Although the Germany island in Dubai's The World archipelago will one day feature multimillion-dirham holiday homes and have a floating hotel off its white sand shores, its first residents will be 100 Indian construction workers. They will start arriving on the island in two weeks and will live in cabins powered by generators. Food and water will arrive daily by boat.
"It's a different kind of project," said Deepak Arora, the chief executive of City Diamond Construction. "It should be interesting for the workers." City Diamond was hired recently to begin the first phase of "The Heart of Europe", a group of six islands being developed by Kleindienst Group. The first priority is to build 20 villas for holidaymakers. Twelve are already sold. Building on islands presents special challenges to a contractor, Mr Arora said. City Diamond will need to hire a barge and a passenger ship to carry materials and personnel daily from Port Rashid in Dubai, which will add about 25 per cent to the costs.
"Once you sort out the logisitics, then construction is quite normal," he said. "But sea transportation is not easy. You have to look at weather conditions. It's time consuming. A barge can only do two trips a day." A 50-tonne vibro compaction machine used to make ground more stable has already been shipped to the site for initial works at a cost of Dh60,000 (US$16,337), said Josef Kleindienst, the principal of the group. "That is just one trip," he said.
Mr Kleindienst said he was selling off assets in eight of the 11 countries he invested in to raise money for the Heart of Europe project. With those funds, he said he could now finance 30 per cent of the Dh3bn-plus project. He said once people were on site and there was a buzz about The World, he felt he could raise the remaining money needed from banks and other lenders. "The other developers and island owners are watching us closely to see if our business model works," Mr Kleindienst said. "If we are able to earn money, they will follow."
The World project, a group of more than 200 islands shaped in the form of the planet's landmasses, was launched in 2003 by the now troubled property company Nakheel. Construction of the islands was completed in 2008. But the global financial crisis led island owners to delay construction of the high-end villa and hotel projects that were previously announced. Some observers still see the islands as prime territory to develop homes and hotels catering to wealthy tourists.
"I was out there in January and there were manta rays jumping in the air and flying fish," said Jean van Gysel, a Belgian baron and the owner of the Greece island. "They were going to kill this project by massively overbuilding it but now that that's not going to happen because of the crisis, I think the few projects that progress are going to be beautiful." Meanwhile, Baron van Gysel's plans to build 34 hotel suites and 18 villas are on hold, he said.