Saudi Arabia reveals ambitious plan to build floating city

Saudi Arabia says it wants to build a floating, eight-sided city
3 min read
18 November, 2021
The Saudi crown prince revealed plans for a new floating industrial complex - the largest one in the world - called OXAGON.
The NEOM project has been at the centre of controversy since its inception. [Getty]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the kingdom plans to build a floating industrial city near NEOM, as part of its Vision 2030 initiative.

If built, OXAGON will be the world's largest floating industrial complex. It will be located on the Red Sea, close to the Suez Canal, and aims to be a net-zero city powered by clean energy.

"OXAGON will be the catalyst for economic growth and diversity in NEOM and the Kingdom, further meeting our ambitions under Vision 2030," said Prince Mohammed.

According to a press release: “[It] will contribute to redefining the world’s approach to industrial development in the future, protecting the environment while creating jobs and growth for NEOM. It will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s regional trade and commerce, and support creating a new focal point for global trade flows. I am pleased to see that."

The city will be located near the futuristic NEOM mega-city and plans suggest it will be 33 times the size of New York City.

A promotional video posted on NEOM's Twitter account boasts of "a place that provides everything your business needs to push beyond traditional boundaries".

This announcement follows several similar ambitious plans by MbS and his team.

These include the building of "The Line", a proposed 106 mile long linear carbon-zero city in NEOM.

Also in the pipeline is "The Vault", a high-speed train which will run through The Line.

"The Rig" is a theme park set to be built on an abandoned oil rig in the Gulf.

 

"Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Non Profit City" has also been touted for the heart of Riyadh to house non-profit organisations.

Dogged by controversy

The NEOM project has been at the centre of controversy since its inception.

The multi-billion-dollar mega-city project was earlier this year met by several resignations, according to a report in May.

Senior employees walked out on salaries of up to $1 million a year over how ambitious the plans for the city are, The Wall Street Journal said at the time.

People with knowledge of the project said that while MbS has sought to use lofty ideas - like The Line - to attract foreign investment, he has had limited success in attracting international interest in NEOM.

Former and current employees are also doubtful that Riyadh will live up to promises that the mega-city will not be bound by the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.

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Saudi officials have previously stated foreign visitors to NEOM would be able to drink alcohol and mix freely with people of other genders.

The wave of resignations has also been linked to the management style of the project's chief executive, Nadhmi Al-Nasr.

The project has previously faced condemnation for its forcible displacement of thousands of people in north-west Saudi Arabia.