April 23, 2008

Floating islands in Dubai

Spurred by Rising Seas, Dubai’s Floating Ambition

Paul van de Camp moved to Dubai from Holland because of that "anything is possible" spirit. He isn’t interested in skiing in the desert, but he has opened an office in Dubai to try to sell an equally bold concept: building on water. His company, Dutch Docklands, specializes in floating structures.

Constructing floating houses or restaurants or even villages is an idea that first came to him in his native Holland, where land to build on is scarce and water is plentiful.

He’s just gotten the green light to begin building a string of islands, each in the shape of an Arabic letter. If you were to look at the proposed islands from an airplane or an orbiting satellite, they would spell a bit of Arabic poetry written by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai.

The verse reads, in part: "Not everyone who rides a horse is a jockey."

The floating islands will have hotels, restaurants and even a heliport.

 Oil wealth and Dutch aqua-entrepreneurship – it’s a good combination.  Part of the reason to go to Dubai was the low regulation:

Olthuis sees Dubai as a test bed. He and Van de Camp wanted to test their ideas for floating architecture in their native Holland, but Van de Camp says they became frustrated.

"It takes you at least eight years, and there are always problems and problems and problems," Van de Camp says. "There are always communities that say, ‘We don’t want it here.’ So to obtain a license in the Netherlands, it’s almost impossible.

This is why we want seasteads to legally qualify as boats, if possible, and for small ones to fit into existing boat berths.  By qualifying as an existing legal category, we can minimize the licensing requirements.  And by using a standard piece of infrastructure (a boat marina), we can minimize the need for special accomodation.

Perhaps someday we can sell some seasteads in Dubai.