THE STATE-OWNED YACHTS
To some people, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison to consider yachts maintained for heads of state in the same vein as yachts owned by regular ol’ citizens (admittedly exceedingly wealthy ones). Others say a yacht is a yacht—they don’t care who owns it as long as they can admire it. While for the past several years we’d agreed with the former group and therefore excluded state-owned yachts from our list, we decided to revisit them because, well, the latter group had a valid argument. Add to that an increase in orders for super-size superyachts from heads of state, especially Middle Eastern rulers, and we’d be remiss to overlook them. So here’s a top-five ranking, to put into perspective just how huge these floating palaces are. —D.M.B.
1. DUBAI 524'10"
What a history this yacht has had—and she hasn’t even set off on her first cruise. The yacht was originally commissioned in 1996 by Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei, a joint project between Lürssen and Blohm + Voss. But when his funds were cut off two years later by the sultan, who’s his brother, construction stopped. The partially completed structure sat in Germany for a few years until it was reportedly acquired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. He had it towed to his home country, where it’s been under construction ever since, under the code name Project Platinum. She should be completed within the next several weeks. Rumors have been flying about what her features will be; while some British papers reported she’d tote a submarine, a source who’s been onboard says that’s pure fiction, just lots of PWCs and tenders instead. Her name has been the subject of debate as well; Prince Jefri is said to have wanted to christen her Golden Star, while the Crown Prince of Dubai reportedly preferred the more elite Platinum. Insiders we’ve been in touch with say she’ll actually be called Dubai.
Y: 2005; B: Lürssen and Blohm + Voss, Germany/Jebel Ali Docks, Dubai; H: Steel; N: Builders; E: 4/9,625-hp MTUs
2. PRINCE ABDUL AZIZ 482'3"
Sixty-five crew keep an eye on this lady, just one of several belonging to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Resembling a cruise ship more than a yacht, she has a glass-topped swimming pool onboard and reportedly also a hospital. One persistent rumor for years had her equipped with Stinger missiles leased from the U.S. government; people in the know say that’s impossible.
Y: 1984; B: Helsingor Vaerft, Denmark; N: Maierform; H: Steel; E: 2/7,800-hp Pielsticks
3. ISHAM AL BAHER 379'0"
This was the first Atlantis, then belonging to the late Stavros Niarchos. John Latsis, another Greek, bought the yacht in the 1970’s (for $35 million, according to some published reports) and promptly gave her to King Fahd, who renamed her Prince Abdul Aziz. Her name changed to Al Salamah once the king took delivery of the 482-footer listed above. But when the 457-foot Al Salamah (see no. 1 on our main list) was handed over, this yacht’s name changed yet again, to the name reflected here. Despite all the name changes, yacht-spotters we’ve spoken with believe King Fahd has owned the yacht throughout the years; she’s kept in Lavrion, Greece, away from most prying eyes.
Y: 1973; B: Hellenic Shipyards, Greece; N: Maierform; H: Steel; E: 2/4,360-hp Pielsticks
4. AL SAID 340'0"
One hundred fifty-six crew maintain this yacht for the Sultan of Oman. There’s speculation he’s building another yacht—larger, of course—though this one remains the largest ever built on Italian soil, reportedly built for $39 million.
Y: 1982; B: Picchiotti, Italy; N: Builder; H: Steel; E: 2/4,200-hp Detroit Diesels
5. AL MIRQAB 311'7"
Wing-like extensions jut out from this yacht’s upper decks. Though she spends time off the Spanish coast of Mallorca, she’s owned by the emir of Qatar, who had her built under the code name Trick One. Forty-two crew see to the needs of the emir and his guests while aboard.
Y: 2000; B: Oceanco, South Africa/Holland; N: Richard Hein/The “A” Group; H: Steel; E: unknown
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