His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum officially launched the Mina Rashid Marina project back in early 2016. A scale model of the proposed development was then unveiled to the press and public on the DP World stand at the Dubai International Boat Show. At the time, Mina Rashid was a commercial port that had been handling general cargo, roll-on roll-off ferries and passenger vessels since it opened in 1972, so to see a scale model filled with superyachts, restaurants, leisure facilities and even the QE2, was hugely positive.
I remember the 2016 launch well, and spoke at length to a DP World representative. However, I was aware that, at the time, the planned area for the marina was pretty much barren, apart from three old warehouses. So, with the rest of the boat show to see and meetings to attend, I promptly forgot about the plan. “That was the whole idea!” exclaimed Saeed Al Marri, Mina Rashid Marina’s Senior Manager, during our latest tour of the P&O Marina’s development. “We built the marina and its facilities in almost total secrecy, which meant that we had no outside pressures, other than to meet our targets. We wanted to create a busy marina by word of mouth only.” And that’s what Al Marri did. Even I came across the marina by accident…
My first visit to Mina Port Rashid was in May 2017 to see a car show. The organisers had worked alongside Al Marri to host a Caffeine and Machine event there; a car meet that had everything from an original Mini Cooper to a Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans sports prototype. I was in complete shock, not because my dream car was there (a ’73 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona), but the fact that there were ‘luxury’ pontoons visible from the palm tree lined avenue. A quick check on Google Earth revealed that the berths were indeed in line with the original scale model and then, just as Al Marri had planned, the marina’s landmark launches came thick and fast.
Phase 1 of the project officially opened on Monday the 20th of November 2017, only six months after the Caffeine and Machine event. Inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 13 square kilometre marina featured 500 berths and the Marina Cubes, converted shipping containers, which have proven to be extremely popular. “Originally, we used the containers to hide some of the building work going on behind the marina,” commented Al Marri. “We then decided to convert them into restaurants, cool hang-outs and retail outlets.” As Port Rashid is now serviced by the hugely efficient D75, popping over to the Cubes is quick and easy (they’re only a 30 minute drive from Mall of the Emirates), with lunchtime and weekends being extremely busy for the trendy eateries. The Cubes have become a popular destination for local boaters too, as the marina’s visitor berths are free for the first four hours, perfect if you want to marina-hop for the day.
The colossal 7,500 square metre warehouses on the north parade are also an integral part of the project. Although they look new, they are in fact the original structures – not bad for 45 years old. Michael Johnson Performance Dubai has moved into one of the warehouses, bringing a genuine world-class training facility to the port. The gym has to be seen to be believed, featuring equipment and apparatus that even the semi-fit YACHTS team had never seen before, let alone used.
Outside the gym, there’s a new swimming pool taking shape next to Port Rashid’s control centre, itself an untouched monument of days gone by. As computers have rendered it more or less superfluous, the iconic tower is now being used as a backdrop of yet another cosy eatery named Loz, after the tree that shelters it. Loz also has its own sustainable fruit and veg garden, all of which are used by Loz’s chef. It’s a hidden gem, and this is just the start of it, as the main Port Rashid City development is only 10% complete.
With the marina already 65% full with private vessels (there’s only a handful of charter companies based here), the next phase is based on attracting and catering for superyachts. As Al Marri takes us down one of the recently completed superyacht pontoons, he explains that they are already 70% sold out. Looks like the change of visa regulations that DP World’s Adnan Al Abbar helped push through at last year’s Dubai International Superyacht Summit are coming to fruition, plus the Maldives are now making a stop-off in Dubai even more desirable.
Port Rashid is currently home to a number of the world’s longest superyachts, including (at the time of writing) Dubai (162m), Moonlight 2 (91m), Smeralda (77m) and Luna (115m). The 88 metre Quattroelle is usually berthed here too, but she’s currently ‘next door’ in Dubai Maritime City. Having world class maintenance and refit facilities close by is yet another reason to keep your superyacht at Mina Rashid Marina.
In many ways, it’s the QE2 that signifies the success of the project. Only a few years ago, the world’s most renowned ocean liner appeared to be a 70,327 gross tonne right-off. But, much like the way they went about covertly constructing Mina Rashid Marina, P&O Marinas worked behind the scenes putting 2.7 million man-hours into refurbishing her to meet hotel standards.
P&O Marinas was established to develop world-class locations for the berthing of yachts and the hospitality of their owners, guests and local residents. Mina Rashid Marina is just the beginning and it’s not even remotely finished. The ‘to-do’ list is endless and includes a yacht club, sailing school, captain and crew accommodation, residential towers, walkways, even a roller skate park, all of which are currently under construction.
It’s an epic effort that has come a long way in a very short time, and as P&O Marinas is part of the DP World Group of companies, with a team of 38,000 people from 103 countries behind it, we’re expecting the coming phases to be finished on time and with the same amount of dedication, expertise and passion that was put into Mina