In the race for bigger and better on the open sea, a Dubai craft considered to be the world's largest yacht has been eclipsed. The Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich unveiled his 558ft (170-metre) vessel, the Eclipse, in Germany last week, overshadowing the Dubai, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. When fully completed in 2010, the Eclipse will out-nose the Dubai by about nine metres.
The Eclipse was put to sea close to the shipyard where the it has been under construction for the past two years, according to the German newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost. The Dubai has been making waves since 2006, when Sheikh Mohammed acquired the vessel, originally commissioned by Prince Jefri of Brunei. According to Platinum Yachts, the Dubai-based builder, the Dubai can accommodate 115 people and boasts a swimming pool, spa bath, outdoor areas, two heli-observation rooms and VIP suites.
By comparison, the Eclipse has a private submarine, armoured hull, bulletproof windows and a missile deflection system to provide protection against pirates. She also has more comfort-focused amenities, such as a cinema, library, garden and restaurant. Mr Abramovich has three other yachts. He also owns Chelsea football club and was recently listed by Forbes Magazine as the 51st richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$8.5 billion (Dh31.2bn).
Sheikh Mohammed's office did not respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, a Dubai company plans to build a yacht to rival the Eclipse in size. The boat is to be 170m long and built by Aquiva, a sub-division of the Khalid al Gurair group. The yacht is to be moored at Thames Quay, adjacent to the Canary Wharf business district and opposite a new development of luxurious housing, boutiques and restaurants. It is designed to be a floating hotel so large it will be hauled into place rather than be powered by its own engine.