The three-storey Floating Seahorse boasts a rooftop jacuzzi, terrace and an underwater bedroom with its own coral garden. Image Credit: Supplied

DUBAI: Villa, boat, vessel, hotel or holiday home? The Dh15 million Floating Seahorse, a model of which sank off Burj Al Arab Hotel on January 3, is none of these.

So just what is it? For now, developer Kleindienst that has sold over a hundred such units off-plan has no convincing answer.

The Austrian group could not tell which local authority in Dubai it’s registered with or, more importantly, who is regulating it.

In Dubai, the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) governs real estate while the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) is responsible for regulating, coordinating and supervising all aspects of the maritime sector.

Not us, say government agencies

Both government agencies categorically told XPRESS that the Floating Seahorse Project was not under their purview.

 The company marketed to sell this vessel is licensed by Dubai Maritme City Authority”

 - Khalifa Alsalafa, Dubai Land Department

“RERA has received some inquiries from clients in regard to the Floating Seahorse Project for the purchase of a public compound in the form of a villa. After reviewing the contracts of the boat it is clear that the company marketed to sell this vessel is licensed by Dubai Maritime City Authority,” said Khalifa Alsalafa, senior director of the Trust Account Department at the Dubai Land Department.

However, the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) denied it has anything to do with the Floating Seahorse. “We have nothing to do with this project,” DMCA said in an email response to an XPRESS query.

  We have nothing to do with this project”

 - Dubai Maritime City Authority

Notwithstanding this -- and fears sparked by the sinking of their prototype recently -- David Stafford, chief commercial officer at Kleindienst claimed nothing is amiss and the project is well on track.

“The Floating Seahorse is meant for breakwaters. It sank because it was put on high seas for which it’s not designed,” he said. So how did it end up there? By Kleindienst Group’s own admission, they had taken it there for a New Year Eve bash.

Unmindful of the risk to human lives, it was used as the centre stage for the party and provided lights, music and DJs to nearby yachts from which revellers watched the NY fireworks.

Nothing untoward happened that night. But three days later, it did. Fortunately no one was onboard.

“Nobody was inside or around the house,” said Lt. Col. Ahmad Atiq Burqibah, Deputy Director of the Search and Rescue Department at Dubai Police. “We rushed to the scene and reached the area within eight minutes. The waves were 6 to 8 feet high and the seas were rough,” he recalled.

A Floating Seahorse model which keeled over while being transported to the Heart of Europe.

Billed as the epitome of luxury and extravagance, the Floating Seahorse is a key part of Kleindienst’s The Heart of Europe development, a manmade archipelago on The World Islands, around 4 km off the coast of Dubai.

The company has been actively promoting it across various malls in the city. Raving reports of the project are routinely published across major local and international publications. A UK-based production house has also been filming it for Discovery Channel’s series Impossible Builds.

Evasive response

In response to XPRESS queries, Kleindienst sent out a detailed response but did not specify which government entity the project is registered with and who is regulating it. All it said was: “The Floating Seahorse lies at the cutting edge of development, the world’s first luxury floating above and underwater living experience. Given the unique nature of the project, regulations for these types of developments are evolving all the time and we are at the forefront of assisting various government departments to achieve this.” Who exactly were these government departments, we were never told. Instead, we got a vague response. It read: “Current government guidelines provide for floating home classifications so the authorities have already envisaged this type of development occurring in the UAE, but Kleindienst is the first to mass produce the above and underwater concept.”

Right: DMCA's navigation warning alerting vessels about the sinking of a Floating Seahorse prototype near Burj Al Arab Hotel on January 3.

The group said that the Floating Seahorse is considered a "floating unit" by the UAE’s Federal Transportation Authority and that the majority of the units will be used for short-term resort accommodation and personal use by owners. “It is unlikely that people will permanently live in them,” Kleindienst Group said, adding that they are working closely with the authorities and the master developer [Nakheel] to ensure that all current regulations are complied with for all their products.

Kleindienst said the first two phases of the Floating Seahorses have been sold out and handovers will commence this year in line with the opening of the first stage of the resort facilities. But the likelihood of that happening anytime soon looks remote. So far the company has completed only three seahorses.

One sank near Burj Al Arab, another toppled into the sea while being transported onsite and the third, being used as a mock up is supported by tonnes of sandbags to keep it stable.

The Floating Seahorse just before it sank.

Investors have been told that their units are under construction at the Drydocks. It’s anybody’s guess if the project will get the nod of authorities. What recourse investors will have if it doesn’t is also not known.

Kleindienst claimed that the Floating Seahorse has been designed and built by “their team of leading international specialists from 25 different countries.” But it skipped the question of whether the designs have been cleared by authorities as mandated by law.

  We approved only the concept of a series of non-motorised houseboats to be permanently moored at their locations and used as dwelling units subject to relevant authorities’ approval”


“The Floating Seahorse concept has been approved by the master developer [Nakheel] and the relevant government departments and as we complete the internal fitouts and final site locations within the project, further regulatory approvals will be completed as required,” Kleindienst said.

However, Nakheel said: “We approved only the concept of a series of non-motorised houseboats to be permanently moored at their designated locations and used as dwelling units, subject to relevant authorities’ approvals.

Our approval process covers items such as floor areas, built-up area and plot area – or in this case sea area – coverage. Technical assessments, safety specifications and other items are covered by the relevant Dubai authorities, whose approval is needed before any development can take place.”

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