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Wed 15 Aug 2012 03:36 PM

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Dubai’s Port Rashid restarts Iran ferry services

DP World-run port’s passenger terminal has undergone a four-month refurbishment

Dubai’s Port Rashid restarts Iran ferry services
(Getty Images)

Dubai’s Port Rashid has restarted passenger ferry services from Dubai to cities in the region, with the first vessel operating to Iran, operators DP World confirmed on Tuesday.

Following the upgrading and refurbishment of the port and the transfer of container services to Jebel Ali Port, the port is to focus on passenger ferry and cruise traffic going forward.

The first vessel to arrive earlier this week was Hormuz-12, which carried 190 passengers from the Port of Bandar Lengeh in Iran. Following a welcome ceremony, the ferry later departed on its return voyage with 250 passengers on board.

"For 40 years, Port Rashid has played a central role in connecting Dubai to the region and the rest of the world. Since the transfer of all container vessel operations to Jebel Ali Port four years ago, we have focused on developing Port Rashid as a centre for passengers visiting Dubai,” said Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of DP World in the UAE Region.

“We have developed the largest cruise terminal in the region there, and now we are delighted to once more welcome regional ferry passengers to the Port Rashid Passenger Terminal in the very heart of Dubai," he added.

The statement did not give any further details of which other ports would be operating ferry services from Port Rashid.

Last month, Dubai announced it was to relaunch the iconic QE2 cruise liner as a 300-room luxury floating hotel, as part of plans to transform its current home at Port Rashid into the emirate’s newest tourist attraction.

The 293m long vessel was bought from Cunard for around US$100m in June 2007 by Istithmar, an investment company owned by the government of Dubai.

Originally set to be refurbished as the central attraction in a maritime-themed development on Palm Jumeirah, this plan was scrapped in the wake of the financial crisis and the downturn in the Dubai property market.

The cruise terminal at Dubai’s Port Rashid is now set to become the liner’s permanent home and it will be converted into a 300-room luxury hotel, with the terminal developed to include a maritime museum. The refurbishment work is expected to take 18 months to complete.

Neither Istithmar nor DP World, which runs Port Rashid, gave details on how much the redevelopment of QE2 and the shipping terminal would cost, or who would provide financing.

According to Bloomberg, Istithmar is currently in talks with three hoteliers, including Jumeirah Group, to manage the property.

The 44-year old vessel has remained moored at Port Rashid since October 2011, but it was resurrected as a hospitality venue last year when it played host to a red carpet New Year’s Eve party with minor celebrities, fireworks and entertainment.

Organisers claimed the party would mark a “new lease of life” for the vessel since it was retired in 2008, making its last commercial voyage from Southampton to Dubai.

It was retired in 2008 and made its last voyage to Dubai that year, when it joined trophy assets such as luxury New York retailer Barneys and Cirque du Soleil in Istithmar’s portfolio.

Dubai’s Port Rashid has seen a rapid rise in business from the cruise industry and hosted 108 ships with 396,554 passengers in 2011.

In the first six months of 2012, 71 vessels with 275,000 tourists have moored in Dubai, with this set to rise to 145 cruise ships and 500,000 passengers by 2015, according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), DP World’s strategic partner.

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