UAE Businessman Has a Way to Get Freshwater to the Middle East: Tug an Iceberg

A United Emirates businessman plans to bring an iceberg from Antarctica to Cape Town or Perth in a test to create freshwater sources.
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Iceberg in Greenlandposteriori/iStock

A United Emirates businessman Abdulla Alshei has come up with a novel way to bring drinkable water to the United Arab Emirates: drag an iceberg to the coast. 

The businessman, who is the managing director of National Advisor Bureau said the journey to transport the iceberg from the Antarctic to its position 3 kilometers off the Fujairah coast in the United Arab Emirates will take six months, costing between $100 million and $150 million. 


Alshei is relying on a metal belt he created and is pending a patent that will stop the iceberg from shattering as it makes its way across the world. Even with the metal belt, the entrepreneur expects the iceberg to lose about 30% of its mass before completing its journey. 

Before Alshei’s vision is realized he will test the idea with a smaller iceberg that will be tugged to Cape Town in South Africa or Perth in Australia. That trial is slated to kick off later this year at a cost of $60 million to $80 million. The smaller iceberg will be used to harvest water, Alshehi said in a recent interview

“It will be cheaper to bring in these icebergs and utilise them for freshwater rather than utilising the desalination water,” Alshei said in the report. “Because desalination plants require a huge amount of capital investments.”

UAE Lacks Variety in Water Sources

As it stands, the UAE is lacking variety when it comes to water sources, in large part because of the country’s arid environment. It consumes about 15% of desalinated water in the world. Desalinating occurs when the salts and minerals are removed from the water. It's done to produce water that is safe to be consumed by humans. 

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In addition to saving money from desalinating water, the businessman said it could also help the environment because it means less fish and marine life on the Arabian Sea will be killed during the desalination process. “An environmental assessment impact was done, and shows a minimal impact to the ecosystem as well as the environment,” Alshehi said in response to critics who contend tugging an iceberg from Antarctica will hurt the environment

What’s more, he argued having an iceberg off the coast of the UAE may result in more rain which would be a benefit to the agriculture in the country. He said the iceberg could cause weather pattern changes because it will attract more clouds and eventually more rain. 

If Alshehi is able to pull it off it could be huge for the Middle East and the world. According to the United Nations, a 40% shortfall of freshwater could materialize across the globe by 2030. 

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