Dubai’s shipping community is mourning the death of George Varghese, general manager of shipping conglomerate Rais Hassan Saadi, whose funeral was held on Tuesday.

Close friends said he died after collapsing during a golf game last Thursday.

A larger than life and extremely popular figure in the Dubai shipping community for three decades, Varghese’s career spanned all sectors of the shipping industry.

A native of the Indian city of Chennai, Varghese began working at Binny Shipping in 1974 after graduating from the Law College of Madras with a Bachelor of Laws focused on international law and legal studies.

He subsequently joined port agency company Shaw Wallace & Co in 1977 before joining Chakiat Agencies as shipping manager.

Described by his his peers as extremely likeable, George Varghese had many friends, including shipping lawyer Jasmine Fichte. Photo: Jasmine Fichte

A move to Dubai was made in 1992 when Varghese joined the shipping agency division of Rais Hassan Saadi, where he worked his up the ranks of the conglomerate whose extensive business activities include shipbroking, marine services, and managing non-vessel operating common carrier container line Sunmarine.

Industry sources credited Varghese for playing an instrumental role in putting Dubai and the Middle East on the cruise map, working with cruise lines to develop itineraries in the region.

“The industry and the cruise community lost a stalwart, an out-of-the-box thinker, a leader, and an avid golfer,” said Shantanu Mehta, executive director of cruise tour agency Orient Tours.

Shipping lawyer Jasmine Fichte of Fichte & Co described Varghese as her oldest friend in Dubai and said the Dubai shipping community will inaugurate an annual golf event in the legendary golfer’s name to commemorate him.

“I consider him an icon! He is well known in the maritime and cruise circles in the UAE and globally. He had a good word for everybody and was always witty, whilst humble. He was very loyal to Rais Hassan Saadi and he loved the UAE. I will miss him terribly,” she said.

Outside of his work at Rais Hassan Saadi, Varghese played an active role promoting Dubai as a shipping centre. In recent years he sat on the board of the Dubai Council for Marine and Maritime Industries.

Seamaster Maritime managing director Rashid Isa Rishi Al Heddi said Varghese was a straight-forward shipping professional.

“Though with the competition, he was always able to separate work life and personal life. He was a very likeable personality who will be missed by all who came in contact with him,” Al Heddi said.

Varghese is survived by his wife Jaya and daughter Ifrah.