Inside EDGE – ADSB, the Group arm in the naval domain

Paolo Valpolini

The main naval asset within EDGE in the naval domain is definitely ADSB, the acronym for Abu Dhabi ShipBuilding, which premises are located in the Mussafah Industrial Area

A few days prior our visit to EDGE, the UAE group announced the creation of a Joint Venture with Italian Fincantieri. “This joint venture, which we didn’t named yet, is a design house. It’s where we will be developing projects, to then find an industrial partner, would it be ADSB or any local shipyard, or another one anywhere in the world, to execute the design and deliver,” Hamad Al Marar, Managing Director and CEO of EDGE Group told EDR On-Line, adding that “the JV is really a design authority, a system integrator rather than a ship builder.” EDGE owns 51% of the JV, the remaining shares being in the hands of Fincantieri.

The JV will of course allow Fincantieri to improve its chances of success in the non-NATO countries. On one side the new entity will allow bringing on board EDGE produced elements, the company three main business pillars being autonomy, smart weapons, and electronic warfare, adding local content. Another key element, which was stressed all along the visit, is the attractiveness of UAE Government-to-Government arrangements and export credit financing packages.

ADSB, part of EDGE Platforms & Systems cluster, should thus benefit from the new JV, however it will be one of the many possible production options. That said, the company premises are pretty busy with maintenance, repair, overhaul and new build activities.

Established in 1986, the shipyard covers 310,000 m2 and is located along the Mussafah channel, which has a depth of 7.8-8.5 metres. This of course is a limiting factor for ADSB in terms of ship dimensions. The company operates one 2,000 tonnes Syncrolift that allows launching of ships with a maximum length of 90 metres, and one crane that can lift up to 560 tonnes, used for units up to 50 metres.

The three areas dealing with steel, aluminium and composites are well away from each other to avoid contamination. The latter one is hosted in a 3,800 m2 building with controlled air, where ships up to 40 metres of length are built. Typical of EDGE companies, the ADSB capacity in the composite area is exploited also to provide elements to other group entities, and a whole section of the building was dedicated to the production of composite parts for Nimr armoured vehicles. The shipyard has a contract for delivering 120 kits, each made of different elements, for the Nimr Ajban Mk2, by late 2025. ADASI, the EDGE company specialised in UAS, is also a “customer” of ADSB for some composite parts. ADSB is studying together with ADASI a fin for the Garmoosha VTOL UAS.

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During the visit a number of 12 and 16 metres hulls for naval boats were under construction, some ready for delivery, along with some cruise catamarans, which showed well the diversification of composite constructions, something we find also in the MRO area, were grey ships were being maintained alongside commercial ones. According to information provided, the shipyard will deliver eight 12 metres boats and four 16 metres composite boats by year end. ADSB produces composite ships up to 40 metres length.

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Among those we find the 170-M-Detector, an unmanned surface vessel for mine detection and classification, unveiled at IDEX 2023, for which ADSB builds the hull and acts as integrator, subsystems coming from other EDGE entities, the shipyard having also close contacts with Abu Dhabi Technology Innovation Institute.

ADSB recently announced the design of a new FA-400 Fast Attack boat, which is currently under construction at the shipyard. Although no customer has yet signed a contract. “We are building it as a demonstrator,” the company CEO said, adding that it is being built in aluminium and that its hull will be 45 metres long. “It will be used to showcase EDGE products,” he added, EDR On-Line understanding that the MANSUP antiship missile developed by SIARR of Brazil, of which EDGE acquired 50% in January, might well be one of the weapons to be installed, the platform being used to live fire a series of effectors. Of course, ADSB aims at showing its new Fast Attack at NAVDEX 2025, however this will be subject to many variables.

The Abu Dhabi Navy as well as the Abu Dhabi National Guard Command are obviously the main customers for the shipyard, however recently ADSB inked a contract with Angola which for the time being is the biggest ever export defence contract obtained by the UAE, the deal being worth around 1 billion Euro. The contract includes three BR71 MkII corvettes, an evolution of the Baynunah-class in service with the UAE Navy featuring a different superstructure, five 16 metres 160 Sea Keeper cargo and transport vessels and six 12 metres 120 Fast In-shore Platform. A five-year Integrated Logistic Support and Integrated Service Support package is also included, as well as six HT-100 VTOL unmanned aerial systems, produced by Anavia of Switzerland of which EDGE acquired the majority shares in November 2023, two of which will be embarked on each corvette.

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The steel cut for the first of class corvette took place in December 2023 at Cherbourg CMN, the keel laying being expected very soon. The work is done in cooperation with the French Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie (CMN), part of CMN Naval Group, the two others being built in Abu Dhabi by ADSB with CMN assistance, the steel cut of the second unit being planned for October 2024. No details were provided on the configuration; however, it is clear the timeline of the Angolan corvettes and that of the MANSUP-ER, the extended-range version of the antiship missile being under development by SIATT, coincide. To host and properly maintain and operate those three major combatant ships Angola will need some investments in infrastructures.

ASDB considers such type of contract the start of a durable relationship and is in discussion with two other African countries for support in the field of facilities and know-how for maintenance. As for smaller naval units the EDGE shipyard is ready to provide Transfer of Technologies, allowing local production.

In 2022 ADSB had 616 million Dihram revenues (154 million Euro), compared with the AED 254 million of the previous year, with a 20 million Dirham (5 million Euro) profit. “In 2023 the revenues doubled,” David Massey told EDR On-Line, profitability also increasing, “however we are still small players, hence we must partner with big ones,” he added, underlining that an agreement with Italian Fincantieri was already in place even before the creation of the JV at group level.

ADSB is looking at augmenting its capacity in terms of ships dimensions. As aforementioned the channel depth is a limiting factor, hence the company is looking at creating a satellite facility. “We aim at a 120 metres construction capability, and we have currently identified three possible locations where to build our new facility,” David Massey said.

Photos courtesy EDGE