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Saudi Wealth Fund Plans to Build a Theme Park on an Offshore Platform

safaniya
The RIG theme park (illustration courtesy PIF)

Published Oct 18, 2021 2:18 AM by The Maritime Executive

A Saudi sovereign wealth fund is planning to build an offshore oil-themed tourist destination in a bid to boost the oil-rich nation's travel and leisure industry. 

The new project, dubbed simply "The RIG," will be a luxurious theme park with an twist: it will be the "world's first tourism destination inspired by offshore oil platforms," according to the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF). The agency envisions a connected complex of three platforms designed for the discerning visitor, with a 50-berth marina for yachts; three hotels with 800 rooms; and a full-service amusement park. Its promotional materials suggest that the 1.6 million square foot complex would be fitted with a rollercoaster; a gigantic swimming pool; waterslides; a Ferris wheel; a go-kart racetrack; zip lines; bungee-jumping platforms; and mini-submersibles. While some of the world's largest cruise ships feature several of these elements, not one can boast of possessing them all. 

The objective of the development is to attract tourists from around the world, with a particular eye to citizens and residents of other Persian Gulf nations. Under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the nation is attempting to diversify its economy away from its heavy dependence on oil; the "Vision 2030" framework calls for billions of dollars in investment in renewable energy and tourism, including the $500 billion Neom project to build a new city on the Red Sea. 

PIF said that the site for The RIG will be in the Arabian Gulf, but it did not disclose whether it would take advantage of an existing platform or would be built new from the seabed up. The nation has an abundance of older platforms to choose from: its Safaniya field is the largest offshore oilfield in the world, and it has been producing since 1957. 

Safaniya, located east of Dammam in the Persian Gulf, has multiple offshore installations servicing more than 600 wellheads. In recent years, Saudi Aramco has been decommissioning some of its older facilities at Safaniya and replacing them with newer, electrically-powered platforms, with assistance from McDermott. The American oil services company has installed more than 60 platforms at Safaniya over the decades.