It was still nearly three hours before dawn when the Mighty Servant 3, a 27,000-tonne semi-submersible ship, opened its ballast tanks and began to settle into a 20-metre deep trench newly dredged in Mina Zayed.
Normally used for carrying deepwater oil rigs over thousands of kilometres, the job of the Mighty Servant that morning last month was to transport a very special passenger just a few dozen metres.
By mid-morning it was all over and the Yas, the world’s newest super-yacht, was floating proudly for the first time in the waters of the Arabian Gulf.
At 141 metres and with a dazzling glass superstructure, the Yas is already making waves in the exclusive world of private yachting.
It will be another six months of final fitting and sea trials before the yacht is ready for its new owner, as yet unidentified.
For Johan Valentijn, the Dutch-born project manager, the launch was exciting and yet strangely anti-climactic.
Months of preparation had gone into making sure everything went to plan. That included digging a trench deep enough to accommodate the Mighty Servant, which is registered in the Dutch Antilles.
“For me the most exciting part of building a vessel is when you launch it into the water with a big splash,” Mr Valentijn says. “Still, with a big yacht, you don’t just dump it in the water.”
For him and his team at Abu Dhabi MAR, the privately owned shipyard that built the Yas, the sight of the gleaming white hull in the water is a moment of almost paternal pride.
This is a project that has taken almost four years, and there were times when some may have wondered if it could ever be completed.
In the summer of 2008, some of those doubts could be understood. The Yas, then identified as project Swift 141, was nothing but a grey steel peeling hull stripped of its superstructure, and engines that looked like a candidate for the breaker’s yard.
The ship was a decommissioned warship; a former Kortenaer-class frigate built for the Royal Netherlands Navy in the 1970s.
It was not the most obvious choice for turning into a vessel that symbolises wealth and luxury; yet something in her sleek lines suggested a new type of superyacht to the designers at Abu Dhabi MAR.
For the rest of 2008, work continued on the ship at her berth near the New Iranian Market in Mina Zayed. More info