Dubai dry docks

Year:1983

Duration:5 years

Cost:£232m (£719m today)

Country: Dubai, UAE

What did this project achieve?

Construct a complex of dry docks for building and repairing huge ships

Dubai dry docks is the only large dry docks facility in the Persian Gulf. Opening in 1983, it's the largest ship repair facility in the Middle East and one of the world's leading shipyards.

Spread over 200 hectares, the yard has a 350m wide entrance channel and repair berths of about 2,400m. It handles around 350 vessels year - mostly very large and ultra-large crude oil tankers.

The facility has 3 docks; Dock 1 (366m long and 66m wide), dock 2 (521m long and 100m wide) and dock 3 (411m long and 80m wide). It also has a floating dock 205m long and 32m wide.

Previously a centuries-old merchants' port, the shipyard was transformed into a modern maritime facility by a major programme of construction between 1978 and 1983.

Since it opened the upgraded dry dock has repaired and fitted out more than 6,600 vessels with a combined tonnage of over 500m tonnes. Port bosses claim most of the world's major shipping and tanker companies have used the facility.

The yard also contains the Middle East's largest floating crane and has been building ships since 1994. It's completed over 70 projects – including hulls for drilling rigs.

The dock employs more than 10,000 skilled workers from 30 countries. The scheme can call on another 4,000 local subcontractors for bigger projects.

The port has plans to expand and has recently rebranded as Drydocks World.

Difference the dry docks have made

The 1983 construction programme established Dubai dry docks as one of the leading ship repair facilities in the Middle East.

The scheme played a large part in raising Dubai's profile as a major player in the global economy.

The shipyard provides employment for up to 14,000 workers. It's a major contributor to both the regional and local economies.

How the work was done

Engineers designed the scheme with docks built out from the shoreline, rather than on existing ground. The structures were grouped together so that pump houses and heavy lifting cranes could be used for adjacent docks.

The project team constructed the dock walls from concrete caisson units. These were built on shore and lifted into place by crane.

A caisson is a large watertight chamber, open at the bottom. Air pressure keeps water out of the structure. Once in place, workers filled the caissons with sand - most of this came from excavations on other parts of the scheme.

Engineers built a village of workshops onsite for the 5 year project. They included a pipe-making facility – which turned out 40km of pipework – a grit-blasting plant and a steel yard.

Other facilities included a carpenters' shop and a plant that produced around 250 tons of ventilation ductwork.

Over 700 engineers and skilled workers were brought in from overseas to build the docks. The project also employed 6,000 manual workers.

Engineers used approximately 85,000 tons of reinforcing concrete, 330,000 tons of cement and 850,000m³ of concrete for the scheme.

The project also used around 4m tons of rock for construction of the dock's breakwaters – the structures were up to 4km long and 17 metres high.

"​‌

The largest ship repair, conversion and new building yard between Europe and the Far East.

Geoff Taylor

CEO Dubai dry docks, 2009

Fascinating facts

Architects and engineers produced over 10,500 drawings for designing and building the facility.

Dubai sees around 255 days a year without rain. The mostly-dry climate is often credited as part of the docks' success.

The shipyard has won the British Safety Council Sword of Honour award 3 times. The industry award is given to organisations that have 'reached the pinnacle in the world of health, safety and environmental management'.

People who made it happen

  • Client: United Arab Emirates government
  • Contractors: Halcrow, Costain

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