Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Dubai Waterfront's cranes now for sale

Nakheel is selling 13 unused tower cranes intended for use in the stalled Dubai Waterfront development.
Cranes stand idle at the Dubai Waterfront project in 2009. Charles Crowell / Bloomberg News
Cranes stand idle at the Dubai Waterfront project in 2009. Charles Crowell / Bloomberg News

The skyline was once dominated by them. Construction cranes used to tower above Dubai like gigantic symbols of success.

But now, in a sign that times are changing, Nakheel is selling unused construction cranes intended for the Dubai Waterfront development, once billed as the largest waterfront project in the world.

The developer behind Palm Jumeirah and The World has placed an advertisement in a newspaper offering 13 "new and unused" tower cranes.

"Some of the tower cranes are partially erected and remaining are stocked in unopened boxes as delivered by manufacturer," the ad said. "But none of them are used for operations."

The cranes, which could cost about Dh1 million (US$272,000) each, will be sold by sealed bid, which must be in by January 8, the company said. Nakheel executives could not be reached for further comment.

The Waterfront was an ambitious project designed to create a new city on the road between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, west of Palm Jebel Ali. The project was built around canals and man-made islands and it would have been twice the size of Hong Kong and house 1.5 million people, according to Nakheel promotional materials.

The master plan for Waterfront City, designed by Rem Koolhaas, called for a dense grid of skyscrapers covering 139 million-square-metres, including marinas, shaded parks and modern transportations systems.

The most eye-catching element was a 44-storey orb perched on one corner of the island. It was quickly dubbed the "Death Star," thanks to its resemblance to Darth Vader's spaceship in Star Wars.

The design would "establish Dubai as a centre of urban experimentation", The New York Times reported.

At the early stages of construction, Nakheel reported that 3,000 diggers and trucks and more than 20,000 workers were involved in the development.

Cranes covering the landscape were once a symbol of the construction boom in the UAE. At the height of the building frenzy, it was widely reported that 25 per cent of the world's construction cranes were in operation in Dubai.

That number was largely debunked, with few experts able to accurately calculate how many cranes were in Dubai at the time.

"How do you count, and when do you retire them?" Will Dalrymple, the editor of Cranes Today magazine, told The Wall Street Journal in 2008. "Who keeps numbers on when they're retired? Nobody does."

The Waterfront project stalled when the market slowed and Nakheel began to struggle with its debt. In August the developer formally separated from Dubai World as it completed restructuring Dh40 billion (US$10.9bn) of debt.

In a prospectus issued for support of a bond, Nakheel identified the first phase of the Veneto and Badrah neighbourhoods, and "associated infrastructure of certain phases of the Madinat Al Arab land plot development", as near-term projects.

"In other areas of the development, infrastructure work has been classified as a longer-term project until demand in those areas increases," the company said.

About $960bn in projects have either been cancelled or delayed in the UAE, according to a report from Citi Investment Research and Analysis. About $20bn in projects were added to the cancelled list in recent months, the report said.

"Given the slowdown in this market we believe there is further risk of cancellations," it concluded.

The UAE managed $14bn of construction contracts in the year to October, a 58 per cent fall compared with the same period last year, Citi said.


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