

Dubai, with its strategic location at the crossroads of major international shipping lanes and with links to more than 220 ports worldwide, offers fertile ground for ship chandlers. The Emirate has emerged as a global maritime hub, supporting over 13,000 maritime businesses and activities and providing unparalleled access to one of the busiest shipping routes worldwide. It’s also home to Jebel Ali Port, one of the world's largest man-made harbours, handling over 14 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) annually, showcasing its immense capacity and strategic importance. This, coupled with a business-friendly environment that promotes growth and innovation in maritime services, provides the ideal backdrop to support the critical operations of ship chandling companies.

Understanding the maritime market in Dubai

Dubai's maritime sector is a lynchpin of global trade and logistics, anchored by its advanced ports and strategic location bridging East and West. This position has made Dubai a vital node in international shipping routes, attracting a wide range of vessels—from container ships and cruise liners to specialised cargo vessels and offshore support crafts.

Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), a key player in this ecosystem, houses over 7,500 companies tied to the maritime and logistics industries, accounting for more than 20% of Dubai's total, non-oil foreign trade, which reached a record $953 billion in 2023. This not only highlights JAFZA's critical role but also reflects the broader significance of Dubai's maritime industry.

Within this environment, ship chandlers serve as crucial collaborators, providing an extensive array of supplies and services required by ships while docked, from nutritional and medical provisions to spare parts and maintenance services. The continuous maritime traffic flow through Dubai’s ports creates a steady demand for ship chandling services and also highlights their importance to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of Dubai's maritime logistics.

Legal and regulatory framework for a ship chandling company in Dubai

Legally setting up a ship chandling company in Dubai is a structured process that ensures compliance with both local and international regulations. The journey begins with registering the business with the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), the body responsible for overseeing maritime activities in the Emirate. This involves submitting detailed documentation, including business plans and proof of financial stability, to obtain the necessary trade licence.

In addition to DMCA registration, companies must also engage with the Department of Economic Development (DED) or relevant free zone authority for broader business licensing and compliance with Dubai's commercial regulations.

Understanding maritime laws and international regulations, such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), is also imperative. These laws govern everything from the quality of supplies and equipment that can be sold, to labour standards for crew members.

Setting up your ship chandlers business in Dubai

Below is an integrated outline on how to set up a ship chandling company in Dubai:

  1. Trade Name Reservation: Begin by choosing a compliant and unique trade name for your ship chandling business, adhering to the UAE’s Registry Office guidelines. Propose three names for approval to secure a trade name reservation certificate, pivotal for the subsequent steps.
  2. Legal Structure Selection: Decide on your business's legal form—be it a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or another structure. This choice affects your company's operations, liability, taxation, and ability to expand or contract within the local and international markets.
  3. Jurisdiction Choice: Choosing between operating in a free zone or on the mainland is an essential step. Free Zones offer compelling advantages, including tax benefits, complete profit repatriation, and exemption from import and export duties - ideal for businesses that plan to operate globally or within the free zone itself. Setting up on the mainland, on the other hand, provides direct access to the entire UAE market, including the opportunity to directly supply to vessels docking at Dubai’s ports without requiring a local distributor. This option is particularly appealing for businesses looking to engage with local and federal government contracts.
  4. Define Business Activities: Clearly articulate your ship chandling services to ensure they align with regulatory requirements and to determine the correct trade licence needed for your operations.
  5. Renting Commercial Space: Select a location that supports your business needs, considering the advantages of free zones for international operations or mainland Dubai for broader market access.
  6. Apply for Initial Approval: Submit your application to the Dubai Maritime Authority (DMA) and based on your location choice, to either a free zone authority or the Department of Economic Development (DED). This application should include a comprehensive business plan, rental agreements, and identification documents for all directors and shareholders.
  7. Acquiring Your Ship Chandlers Trade Licence: Following initial approval, apply for your trade licence by submitting all previously gathered documents, the initial approval certificate, rental agreement, and any other required paperwork. After approval and the payment of fees, you’ll receive your trade licence certificate, officially authorising your business operations in Dubai.

    Given the complexity of the process, seeking expertise from professionals familiar with Dubai's business landscape can greatly facilitate a successful setup and operation.

    Operations and logistics of setting up ship chandler companies in UAE

    Running a successful ship chandling company in Dubai hinges on efficient operations and logistics. Effective inventory management is crucial; having a well-organised system ensures that you can meet the diverse and immediate needs of vessels, minimising delays in supply. This involves not just tracking stock levels, but also forecasting demand based on shipping schedules and seasonal trends.

    Building strong relationships with suppliers is equally important. These partnerships guarantee the timely delivery of quality goods, from food provisions to technical equipment, and often at competitive prices. A reliable network also allows for flexibility and quick responses to unexpected demands.

    Moreover, the backbone of a ship chandling business is its logistics capabilities. Efficiently coordinating the delivery of supplies directly to the ships, often within tight timeframes, is a complex operation that requires precise planning and execution.

    Lastly, embedding your company within the maritime industry's network is invaluable. Connections with port authorities, shipping companies, and other maritime service providers can lead to new opportunities, insights into industry trends, and a solid reputation.

    How can PRO Partner Group help?

    Establishing a ship chandling company in Dubai involves a thorough understanding of local regulations and international maritime standards. The process, while rewarding, can be intricate and demands a significant investment of time and resources. This is where the expertise of a professional corporate services provider becomes invaluable.

    PRO Partner Group offers unrivalled expertise in the UAE's legal and regulatory landscape and direct access to government bodies and regulatory authorities. We can guide you through every step of setting up your ship chandling business in Dubai, from initial registration with the DMCA to obtaining your trade licence and ensuring compliance with all local and international regulations.

    If you need assistance with this or with any other related company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

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