'QE2' to become a floating business hub - as Palm Jumeirah move is ruled out

The famous ocean liner remains key to major plans to revitalise Port Rashid, top official says

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The Queen Elizabeth 2 remains at the heart of an ambitious Dh25 billion master plan for Port Rashid and is "going nowhere".

Hamza Mustafa, chief executive of the British vessel’s operator, PCFC Investments, dismissed long-standing speculation over a move to the Palm Jumeirah.

The former Cunard Line flagship once seem destined to find a home off the man-made island when it was purchased by the private equity arm of Dubai World for $100 million (Dh367m) in 2007.

After a decade of uncertainty, the once-gleaming jewel in the British fleet opened as a museum and hotel near the city's old town in 2018.

The QE2 is at the centre of the development's master plan as an anchor. She is going nowhere

The QE2 is key to plans to transform the port into a cruise and yachting hub, complete with waterfront retail, dining and leisure facilities.

"The QE2 is at the centre of the development's master plan as an anchor," said Mr Mustafa.

“It has a draft of eight metres, so you would have to dredge a new channel to move her. She is going nowhere.

“We can’t take her to The Palm or Jumeirah Beach Residence as the costs would never be viable.

"The QE2 complements this area and the cruise ships that come here."

Now the vessel is embarking on a new chapter in its storied history, as a venue for burgeoning captains of industry.

Level Q of the QE2 has been taken over by office space for new businesses in what is Dubai's latest trading free zone.

Kiklabb, a company government-owned by Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation Investments, offers trade licences, workspaces, and services aimed at assisting businesses in Dubai, all with a sea view.

“For me it was a very big decision to change this space from a very famous restaurant with a lot of history where the Queen once dined to a dynamic business hub,” said Mr Mustafa said.

“We have a lot of faith in this being a success.

“This area has a redevelopment plan with DP World and Emaar in a joint venture to transform this whole area into a commercial zone.”

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Spread over 2,300 square metres, 32 desks and co-working spaces, 20 offices and four meeting rooms are available to rent.

The Q deck of the QE2, also home to the Lido restaurant, is one of 13 levels but not all have been returned to their original glory.

Office equipment and glass-walled conference rooms are metres from huge portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The partnership may seem incongruous, but the heritage and kudos of such a landmark vessel has been one of the attractions for entrepreneurs and international firms happy to part with fees starting from Dh18,000.

Businesses can choose either a trade licence under a Dubai free zone arrangement or a Dubai on-shore licence.

Industry analysts say flexible workspaces similar to those on-board the QE2 will constitute 60 per cent of all office demand in the GCC by 2025.

So far, 241 of the ship’s 1,000 rooms have been renovated and are ready for use.

Expansion plans include about 400 further workspaces across an entire deck of the ship.

“The most popular licence people inquire about is for general trading and investments,” said Tasawar Ulhaq, chief executive of Kiklabb.

“A lot of entrepreneurs want a licence, but they don’t know which one suits them so we can help with that.

“With tech start-ups, for example, we can offer specialist advice that suits their business idea.”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , Feb 10  – 2020 :-  Guests during the opening of Kiklabb at the Queen Elizabeth 2 in Dubai.  Kiklabb offers private offices, co-working spaces and flexi desks. (Pawan  Singh / The National) For News. Story by Nick Webster
Kiklabb offers private offices, co-working spaces and flexi desks, with a sea view on offer too. Pawan Singh / The National

Kiklabb also offers banking arrangements with Mashreq and health insurance through Noor Takaful to relieve other complications of starting a new business.

Internet speeds on-board are promised to be about 600 megabits per second, another boon for high-tech start-ups in need of web-conference facilities.

“A lot of the small businesses we have will work from here for 10 days a month, and spend the rest of their time with clients,” said Mr Ulhaq.

“Once you have a licence, you can start to work straight away from here rather than wait the usual four weeks.

“That is the big appeal for many.”


QE2 in Dubai - in pictures