Dubai creating 72 miles of coast with man-made islands

Thirty years ago it was known locally as the Pirates’ Coast and consisted of a creek, a sheikh’s palace and not much else. Now Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates, is adding 72 miles of coastline to its existing 25 and is imprinting a spectacle on the Earth that can be seen from space.

Two man-made islands, The Palm Jumeirah and The Palm Jebel Ali, will be 15.5 miles apart and will be built in the shape of date palm trees. The shape was chosen because its geometry creates maximum beach frontage.

The Palm Jumeirah will be primarily a retreat and residential area for relaxation and leisure, while The Palm Jebel Ali will be an entertainment destination for children and adults. It will be 50 percent larger than The Palm Jumeirah and will include six marinas, a “sea village” and a water theme park, according to The Emirates Network.

While The Palm Jumeirah is complete, The Palm Jebel Ali is still under construction, but it is already one of the world’s largest man-made islands.

More than 5 million cubic yards of rock armor and 154 million cubic yards of sand needed to be dredged and deposited to create a palm “trunk” that extends 3.7 miles into the Persian Gulf and whose outer protective crescent extends over 11 miles. The dredging subcontractor is Belgium-based Jan de Nul, which has 18 years of dredging experience and the world’s largest hopper and cutter dredgers.

These machines are ideal for creating an island. The hopper dredger sucks sand off the seabed, while the cutter dredger can work up to 98 feet deep. The dredged material is then deposited accurately using satellite positioning onto a rock bed. Next, the sand is hydraulically compacted to prevent it from falling back into the sea.

The logistics of such a vast project are complex. Up to 400 fully loaded trucks arrive on site daily with 22,000 tons of aggregate and rock armor from quarries around the United Arab Emirates.

Because every machine failure has the potential to affect the entire process, Jan de Nul invested in 26 pieces of new machinery, including eight Volvo articulated haulers and two Volvo wheel loaders.

“This environment is not good for equipment with sand, dust and salt water plus high temperatures and high humidity,” said Rob Van Der Lienden, project manager on the rock works. “We chose each brand of equipment based on what they were good at. The Volvos are very good in difficult terrains.”

A building slated to be the world’s tallest is also being built in Dubai. Click here to read about the Dubai Tower.