Dubai’s wonderland: Developing a coastline one grain at a time



Rob de Jong & Peter van Gelderen, Van Oord Gulf FZE, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, is the centre of large and exclusive reclamation projects in the Middle East geared towards boosting tourism. Contrary to what most people believe, Dubai has limited oil reserves. As a result, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has decided to focus on the country’s assets to develop tourism. Dubai is a small but sunny and stable country; but what it lacked though was coastline. However, the sheik’s vision and Van Oord’s capabilities are making Dubai’s wonderland come true.

In front of the original, straight coast line the following marine projects are being developed: The Palm Jumeirah (approx. 100 million m3 sand), The Palm Jebel Ali (approx. 125 million m3 sand), The Logo Islands, Mina Seyahi Marina Expansion, The World (approx. 300 million m3 sand), Dubai Maritime City/ Port Rashid expansion (approx. 40 million m3), Deira Corniche (approx. 250 million m3 sand) and ultimately The Palm Deira (approx. 1,200 million m3 sand).

Van Oord has been contracted by Nakheel, the premier real estate developer of Dubai, to construct the Palm Jumeirah, The Logo Islands, Deira Corniche, Mina Seyahi and The World, as well as supplying the sand for the Dubai Maritime City, which is combined with the Port Rashid expansion. The sand supply for the Palm Jumeirah was completed by Van Oord in October 2003. The award for construction of Palm Deira is still pending. The Logo Islands and Mina Seyahi Marina Expansion projects are substantially smaller in size and quantity than the Palms, The World and Port Rashid. However, these projects can be considered special projects for Van Oord since they were also asked to design which, besides sand and rock, also included quay walls.

Palm Jumeirah

The first large scale reclamation project in Dubai was the construction of The Palm Jumeirah. The palm tree shaped island consist of sand only. The breakwater round it, designed by Royal Haskoning and constructed by Archirodon, provides protection against offshore waves.

The reclamation and rock works commenced in the summer of 2001 and had to be finished by the end of 2003. This tight time schedule enforced that the construction of The Palm itself could not wait for the protecting crescent breakwater to be finished. Therefore, the relative slender palm leaves (approximately 90 m wide) would be exposed to offshore waves during the construction, which is a considerable risk in the Arabian Gulf, where on average one extreme storm (Hs offshore > 3.5m) takes place per year. To minimise the chance of damage to the fronds during construction, the sequence of the works was determined with great care.

During the first winter, sand was dumped up to a level of approximately five metres below mean sea level. The construction of the breakwater had only just started, giving little protection, to the newly deposited sand, yet the waves had little effect on it. In the second winter, the construction of the breakwater had progressed to such an extent that it did provide protection for the Palm construction. The sand was brought above water in the protected areas only, carefully following the progress of the breakwater. This approach has turned out to be very successful. The construction was completed in October 2003, several months ahead of schedule.

Logo Islands

The Logo Islands have been constructed east and west of the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah (see Figure 2). The construction of these 14 hectare islands started in the summer of 2003. The Logo Islands, including a 270m long quay wall, were completed in February 2005. The shape of these private islands resembles the logo of the Palm’s developers, namely a palm leaf.


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