Dubai is significantly expanding its cruise ship port in an effort to attract more seafaring tourists to the city's Persian Gulf shores.
Dubai's port operator DP World laid out plans Wednesday to open a second cruise ship terminal at the downtown Port Rashid by the end of 2012 to allow up to five cruise liners to dock at a time. The port can handle only two cruise ships at once now.
DP World Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem told reporters gathered at the waterfront terminal that the expansion is needed to keep up with a mushrooming demand from cruise operators hoping to anchor in the emirate. Slots for up to seven ships are envisioned for the future.
Dubai's existing cruise terminal handled 120 ships and more than 390,000 passengers in 2010, according to DP World. The city's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing expects that number to grow to 180 ships and 625,000 passengers by 2015.
Officials say the expansion is part of a broader redevelopment of the port that will include the addition of shopping and recreation facilities. Conceptual drawings show green, tree-filled parks and buildings featuring traditional Gulf architecture, but officials said details for the project are still being worked out.
They didn't say how much it would cost.
Port Rashid is the current home of the Queen Elizabeth 2, the famed British liner Dubai bought in 2007 for $100 million. It's docked just opposite the existing cruise terminal.
Dubai had planned to turn the ship into a floating hotel, but it dropped those plans when the emirate's economy began to sour in 2008. Bin Sulayem declined to discuss the ship's fate when asked about it Wednesday.
"The QE2 is sitting there. It's not going anywhere," he said.