Saudi coast guard rescues Iranian oil ship in Red Sea

Time: May 02, 2019  

All 26 crew members are safe. (Reuters)
  • Saudi authorities said various government agencies were involved in the operation, including those who handle environmental protection
  • The vessel had a crew of 26, including 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis

 DUBAI: Saudi Arabia said Thursday it was responding to an emergency involving an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Jiddah, and analysts said the vessel carried over 1 million barrels of fuel oil and might be leaking.

There was no immediate report on the incident in Iran, which suffered an oil tanker disaster last year in the East China Sea that killed 32 sailors and now faces a US pressure campaign over its oil sales.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run television channels and news agency said authorities received a distress call from the Happiness I over an “engine failure and the loss of control.”

The vessel had a crew of 26, including 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, Saudi state media said. They described the ship’s position as some 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Jiddah in the Red Sea.

Saudi authorities said various government agencies were involved in the operation, including those who handle environmental protection. It did not elaborate on whether oil had spilled from the tanker.

The website, whose analysts monitor oil sales on the seas, estimated the Happiness I carried at least 1.1 million barrels of fuel oil. It said the ship sailed in tandem with another smaller sister ship named the Sabiti.

The Happiness I stopped its engines Tuesday, then was shadowed by the Sabiti close enough to have its crew escape, TankerTrackers said. Two tugboats from Saudi Arabia appeared to have reached the ships, TankerTrackers said.

TankerTrackers said an oil leak was possible on the Happiness I, though it gave no details.

“We cannot conclude what caused the leak, but given how abruptly things happened, it does seem like something surprised them otherwise we would have seen the vessels slow down or deviate in an attempt to avoid an incident,” the website said.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are chief Mideast rivals. Iran now faces increased pressure from the US over its oil sales after President Donald Trump pulled America out of its nuclear deal with world powers. Iran has warned it will respond aggressively to any attempt to cut its oil exports to zero, as the Trump administration has pledged to do.

In January 2018, the Iranian oil tanker Sanchi struck the Chinese freighter CF Crystal 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai in the East China Sea. The Sanchi, carrying nearly 1 million barrels of a gassy, ultra-light oil bound for South Korea, burst into flames.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Red Sea project to offer visa on arrival for tourists

May 27, 201812:13

  • Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project has been registered as a standalone company

  • The venture will be will be headed by John Pagano, former director of London’s Canary Wharf business zone

The Saudi government revealed plans to develop resorts on some 50 islands off the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast. (SPA)

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project will offer visas on arrival for overseas visitors following the creation of a company to deliver the ambitious project.
The project marked a milestone on Sunday with its incorporation as a standalone closed joint-stock company, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), wholly owned by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The company, which in October announced Virgin Group founder Richard Branson as one of its board members, on Sunday said it had recruited John Pagano, the former managing director of development for the UK’s Canary Wharf Group as its chief executive.
The newly-incorporated company will now move forward with the creation of its Special Economic Zone, with its own regulatory framework, it said in a statement.
The framework will be separate from the base economy, with a special emphasis on environmental sustainability, and will offering visa on entry, relaxed social norms, and improved business regulations.
“The destination will provide a unique sense of place for visitors and offer nature lovers, adventurers, cultural explorers and guests looking to escape and rejuvenate, a wide range of exclusive experiences, combining luxury, tranquillity, adventure and beautiful landscapes,” said Pagano.
The first phase of The Red Sea Project — which will occupy an area greater than the size of Belgium between the cities of Al-Wajh and Umluj — will include hotels and residential units, along with a new costal town, an airport and a marina, and is due for completion by late 2022, the company said.
Authorities hope the project will create as many as 35,000 jobs and contribute SR15 billion ($3.99 billion) to the local economy.
The project, unveiled last July by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is one of the key developments in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to develop its tourism sector, alongside Qiddiya, an entertainment resort near Riyadh that will be two-and-a-half times the size of Disney World.
The country’s Vision 2030 economic development plan is targeting the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in the Saudi tourism sector by 2030.

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Saudi hires ex-Canary Wharf executive for Red Sea tourism project

May 27, 2018

RIYADH, May 27 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project, a vast tourist development aimed at opening the economy, has been registered as a standalone company and will be headed by a former director of London’s Canary Wharf business zone, the country’s sovereign wealth fund said on Sunday.

In July, the Saudi government revealed plans to develop resorts on some 50 islands off the kingdom’s Red Sea coast and said the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, will make initial investments and seek partnerships with international investors and hoteliers.

The Red Sea Project, part of an ambitious strategy to open the economy and ease social restrictions, will be built between the cities of Amlaj and al-Wajh, will offer a nature reserve, heritage sites and diving in coral reefs. It will break ground in the third quarter of 2019 and complete its first phase in late 2022.

PIF has two other major initiatives: NEOM – a $500 billion business and industrial zone extending into Egypt and Jordan – and Qiddiya, a multi-billion dollar entertainment resort that will be 2-1/2 times the size of Disney World.

“The Ministry of Commerce and Investment has registered The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) as a closed joint-stock company wholly owned by PIF,” a statement emailed to Reuters said.

John Pagano, the former managing director for development, of the Canary Wharf Group in London, has been appointed as chief executive officer, it said.

The Red Sea Development Co will create a special economic zone with its own regulatory framework, visas on entry, relaxed social norms, and improved business regulations, the statement said, adding this will enable it to develop and deliver a world-class international tourist destination.

The fund, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is believed to have assets totalling about $183 billion and is set to receive a cash injection next year after the share sale of state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

The crown prince has said more than half of the proceeds from that sale would be reinvested domestically to develop promising Saudi non-oil sectors. (Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Saeed Azhar and Alexandra Hudson)

This article was first published in  Reuters

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Saudi youth on mission to clean up Red Sea

April 28, 2018

  • The initiatives raise awareness of crucial environmental issues such as the effect of plastic particles on marine life
  • The initiatives are Global Shapers-Jeddah Hub, Naqaa Sustainability Solutions and Greenzie

JEDDAH: The Red Sea offers much for divers to discover — corals, marine life, pearls and more — but they also see the plastic bottles, old furniture and fishing tools that impact marine life and kill coral reefs.

Three Saudi youth initiatives have raised awareness of the problem by marking Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, and highlighting crucial environmental issues such as the effect of plastic particles on marine life, especially in the Red Sea around Jeddah.

The three initiatives are Global Shapers-Jeddah Hub, Naqaa Sustainability Solutions and Greenzie.

Global Shapers, in cooperation with Greenzie, have organized a workshop to present the efforts of Saudi youths to keep the Red Sea coral reefs safe and to protect marine life.

The theme of the workshop, “The Land Beneath Our Red Sea,” — held on Wednesday at The Spot in Jeddah — a workspace that allows freelancers and entrepreneurs to evolve their business ideas by providing them with an environment which is motivating and creative.

The workshop included four speakers: Muna Othman, social entrepreneur, Nouf Alosaim, first Saudi female Scuba diver instructor, Captin Rebhi Skaik, who has a Guinness record for holding the largest flag unfurled underwater, and Abdulrahman Saati, master scuba diver.

Nouf Alosaim told Arab News: “During one of my scuba diving trips to clean the polluted Red Sea I was shocked at what I saw as it was a totally different world where the reef was full of wires and ropes.”

She added: “One human touch for coral reefs and it will turn to a dead white rock, we need to intensify teamwork in this regard to have healthier marine life.”

Coral reefs are nursery areas for small fish and other organisms and it is dangerous to remove or destroy them, affecting fish stocks in the future. Reefs also protect coasts from storms and waves, lessening the power of large waves to reach the shore and reducing their destructive power.

Abdulrahman Saati said: “Our vision is to build community seekers and to sustain the community by enjoying our healthy earth and nature. We need to have a sustainable ecosystem, and social awareness is always part of our message.”

He added: “Ten percent of the great creatures are only found in our Red Sea, the rest is still hidden, and 2,000km of the Red Sea reefs are coral so we need to keep them safe, not only because they look so beautiful but because they contribute to producing oxygen.” 

Skaik said: “In March 2018, I was the leader of an initiative that was launched to clean the depths of the Jeddah sea with the participation of more than 100 Saudi divers. The aim was to clean the coral basin below the surface and remove all remains of fishing and remnants from previous beach visitors that have accumulated over more than 10 years.”

“Since the beginning of 2018, my team of divers and I have collected 2.5 tons of objects from the Jeddah Red Sea from only six dives,” he said.

Muna Othman, co-founder and head of Naqaa Sustainability Solutions social enterprise, established in 2012, said: “Our main vision is to help companies and organizations to adopt eco-friendly practices, go green and manage recyclable waste.”

She added: “We want to raise environmental awareness in society. We also try to collaborate with people who have a similar interest and passion, as we have with Global Shapers to commemorate Earth Day, by spreading awareness about cleaning our shores to end plastic pollution in the sea in Jeddah.”

Jeddah municipality has detected several violations committed by visitors at the new Jeddah waterfront through surveillance cameras, and Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal advised people to keep their waterfront clean.

Greenzie is another local initiative that aims to bring together scientific and human understanding of the environment in a way that can be widely communicated and lead to effective actions.

Mohammed Tomalieh, head of Global Shapers Community, Jeddah Hub, told Arab News: “Global Shapers is all about volunteer work. In Jeddah, we have 19 global shapers from different backgrounds with 70 percent women and 30 percent men including musicians, doctors, accountants, consultants and psychologists. They all work with their own passion to create change.”

This article was first published in the Arab News


IHG in talks with Saudi Arabia to bring luxury hotels to Red Sea tourism project

SOURCE: The National

Time: April 22, 2018

Intercontinental Hotels Group, which operates the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands among others, will bring its luxury hotels to Saudi Arabia’s planned Red Sea tourism destination as the country pushes to transform its economy.

IHG is in talks with developers in the kingdom to bring its top brands, potentially the Intercontinental Resorts or Regent hotel, to the eco-resort spread over a lagoon of 50 islands, Pascal Gauvin, the managing director of India, Middle East and Africa at IHG, told The National on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

“We will be involved in the project in the Red Sea, we are working with them, we are looking at what brand will better fit their market, we are looking at what are their needs in terms of the environment and help them work in that direction,” he said. “There is a lot of common points between our thinking and what they want to do.”

The global hotel company is also entering preliminary talks to discuss business opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project, a $500 billion mega-city on the Red Sea coast near the Egyptian resort of Sharm al Sheikh, Mr Gauvin said.

Initial groundbreaking at the Red Sea project is scheduled for the third quarter of 2019 with the first phase to be finished by the end of 2022 and will be developed by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

IHG is bullish on the Middle East market, where it seeks to grow by 25 percent its number of hotels over the next three to five years. It wants to capitalise on Saudi Arabia’s focus to develop its tourism industry on a large scale as the kingdom diversifies its economy away from reliance on petro-dollars.


The first phase of the Red Sea project will include the development of hotels and luxury residential units as well as all logistical infrastructure.

“They’re looking at the way they’re going to develop, what they want to start with, when will be the first resort and how long it will take to build, so really there’s a lot of details about logistics because you’re creating everything from scratch,” Mr Gauvin said.

IHG expects to sign contracts for the deal “for sure” but discussions are still ongoing and more meetings are scheduled, he said. It is “too premature” to decide on the number of hotels in the deal.

There is also a possibility for IHG to introduce its lifestyle brands, the mid-scale hotels of Indigo or Holiday Inn, but plans for hotel types have yet to be finalised, he said.

IHG, which has 5,300 hotels globally, has 84 hotels in the Middle East. It’s got 31 hotels in Saudi Arabia and signed a deal with Hokair group to bring 10 Holiday Inn Express hotels to the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea divers explore freedoms off the coast

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: March 26, 2018

OFF THE COAST OF JEDDAH: The sky is clear, the sun is shining, and the sea is a glimmering turquoise. Nouf Alosaimi is on a discovery dive around a small, sandy island in the Red Sea that’s home to busy crabs and a few seagulls.
Jellyfish float near the edge of the boat in waters so translucent the fish are visible deep below. The 29-year-old Saudi woman is wearing a diving suit and a necklace with a silver charm in the shape of shark’s tooth, a nod to her nickname, “Sharky.” In the water, she wears a swim cap and dive suit. At sea, the sole woman diver among a group of men, she’s momentarily free from the edicts that govern life on shore.
Out here in the Red Sea, it’s easy to forget this is Saudi Arabia, a conservative Muslim country where the vast majority of women cover their hair and face with black veils, wear long, loose robes, known as abayas, in public, are largely segregated from men and cannot travel abroad without the permission of a male relative.
The serene waters north of the bustling city of Jeddah are the scene of a dramatic experiment to encourage tourism in the reserved and traditionally closed kingdom. It’s exciting for Alosaimi on multiple levels. It’s bringing new opportunities for women, as a corner of the country is carved out with somewhat relaxed rules. And it’s opening up miles of untouched coastline teeming with unexplored seascapes for her and other divers.
“We are here on an island in middle of the Red Sea. We want to discover this place,” Alosaimi said before her dive. “We may find this island beautiful for a picnic. We are creating a diving product here.”
Alosaimi, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, is a pioneer in her field, holding a local record for the deepest dive by a Saudi female at 345 feet (105 meters). The technical dive required five tanks and lasted more than 70 minutes.
Her passion for diving takes her on an hour-long bus ride to work each day from Jeddah to King Abdullah Economic City. There, she works at a dive center recently opened at the Bay La Sun Marina and Yacht Club in preparation for the kingdom’s plans to open up to tourists later this year.
For decades, visitors to Saudi Arabia have largely either been pilgrims heading to Makkah and Medina or business travelers heading to the capital, Riyadh, or other major cities like Jeddah and Dammam.
Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is trying to change that with the introduction of tourist visas. It’s part of a much larger plan to overhaul the economy in the face of sustained lower oil prices. Tourism is being promoted as a way to create more jobs for Saudis, attract foreign investment, boost the economy and improve the country’s image abroad.
Tourism official Salah Altaleb said the country isn’t targeting mass tourism, but select tour groups interested in nature, diving, hiking and cultural sites.
“Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country that hosts the two holiest sites in Islam and these facts need to be respected whenever (tourists) travel around, enjoy themselves and engage with people,” he said.
The government’s sovereign wealth fund, which the crown prince oversees, has identified a 125-mile stretch (200 kilometers) of Red Sea coastline that it plans to transform into a global luxury travel destination with diving attractions and a nature reserve. The fund says the area will be a semi-autonomous destination “governed by laws on par with international standards,” suggesting veils and abayas won’t be required for women.
The Red Sea is also the site of an ambitious $500 billion project called “Neom” — an independent economic zone in a corner of the country near Egypt and Jordan that sits on 10,230 square miles (26,500 square kilometers) of untouched land, an area bigger than the US state of Maryland. Prince Mohammed has said he envisions it as a hub for technological innovation that will create jobs and attract investment.
One lesser-known change has already had a huge impact on Alosaimi’s life. She says the Saudi Coast Guard no longer stops women from going out on boats without a male guardian, such as a husband, father or brother. Rather than do shore dives, she can now explore the waters freely.
Egyptian diver Tamer Nasr, who worked in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh for more than 20 years, said it could take divers years to map out Saudi Arabia’s nearly 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) of Red Sea coastline.
“They have here a huge area to discover,” he said, adding that divers from Bay La Sun Marina have already found a number of underwater wrecks and dive sites that could draw tourists.
Diving remains rare among Saudis. To connect with other female divers in Saudi Arabia, Alosaimi created a group called “Pink Bubbles Divers” and organized a day in Jeddah last year for women to dive together and enjoy a private day at the beach.
Once the ban on women driving is lifted this summer, Alosaimi plans to take a road trip with friends to discover new dive sites further north.
“I used to feel bad because I know the Red Sea in Egypt more than the Red Sea in Saudi,” Alosaimi said. “Now, I have the opportunity to see all these places, the reefs.”


The Red Sea project

Source: Arab News

Dec 12, 2017

Fact Sheet

The Red Sea project

The Red Sea project will be a luxury resort destination situated across the islands of alagoon and steeped in nature and culture. It will set new standards for sustainabledevelopment and bring about the next generation of luxury travel to put Saudi Arabiaon the international tourism map.

Location and resources

The Red Sea project is located along the Western coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,between the cities of Umluj and Al Wajh. The area is characterized by its year-roundtemperate climate, with average summer temperatures reaching up to 31°C.

Envisioned as an exquisite luxury resort destination established across 50 untouchednatural islands in a lagoon that stretches along 200 kilometers of stunning coastline,

The Red Sea will be situated on the site of one of the world’s last natural hiddentreasures.

The project will form an archipelago that is home to environmentally protected coralreefs, mangroves, and several endangered marine species, including the hawksbill seaturtle. It also boasts dormant volcanoes, the most recently active of which has arecorded history of activity dating back to the 17th century AD. In addition, The Red

Sea project’s nature reserve is inhabited by rare wildlife including Arabian leopards,

Arabian wolves, Arabian wildcats, and falcons.

Tourists will also be able to visit the ancient ruins at Mada’in Saleh, which date backthousands of years, and are renowned for their beauty and historical significance. It isalso the first heritage location in Saudi Arabia to be classified as UNESCO WorldHeritage site.

Project Features

The Red Sea will serve as a center of the wellness movement and a showcase for ahealthy, engaged, and vibrant society. Visitors to The Red Sea resort will enjoy plentyof sunshine, pristine white sandy beaches, and for the more adventurous, various eco,historical, and cultural excursions, both on land and in the sea.

The resort will also offer popular activities including water sports – with The Red Seafamed for being one of the world’s best dive sites. In addition to extreme sports –parachuting, trekking, and rock climbing – as well as culturally enriching visits to theArab Heritage Museum and the ArcheologyCenter.

Targeting local, regional, and international tourists, The Red Sea project is projected towelcome one million visitors per annum by 2035, with the yearly number of visitorscapped in order to protect the ecosystem and preserve the area’s natural habitat. Toachieve this ambitious goal, the newly mapped semi-autonomous area will be governedby laws on par with international standards that will include no visa requirements formost nationalities. In addition, the regulatory framework of this project will set newstandards for sustainable development and environmental protection, to ensure theconservation of the Kingdom’s natural environment in accordance with the higheststandards of ecological best practice.



Project Timeline

The initial groundbreaking of The Red Sea project is expected in the third quarter of

  1. Completion of phase one of the project is anticipated by the last quarter of 2022,including the development of hotels and luxury residential units, as well as all logisticalinfrastructure – including air, land, and sea transport hubs.

Socio-economic Impact

With tourism representing the second most important sector in Saudi Arabia, The RedSea will spearhead the diversification of the Kingdom’s leisure industry. As outlined inVision 2030, the project also aims to diversify the Kingdom’s tourism offerings to createa year-round hospitality sector, while promoting cultural conservation and economicstimulation through local and international investments and spending. This is projectedto achieve a contribution of SAR 15 billion per annum to the Kingdom’s GDP, in additionto creating up to 35,000 jobs, once it is up and running.

Saudi Arabia launches luxury Red Sea beach resorts plan


4th August 2017

(CNN) — Picture luxury beach destinations and you probably conjure dreamy images of the Maldives or the Seychelles, but Saudi Arabia? Not so much.
But that could change with an ambitious plan to develop part of Saudi Arabia’s west coast into a Red Sea resort.
The Red Sea project will unlock the potential of 125 miles of spectacular coastline and 50 reef-fringed islands with the development of hotels and luxury residences in a designated tourist zone.
Construction, including a new airport, is set to begin in 2019, while the resort will be “governed by laws on par with international standards,” said the government.

Bikinis on the beach?

That could mean women will be allowed to sunbathe and swim wearing bikinis, hitherto unheard of in the conservative kingdom where women are expected to cover their skin with robe-like dresses known as “abayas.”
Under Saudi’s repressive laws, women are forbidden to drive and are unable to travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission.
The scheme is part of the government’s Vision 2030 project, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which is designed to wean the Saudi economy off a dependence on falling oil revenues.
“The Red Sea project will be a luxury resort destination situated across the islands of a lagoon and steeped in nature and culture,” said Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
“It will set new standards for sustainable development and bring about the next generation of luxury travel to put Saudi Arabia on the international tourism map.”

Maldives-style luxury beach resorts could be on their way to Saudi Arabia.

Maldives-style luxury beach resorts could be on their way to Saudi Arabia.
Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

Eased restrictions in tourist zone

Restrictions on visitor visas will be eased in the tourist zone, although it is unclear if Saudi’s ban on alcohol will still apply.
The first phase of the project is set to be completed by 2022, with visitors numbering about one million a year by 2035, according to a statement.
Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast faces Egypt, which has seen visitors to its beach resorts decline sharply following a number of terrorist attacks in recent years.
The Saudi statement said the project “will be an extremely safe and secure environment that will ensure the protection of all visitors in accordance with the highest international best practice.”
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the PIF will inject the initial capital while seeking to attract the partnerships of leading names in international tourism and hospitality sectors.
Prince Mohammed is the son of King Salman and is keen to modernize Saudi while retaining its religious and cultural heritage.