Located in the waters of the Persian Gulf, Dubai, over a span of 10 years has worked to create an archipelago, a rough map of the globe called “The World Islands” atop of sand dredged waters.

Intended for millionaires, Dubai’s World Islands, only reached by Yacht or motor boat, owners could then say they “owned” Europe, China, Russia, or any other part of the world.

Nakheel Properties is the developer of The World Islands, originally conceived by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

These man-made islands have seen a lot of difficulties since its conception. With construction beginning in 2003, 5 years after that it took a halt due to a lack of financing.

The World Islands
The Virgin tycoon Richard Branson is pictured on the patch of land representing Great Britain in the archipelago of islands

Reportedly, before the halt occurred, 60% of the islands sold to private contractors, with only 2 of the islands coming to completion in 2013. It was also announced that in 2014 “The Heart of Europe” project was well underway, with Europe, Sweden and Germany being the first in the series  developed.

But the islands are sinking, the sands are eroding and the navigational channels between the islands are silting up.  A British lawyer for a company bringing the case against the state-run developer, Nakheel, has told judges.

“The World Islands are gradually falling back into the sea,” Richard Wilmont-Smith QC, for Penguin Marine, said. The evidence shows “erosion and deterioration of The Worlds islands,” he added.

Utilities were to be routed under water, and water pants at each hub to give fresh water to the man-made islands.  While the power will be supplied by the Dubai grid and distributed through underwater cables, but no cables have been laid as of 2015. Developers have to find their own power from diesel generators .

Greenland is the only island that was completed, turned into a showpiece, owned by the ruler of Dubai.

Dubai's World Islands

Nakheel has been bailed out of its debts over the failing World properties, with debts around $25 billion at the end of 2009. The Dubai World Tribunal was created to hear cases arising out of restructuring and separation of the companies involved

According to Nakheel, Dubai’s World Islands consist of over 300 islands, and 70% of them have sold. But many of the investors who did buy, proved unwilling or unable to continue to develop when Dubai’s property prices halved in the space of a year.

Penguin Marine is the company which bought the rights to give boat travel to the islands, they are also involved in a dispute by the tribunal, but with little business, they are trying to get out of their agreement, which involves paying an annual fee of just under £1 million to Nakheel.

Nahkeel says if Penguin forfeits the contract, they will send an advance payment guarantee just over £1 million if that does occur.

Mr Wilmot-Smith from Penguin claim the work on the man-made islands is dead, and has effectively stopped.

Graham Lovett, for Nakheel said, Dubai’s World Islands are not dead, just merely in a coma. “This is a ten-year project which will be completed,” he said. Also saying “That’s the price Penguin makes to stay in the game, they have the potential to earn millions.”

A spokesman insisted that the islands were not sinking. “Our periodical monitoring survey over the part three years didn’t see any real erosion that requires sand nourishment,” a statement said.