Plan to drag iceberg from Antarctica to Mid-East desert

UAE businessman hopes to tow 20 km iceberg to his country's coast to use for drinking water.

Gary Willig ,


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced a plan to tow an iceberg from Antarctica to its coast to help alleviate the desert country's water shortage.

UAE businessman Abdulla Alshei has for years sought to solve his country's drinking water shortage, and now believes that he has found a way to provide UAE with a new source of clean drinking water: The average iceberg contains about 20 billion tons of fresh water.

He plans to tow an iceberg from its current location off of Antarctica to a position 3 kilometers off the Fujairah coast. The project is estimated to cost between $100 million and $150 million. It will take six months to tow the iceberg.

Alshei believes that a metal belt system he is seeking to patent will keep the iceberg from breaking apart as it makes its journey from Antarctica to the Middle East. However, it is still estimated that the iceberg will lose 30% of its mass during the journey as it melts and pieces break off.

The iceberg is currently located at Herd Island and is 500 meters high and is estimated to be about 2 km long. Transporting the iceberg to the UAE will be cheaper than simply melting the iceberg and transporting the resulting drinking water.

Two ships will be required for the task of towing the iceberg, which will be connected by a metal belt.

A smaller iceberg will be towed to South Africa later this year as a test run of the project to bring an iceberg to the UAE. If the test is a success, the larger iceberg will begin its journey to the Middle East by the end of the year.

According to Alshei, the iceberg could provide other benefits, including becoming a tourist attraction and slightly altering the country's climate to increase rainfall.

The UAE is currently heavily reliant on desalinated water, consuming 15% of all desalinated water on Earth. Alshei hopes to diversify the country's water sources.

Scientists in Saudi Arabia considered a similar idea to tow an iceberg to the Middle East to solve water shortage problems in the 1970s. The plan was deemed unfeasible and abandoned. However, Alshei believes that his new technology can bring the iceberg to the Middle East intact.