Dubai: Leviathan icebergs will be towed from the Antarctic to the UAE’s Fujairah coastline by early 2020 to be melted into pure, polar ice water for humanitarian and commercial distribution, says the Emirati visionary who first proposed the ambitious effort last year.
But before large ocean going vessels attempt the 12,000-kilometre journey to tow leviathan icebergs from the Heard Island in the South Pole to the coast of Fujairah, the firm is planning a shorter pilot run in early 2019 that would float an iceberg to Australia or alternatively the southern coast of South Africa, said Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi, managing director of National Adviser Bureau Limited.
“We have been working hard on the project for the past year and are moving to the next stages,” Al Shehi told Gulf News in an interview on Sunday, noting the full project details will be revealed in a press conference by December.
To protect investments made so far by his privately-owned firm, Al Shehi said he has successfully filed patents in the United Kingdom while preparing to launch the pilot iceberg project next year.
“The patents have been filed for the technology in the UK, some for the towing and another for reducing the melting rate during the journey,” Al Shehi said.
An average large iceberg contains more than 20 billion gallons of water, enough for one million people over five years, he said, and given their size of more than a dozen storeys tall in some instances and the length of a football pitch, large icebergs do not easily melt even in warmer sea waters.
Following highly detailed analysis commissioned by experts in Europe and New York City, the $50-million ‘UAE Iceberg Project’ has also launched its website as it prepares to set up a scientific panel to move the effort to next stages.
“National Adviser Bureau Limited announced the launch of the official UAE-Iceberg Project website: ‘www.icebergs.world’ to highlight the most significant stages of the project, and its intended benefits in relation to the environment and the economy,” Al Shehi’s firm said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“The launch of the website coincides with the Year of Zayed, as the project aims to support the response to water calamities such as drought worldwide, and support other water projects aimed to promote the humanitarian work.”
The company said it is working on new technology to make the project feasible with the help of experts across a number of fields.
“A scientific committee is now being set up consisting of scientists, experts, and specialists in the nature of Antarctica, icebergs and marine science, in addition to initiating collaboration with water research centres and universities worldwide,” the company said, adding it is “developing a unique technology which would reduce project costs, ensure zero ice melting during the transportation phase, and facilitate water-transfer processes to customers at minimal costs.”
Once towed to Fujairah, Al Shehi said a special process would be used to chip away the icebergs and move them to shore where they would be melted and treated at a water-processing port and stored in industrial-sized water tanks for bottling in a large commercial facility.
The iceberg project could also bring side benefits to the UAE such as drawing tourists to the country who want to see the spectacle of huge ice monuments floating offshore.
Flotillas of icebergs from the Arctic, for example, routinely drift southward in the Atlantic Ocean past cities such as St John’s, Newfoundland, down the eastern coast of Canada and draw tourists every year.
The presence of new giant icebergs in waters off the UAE would also create micro-climates and would help bring more rain to the arid landscape,
“The project would place the UAE on the glacial tourism map as the first desert country to offer glacial tourism on its coasts, saving iceberg enthusiasts the trouble of travelling to the North and South Poles,” said the firm in a press release on Sunday.
“The icebergs are expected to cause a unique climatic phenomenon as the cold icebergs would attract the clouds over the Arabian Sea to the centre of the icebergs, thus creating a vortex that will cause rainfalls. It will also assist in providing fresh water to the region, making the UAE a hub for exporting water to the world,” the firm said.
■ Icebergs are good source of water
■ Currently 1.2 billion People do not have access to clean water.
■ By 2030 The UN estimate that 50 per cent global population could be facing water shortages.
■ Desalination has been going on for sometimes now; but the process remains incredibly expensive and very energy intensive.
■ Currently R D is on the final stage of developing a unique technology to harvest icebergs and deliver them to nations around the world with a more competitive pricing in comparison to desalination.
■ It’s expected to start the trial run by second quarter of 2019 and to the eastern coast of UAE by the end of 2019.