Ocean's twelve

Palm Jebel Ali's reclamation work is almost complete – a true feat considering the project has doubled in size since its conception. Features editor Shikha Mishra and photographer Dmitry Dolzhanskiy take a look.

ANALYSIS, Business

Palm Jebel Ali's reclamation work is almost complete – a true feat considering the project has doubled in size since its conception. Features editor Shikha Mishra and photographer Dmitry Dolzhanskiy take a look.

Thanks to Palm Jebel Ali, its project director Ali Mansour "lost his hair and didn't get married." That statement might have been made by Mansour in jest, but he has been living and breathing the island project to the exclusion of everything else for the past six years.

And his efforts have paid off - as the island nears completion, it is now double the size of Palm Jumeirah, with more to offer in terms of development and facilities.


The Palm Jebel Ali on completion will deliver 12 million km² of development land compared to the six million km² originally planned.

Concerns have been raised about the fact that the design for Palm Jebel Ali has been revised numerous times, which might push back its completion date.

But this is Dubai we are talking about and altering the usually set-in-stone master plan is de rigueur for many projects. The Palm Jebel Ali is no exception.

Holding the current master plan in hand, Mansour says that he is uncertain about the number of modifications to come.

But one thing is guaranteed - as the size of the project has doubled - the Palm Jebel Ali on completion will deliver 12 million km2 of development land compared to the six million km2 that was originally planned when work on the project began in 2002.

Most of the extension work is concentrated around the fronds and the crown area.

"The distance between the frond tips and the crown was very wide at 1500m compared to the Palm Jumeirah where the same distance is 500m, so it was decided after doing a feasibility study to extend the fronds," says Mansour.

Changes to the project's specifications and land use were also made because of competition faced by forthcoming developments in neighbouring Abu Dhabi. The Dubai Waterfront project was also announced three years after work began on Palm Jebel Ali.

Palm Jebel Ali will be connected to the mainland by three bridges, M1, M2 and M3. The M1 bridge will be 1,200m long, with four lanes on both sides. Piling work for the bridge has been completed.

The M2 bridge, Nakheel claims, will be "iconic". Designed by Royal Haskoning Architects of the Netherlands, the 450m bridge consists mainly of a deck resembling a hammock, suspended by cables tied to two 135m pylons.

The lighting study of the bridge is being finalised, and the tender documents are being complied.

The M3 bridge will span 1400m while the cross-over channel brides - C1, C3 and C4 - will be 350m long. The M2 bridge is projected to span 450m and the trunk- spine bridge will be 400m long, while a 1000m submarine tunnel will connect the upper left quadrant with the crown.

"The total length of bridges on the island will span 10km in two directions," says Mansour.

It is also proposed that the crown of the Palm Jebel Ali be re-shaped from its original outline to resemble a whale.

As a joint venture with Busch Entertainment Corporation, Nakheel will build four recreational parks - Seaworld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove on the whale-shaped crown.

Another digression from the master plan is the widening of the island's spine. Originally it was exactly the same as in Palm Jumeirah - a 200m-wide corridor for traffic and utilities to branch onto the fronds on either side.

"But the spine on the Palm Jebel Ali has been widened to a width of 450m to accommodate multi-storey buildings," says Mansour.

Ultimately, the island will house up to 300,000 residents in a total of 13.5 million m2 of built-up areas beside the gorgeous azure sea, but currently it is the 130m launching gantry crane that is enjoying the view.

A gantry crane of that size takes almost two months to assemble and is counted among the world's largest cranes.

"The traveller gantry crane is to assemble the prefabricated section of the bridge's deck - the plan is to move one span which is 50m between two piers every week," says Mansour.

The Emirates Marine Environmental Group has an on-site office to monitor water quality and check the growth of aquatic life, aside from cleaning up floating debris in the water and on the beaches.

Mansour says that a definite date for the completion of the project is hard to pin down as it is partly dependent on external factors such as when Dewa will be able to power up the island. "It is expected that the first resident will move in by the first quarter of 2011."

In the blazing morning sun, the island looks calm and deserted but due to its size, the construction activity is scattered and not immediately apparent.

"Work is progressing very quickly. Currently there are not many harbours or marinas in the world where you will find six excavators, eight dumpers and three dedicated barges with tugboats, working simultaneoulsy around the clock to complete one designated sector of a breakwater," says Mansour.

On another corner of the island, vibro compaction work is underway to settle the ground, which can take from 10 to 15 years, if left to occur naturally. Vibro-compaction increases the ground density by reducing the voids between the sand particles using vibrating (compressed air and water) probes.

This process is the last step before any building activity can begin.

The rock sea defence wall surrounding the island currently stands at 20,000m (and before you ask, it is the world's longest rock wall).

The populations of turtles, warm-water fish and dolphins have been noticeably growing along the area as the rock wall acts as an artificial reef and attracts and supports the marine life.

Once complete, Palm Jebel Ali promises to be an idyllic place to live - beautiful water homes on stilts, dolphins frolicking on the gentle sea waves and greenery as far as the eyes can see. What remains to be seen is the exact date of when this dream will turn into reality.


Palm Jebel Ali team

Current number of workers on-site: 2,500

Hydraulics:  Delft Hydraulics, Netherlands

Rockworks: Royal Haskoning, - Netherlands

Soil densification work: Joint venture between Sol Etanche Bachy and APCC

Bridge works

Designers: Halcrow - Royal Haskoning

Bridge contractors: Taisei (Japan) and Samsung (Korea)

Roads and infrastructure supervision: Hyder Consulting

Road and infrastructure Contractors: Al Rajihi Group - Wade Adams

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