A cluster of 300 artificial islands off Dubai‘s coast in the shape of a global map is stable, its developer Nakheel insists, despite a court claim alleging that “The World” was neglected and eroding away. “There is no issue with the stability of The World islands that are approximately 70 percent sold and handed over,” a Nakheel spokesman said. “The island purchasers (have) the responsibility to proceed with their developments in due course,” he added. The islands, many of which represent individual countries and which can only be accessed by boat or helicopter, were meant to be one of the Gulf city-state’s crowning developments. Builders have announced plans for a few of the islands, but development has yet to begin on most of them.
A company contracted to provide logistics support to the islands filed a claim with a tribunal that handles cases related to the emirate’s troubled Dubai World conglomerate, alleging that third-party developers had not been encouraged to develop the islands, and said they were being hit by erosion. Nakheel subsidiary The World LLC “did not develop the project as anticipated at the time of the agreement and the project has lain largely undeveloped,” according to the claim filed by Penguin Marine Boats Services LLC. Penguin is contracted to pay “a licence fee of $1.36 million dollars per annum” to conduct operations, but the lack of development on the islands means it has “been unable to develop its business opportunities,” the claim said.
Additionally, “the navigation channels… are presently so ill-defined and the water depths have been so seriously eroded due to reclaimed sand silting up the navigation channels that major reclamation works will henceforth be required.” A lawyer for Penguin Marine, Richard Wilmot-Smith, was quoted by local media as having told the tribunal that “the islands are gradually falling back into the sea.” Nakheel dismissed the allegations as “misleading and mischievous statements. The wholly incorrect and unsupported assertion relating to the state of The World islands was made in the context of a legal case brought against The World LLC by a logistics provider,” the spokesman said.
“Nakheel will continue to protect the interests of its operations and stakeholders and take such action as is appropriate in the circumstances,” he added. The spokesman said that the case “was dismissed with costs awarded in favour of The World LLC. We are vindicated by the court’s decision.” However, a final judgment with reasons for the decision has not yet been posted to the tribunal’s website, where judgments appear after they have been issued. Abu Dhabi-based English-language daily The National said that the tribunal ruled against Penguin but has not yet given its reasons for doing so. Lawyers for Penguin Marine declined to comment, and the company’s general manager Alex Labor said only that “Penguin’s position is… what our lawyers said during the trial.”
Nakheel, which developed Dubai’s iconic palm-shaped islands and the Atlantis luxury hotel among other developments, was hard-hit by the global economic crisis, which led to a sharp fall in Dubai real estate prices. Nakheel was to split from parent company Dubai World, which rocked global financial markets when it announced in November 2010 that it needed to freeze debt payments, under a debt restructuring plan.