New rules came into effect in the UAE on 1 July, tightening restrictions on shipping in the federation’s territorial waters. The measures, designed to curb drug smuggling and illegal immigration, affect all merchant vessels, dhows and speedboats calling at the seven UAE ports.

In announcing the new rules, the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on 22 July that vessels would be barred from entering territorial waters unless they produced registration certificates, navigation permits and lists of cargo, crew and passengers. Speed boats will not be allowed to stay for more than 72 hours and dhows for no longer than 21 days. In addition, dhows will only be allowed to move on to other local ports if they can prove they are planning to unload goods and if all the crew have naval cards issued by the UAE authorities.

The move is the latest attempt by the government to halt the steady rise in illegal immigration and to prevent drugs trafficking. Since 1975, the police have arrested an estimated 25,000 people – mostly from Asia – for illegally entering the federation.

The new rules have also coincided with the UAE installing more radar along its coastline and stepping up the number of patrols in its inshore waters.