Dubai is far from being a ghost town where everything has come to a screeching halt, as some articles in the western press have reported. Even if, here as everywhere else, the economic recession has caused some damage, construction sites are still active and Dubai’s economy appears to be far more resilient than that of many other countries. The Emirate, and everything that pertains to it, fuels an active rumor mill that gets most facts wrong. This applies to the 532’ Dubai, the world largest yacht. Ever since it took position as the leader of the Top 100 list in 2006, the yacht has been the subject of all kinds of rumors. Yachts Emirates magazine was invited onboard and given the opportunity to write an article, no strings attached.
Story By Yachts Emirates Staff Photos Platinum Yachts
The vessel is in many ways a perfect symbol for Dubai. Like the Emirate itself, Dubai was a project of enormous scale that generated a certain level of envy and like many of the grandiose projects taking shape in the Emirate, the world’s largest yacht is a reflection of her owner’s bold ambitions.
We considered the invitation to get onboard a huge honor that filled all of us with anticipation. Part of it, of course, was curiosity. Until recently very little information was available other than a few facts about the yacht’s origins. This much was known: the yacht began as a project known as Panhandle contracted in Germany in 1996 by the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei, Prince Jefri Bolkiah. The Blohm & Voss shipyard of Hamburg, in collaboration with Lürssen Yachts, began work in earnest and the project progressed until the Sultan, reacting to his brother’s excessive spending, ordered that construction be stopped. The project, consisting at the time of a bare steel hull and a superstructure, was left unfinished for several years.
In 2001, Platinum Yachts, a division of Dubai World, acquired the enormous carcass and 250 containers full of spare parts that had been sent to the shipyard before work ceased. The project was renamed Dubai.
Although we don’t presume to know what he was thinking at the time, we can’t imagine that the owner’s only goal was to acquire the world’s largest yacht—it probably would have been easier to order a brand new project to be built at an existing shipyard. Rather, one of the goals the buyer had was to show that the small Emirate (at least in terms of size) could, in fact, build a luxurious superyacht.
Dubai’s visionary Ruler, in less than a decade, has molded Dubai into one of the world’s most magical destinations, which is particularly amazing considering that Dubai is not the U.A.E.’s richest emirate in terms of oil reserves. In the process, HH Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has changed the way the western world perceives the region.
By 2001 the Emirate of Dubai had already begun to generate a buzz as a serious player in the luxury sector with amazing projects such as the Burj Al Arab hotel (now an immediately recognizable symbol with its sail made of steel and glass), the Mall of the Emirates with an indoor ski slope open year-round, plus new developments that include the gigantic made-made Palm Jumeirah and Burj Dubai, soon to be the world’s tallest tower at about 2,690 feet.
Still it wasn’t enough and Platinum Yachts was contracted to finish Dubai. Incidentally since completing the project in 2005, the company has delivered Dubai Magic and Dubawi (one of the new entries in the top 100) and has finished the hull and superstructure of a 328’ motoryacht built on spec and available to an owner who wants his yacht delivered in a record 24 months.
We boarded Dubai from a dock at Port Rashid, the Emirate’s old commercial port (Dubai will soon move to a brand new dock on a newly built artificial island, just north of the famous Palm Jumeirah), and the first sight of the massive hull at anchor took us a bit by surprise. In spite of its 532’ (162m) and 13,470 gross tons, Dubai has rather refined lines and her bow is truly elegant. A massive bulb is noticeable just below the water surface. It is necessary to move a bit away, however, to fully appreciate how this seven-deck “beast,” the work of British designer Andrew Winch, is spectacular without being ostentatious. It took Platinum Yachts four years to finish this monster; massive, yet elegant. Fully painted in Awlgrip Snow White, she features only a few stylistic enhancements in stainless steel around her portholes and large windows. Some figures about Dubai are enough to induce vertigo, such as her painted surface of about 107,640 sq. feet. This alone gives some indication to the tens of thousands of hours of work that went into fairing and painting the hull.
The builder has put a great deal of thought into the traffic flow and accesses. It is possible to board the vessel through side doors, the aft deck, or through service doors. The crew (which ranges in size from a smaller group of 65 to a full staff of 115) has ample access to every deck and can reach any room without ever disrupting guests.
A huge transom area incorporates a staircase with views of the waterfall that cascades from the yacht’s pool, located aft of the main deck. The striking pool features hand-made mosaics reminiscent of the marine life of the Persian Gulf. The artwork also serves as a reminder that the Emirate of Dubai has had a long relationship with the sea, deriving some of its early resources from pearl fishing and later maritime trade.
Kostis Antonopoulos-Rothschild, our guide, is Platinum Yachts’ president. In spite of his young age, he has an impressive background in naval construction as of the directors of Sete Yachts, an affiliate of the Greek Latsis Group, and he has supervised the build of numerous vessels. He says the easiest part of building a vessel of this size is the manufacturing of the hull and the superstructure, which are, after all, nothing more than bent metal sheets welded together. The real challenge in completing Dubai, which he says was the almost exclusive responsibility of Platinum Yachts, was engineering the conception, building the yacht’s technical areas and creating the interior finishes.
The team at Platinum Yachts, notwithstanding the 250 containers of spare parts they received, rethought and modified a great deal of the vessel so it would meet the expectations of its owner and deliver in terms of performance, comfort and safety. From what we understood from crewmembers, the vessel is being used more and more, further proof, if one was needed, that the result met expectations.
In spite of its 532’ (162m) length, 72’ (22m) beam and 13,470 gross tons, Dubai can reach a 26-knot top speed and cruises at 23 knots. Her range of 8,500 nm at 25 knots gives her the potential to cruise around the world in record time. Her power package is relatively modest considering her displacement; 9,150 tons: four MTU 20V 1163TB93 engines of 6,323 kW each connected by pairs to a MAAG gearbox that drives a shaft with controllable-pitch propeller. Dubai’s relatively small draft (26’ with 1,050 tons of fuel and 400 tons of fresh water) is an asset in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. A detailed description of the yacht’s interior (including the various salons, dining rooms and its clinic equipped with an independent ventilation and A/C system to prevent risks of infection) would fill this entire magazine, so we will keep it brief. Aside from the lavish pool and the helicopter station (equipped with antistatic devices to prevent any risk of sparks during refueling,) which can accommodate a Sikorsky S76 or any other helicopter up to 9.5 tons, the exceptional quality of finishes is certainly worth mentioning. The style is consistent throughout but each room is decorated with a variety of noble materials most of the time in different colors. Tiles covered in gold leaf, marble, onyx, lapis lazuli and malachite have been used to produce the most impressive results. Platinum Yachts did all the work, including the woodwork, on the docks of the commercial port of Jebel Ali because at the time the company did not have any sheds. This is about to change. Within a few months, the shipyard will have ultra modern facilities at the heart of the gigantic Dubai Maritime City complex, an area dedicated to all things nautical.
The yacht is divided into distinct areas. The crew area, designed to accommodate up to 115 personnel, is close to the engine room and garage for tenders and toys. The rest of the yacht is divided into four zones organized around the yacht’s monumental central staircase. The social area features various salons, including a traditional “Majilis” and dining rooms. The guest area features 50 suites; the VIP area is a vast apartment on the fifth deck, divided into three suites and a home theater—no doubt reserved for members of the owner’s inner circle, and the owner’s area, accessible only through a private elevator, occupies the two top decks. A private entrance also provides direct access to and from the helicopter pad.
One of the outstanding features of Dubai is that each space has been given a distinct personality. Another is the level of insulation; 45 decibels is the maximum noise level noted in any of the cabins. And finally, the wheelhouse (on par with the ones you’d find on a cruise ship) is very revealing of the scale of this vessel. The electronics and safety systems are such as you would expect from a yacht that meets Lloyd’s +100a1 SSC Yacht (P) mono G6 IWS +LMC (UMS) and SCM Solas requirements.
The several hours spent onboard Dubai have proven that in spite of the enormity of this vessel with volumes more in line with a cruise ship than a pleasure yacht, Dubai conforms without a doubt to the highest standards of American and European shipyards. Regardless of one’s personal taste in terms of interior décor, the level of finishes onboard Dubai is impressive. By the end of our tour, we asked Kostis Antonopoulos-Rothschild if Platinum Yachts would consider building another vessel of this size, or larger, and he replied without hesitation that they would, provided it was at the right price.
After all that is what it takes to be “Number One”.
Length overall: 532’ (162m)
Max beam: 72’ (22m)
Draft @ full Load: 16’ (5m)
Displacement: 9,150 tons fully loaded
Max. speed at 100%: 26 knots
Cruising speed: 23 knots
Range @ 25 knots: 8,500 nautical miles
Fuel capacity: 1,050 tons
Fresh water capacity: 400 tons
Gross tonnage approx: 13,470
Engines: 4 x MTU 20V1163TB93 - 6323 kW
Propulsion: Dual shaft propulsion system each with MAAG reduction gears (twin input single output configuration) connected to a Controllable Pitch Propeller
Classification: Lloyd’s Register, +100A1 SSC Yacht (P), Mono G6 *IWS +, LMC (UMS) SCM SOLAS compliant for less than 36 passengers
Generators: 4 x MTU 8V 396 T54, 440V 60Hz, 3 phase, each 800bKW at 1800 rpm.
Exterior paint & color: AwlGrip system, Snow white
Designer: Andrew Winch
Builder: Platinum Yachts Dubai