Starting a Shipping Company in Dubai, UAE in 2024-25: Complete Guide

In this article, you will learn about starting a shipping company in Dubai, UAE in 2024-25. Read the complete article to know more about process, benefits and more.


    Note: This form is not for job seekers.

    Table of Contents

    Situated in the center of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is a thriving metropolis that has become a global hub for investors and entrepreneurs seeking opportunities. Dubai is an ideal place to launch and grow a shipping company because of its strategic position, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and friendly business community.

    In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of starting a shipping business in Dubai, exploring its suitability, legal requirements, costs, and more.

    Is Dubai Right for Your Shipping Business?

    If you’re an entrepreneur or investor seeking a dynamic and lucrative environment for your shipping company, Dubai offers a compelling proposition:

    • Strategic Location: Dubai’s location at the centre of important commercial routes allows for easy access to Europe, Asia, and Africa. With this excellent position, you can reach a big and constantly expanding market.
    • Government Incentives: The development of the maritime sector is actively supported by the government of Dubai. Anticipate advantages such as lower limits on free zones, tax exemptions, and simplified bureaucracy.
    • High-Tech Infrastructure: Dubai has top-notch ports, logistics centres, and transportation systems, which guarantee economical and effective freight transit.
    • Pro-Business Environment: Dubai’s open laws, simplicity of conducting business, and multicultural workforce all demonstrate the city’s dedication to attracting foreign investment.

    Free Zones vs. Mainland: Selecting Your Business Location

    The mainland and free zones are the two main places in Dubai where you can start a shipping firm. Understanding the distinctions between these two setups is crucial:


    Establishing your business in the mainland of Dubai gives you access to the whole UAE market and permits 100% foreign ownership. However, it typically involves higher costs and more rigorous regulations.

    Free Zones 

    Free zones provide many advantages, such as complete profit repatriation, reduced business establishment costs, and exemptions from import/export taxes and corporate income taxes. However, free zones often restrict mainland operations and may have limitations on specific business activities.

    The ideal location for your business to function will depend on your particular needs and goals. Consider factors such as your business’s size, desired level of independence, and financial constraints.

    Here are some of Dubai’s most prominent free zones catering to the maritime industry:

    Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) 

    JAFZA, one of the biggest free zones in the world, has a specific marine cluster with first-rate facilities and support services for shipping firms.

    Dubai Maritime City Free Zone (DMC FZ)

    A specialized free zone catering to all aspects of the maritime sector, DMC FZ provides a one-stop shop for shipping companies seeking a fully integrated ecosystem.

    Procedure for Setting Up a Shipping Company in Dubai

    Setting up a shipping company in Dubai involves several steps, but the process is relatively straightforward with the right guidance. Here’s a simplified overview:

    Step 1: Choose a Business Activity

    Determine the scope of your shipping business, whether it involves freight forwarding, logistics, cargo handling, or maritime services.

    Step 2: Select a Business Structure 

    Choose whether your business will be a limited liability company (LLC), partnership, single proprietorship, or branch office of a foreign corporation.

    Step 3: Company Name Reservation 

    Select a distinctive and appropriate name for your business, then get the necessary permissions from the proper authorities.

    Step 4: Register Your Company

    Reserve a trade name and acquire initial approval from the Department of Economic Development (DED) or the appropriate free zone authority. Submit the required documents, including passport copies, business plan, and lease agreement for office space.

    Step 5: Obtain Necessary Licenses

    Apply for the appropriate licenses and permits from the relevant authorities, such as the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) or the respective free zone authority.

    Step 6: Set up a Corporate Bank Account 

    After registering your business, create a corporate bank account in Dubai to facilitate business transactions and financial operations.

    Requirements to Register a Shipping Business in Dubai

    You must meet certain requirements in order to register a shipping business in Dubai; these requirements may change based on the location and business structure you choose. However, common prerequisites include:

    Passport copies and Emirates ID (if applicable) of shareholders and directors: This verifies the identities of those involved in the company’s operation.

    Visa Application: You may need to apply for business visas for yourself, employees, and any local service agents.

    Business Plan: Create a thorough business plan that details the objectives, tactics, and financial projections of your organization.

    Office Lease Agreement: Secure a physical office space and present a valid lease agreement.

    License Requirements for Setting Up a Shipping Business in Dubai

    The type of license you require depends on the specific services your shipping company offers. Here’s a breakdown of some common licenses:

    General Trading License: A general trading license gives you the freedom to import, export, and exchange items. It is not exclusive to the shipping sector, but for many maritime enterprises, it can serve as a foundational license.

    Freight Forwarding License: A freight forwarding license is necessary for businesses that assist in the transportation of goods between foreign locations. You can manage freight consolidation, customs clearance, and other associated tasks using it.

    Shipping Agency License: With a shipping agency license, you can manage cargo paperwork, vessel clearance, and other ship-related activities on behalf of foreign shipping companies.

    Warehousing License: In order to conduct lawful business involving the storage of products, you must obtain a license for warehousing.

    Expected Costs for Establishing a Shipping Business in Dubai

    The costs associated with setting up a shipping company in Dubai can differ based on factors including location, operating needs, and corporate structure. Here’s a breakdown of potential expenses:

    Company Registration Fees: For enterprises located on the mainland, these often vary from AED 10,000 to AED 20,000. However, companies located in free zones may have to pay extra for the processing of visas and licenses.

    License Fees: Vary based on the kind of license and jurisdiction, ranging from AED 5,000 to AED 50,000 annually.

    Office Rent: Costs vary depending on the location and size of the office space but can vary between AED 30,000 to AED 100,000 per year.

    Visa and Sponsorship Fees: Approximately AED 7,000 to AED 15,000 per employee, including visa processing, medical tests, and residency permit fees.


    Embarking on the journey of starting a shipping company in Dubai offers unparalleled opportunities for entrepreneurs seeking to capitalize on the region’s thriving maritime industry. Dubai offers an atmosphere that is favorable for business success and expansion due to its advantageous location, rules that are beneficial to investors, and its strong infrastructure. With the help of knowledgeable experts, starting a business may be made easier, regardless of whether you decide to locate it on the mainland or in a free zone.

    If you’re ready to set sail on your entrepreneurial voyage in Dubai, OnDemand International is here to assist you every step of the way. From company registration and licensing to bank account opening and document gathering, our team of professionals offers comprehensive support to turn your business dreams into reality. Contact us today to register a business in Dubai, UAE.