A £25 million superboat, longer than the world’s biggest commercial jet, has arrived in London amid uproar over its plans to hold late-night events for up to 1,000 people on the River Thames.
Luxury party yacht Oceandiva docked at moorings in the Royal Docks at the weekend after being towed 300 miles from a shipyard in the Netherlands, where it was under constructions.
The megaboat hopes to play host to high-end weddings, conferences and exhibitions when it launches in the coming months. But the superyacht has been beset by opposition from Londoners and local politicians who brand it an eyesore and fear it will be a magnet for antisocial behaviour and harm the environment.
The vessel will be based in the Royal Docks but Oceandiva ultimately wants to make stop-offs at piers including North Greenwich as it transports revellers along the Thames to central London.
At present, privately-owned Butler’s Wharf Pier near Tower Bridge is the only place the superboat is understood to be able to hold events and drop off passengers. It is also believed to have permission to disembark passengers at West India Pier, on the Isle of Dogs, but not to remain there for events.
Many of the other piers Oceandiva wants to use are managed by TfL. As of January, TfL had yet to grant Oceandiva permission to unload passengers at any of its piers on the Thames. In a response to a Freedom of Information request, TfL said it hadn’t granted the boat a licence as it was “yet to see the vessel in London”.
Kathleen Ehrlich, the chair of Shad Thames Residents Association – many of whose members’ flats overlook Butler’s Wharf Pier – said the boat would ruin the city’s skyline.
She said: “This will be an eyesore of a vessel impacting on the world famous views along the Thames, not just around the Tower of London and Tower Bridge where it plans to hold up to 140 events a year. It will bring a huge disruption and disturbance to riverside communities.”
Rachel Bentley, a Liberal Democrat councillor for North Bermondsey, where Butler’s Wharf Pier is located, said: “The owners and operators of Oceandiva have been trying to bring their super luxury events vessel to London for many years and need to respect residents’ repeated message that it is not wanted.”
Oceandiva currently can’t serve booze onboard. Smart Group, the entertainment company that owns the vessel, withdrew a licensing application to serve alcohol until 2am in February after hundreds of people sent objections to Newham Council. If the council had approved the application, the licence would have allowed the boat to serve alcohol anywhere on the Thames. Oceandiva is expected to make a new application to Newham next month.
While berthed at Royal Docks, Oceandiva is undergoing a £1.8 million fit-out. When the boat’s trial period on the River Thames begins, events on the vessel are expected to be limited to 400 guests.
Smart Group has dubbed Oceandiva the first carbon neutral vessel on the Thames. The company says the boat could add up to £77 million to the capital’s economy over the next five years.
Chloe Jackson, the managing director of Smart Group, said: “We are thrilled to have the vessel arrive in London, and we look forward to sharing our vision of revolutionising the events industry with a sustainable, carbon neutral venue on the River Thames.
“Our commitment to consultation with the communities in which we will operate is a top priority, and we are excited to work together to create a project that benefits London and everyone in the community.
“Consultation with riverside communities, local groups, and responsible authorities is critical to our approach. Our ambition is to create a project that delivers real benefits to the communities in which we operate and that we can all be proud of.”
Robert Firth is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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