Londoners block plans for £25m late-night party yacht
Plans for a £25m ‘party yacht’ that was to have held late-night events on the River Thames have been scrapped, after local residents objected to the vessel.
The entertainment firm Smart Group, which would have managed the boat, has confirmed the 86m luxury yacht Oceandiva would be leaving London and returning ‘to EU waters’.
‘It is with great disappointment we announce in what marks a significant setback for London’s aspirations to be a leader in sustainable maritime innovation, the Oceandiva London project, a shining example of green technology, has been compelled to return to EU waters,’ the firm says in a media statement.
The decision, made by the Dutch owners, is said to have come after ‘prolonged challenges’ in navigating the complex web of regulatory and certification processes in the UK.
‘Despite obtaining the prestigious Green Award’s Platinum Label, the combination of regulatory challenges and infrastructural inadequacies proved too great to overcome,’ the statement continues.
The floating event venue is described as carbon-neutral. Smart Group had hoped to host high-end weddings, conferences and exhibitions, with space for up to 1,000 people on board.
Oceandiva, which was built at Veka shipyard in the Netherlands, is larger than any entertainment boat operating in British rivers. It was meant to start hosting events in spring 2023, but failed to obtain an alcohol licence after local objections.
Organisers withdrew their application for a 3am licence after it received 980 complaints ― a record for the London borough of Newham, where the boat was to be based.
After the decision was confirmed, a local councillor called the decision a “huge victory” for Thames-side residents.
Some of the strongest opposition came from residents living on the opposite bank in Southwark, where customers would have disembarked at Butler’s Wharf. Residents were alarmed at the prospect of up to 1,000 inebriated people using the pier in the small hours.
A further setback came in June 2023, when the vessel collided with a moored barge during tests to evaluate its seaworthiness. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report lists the incident as being ‘under investigation’.
In a statement, Chloe Jackson, Smart Group’s managing director, says this is a missed opportunity for London, which they estimated would have benefited from £77m in economic benefits.
“Whilst we acknowledge that this may feel like a victory for some local residents and riverside stakeholders, we are sure you can appreciate it is a sad day for the city and, indeed, Smart Group,” she writes, “as this carbon-neutral, cutting-edge vessel will no longer be redefining events on the River Thames. It is quite simply a missed opportunity.”
Smart Group adds: ‘We are grateful for the way in which Oceandiva London was received by clients and the events industry alike. It is with much regret that we are unable to bring this innovative project to fruition.’
The decision comes just a month after US company Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) withdrew its plans for a Las Vegas-style “Sphere” entertainment venue in east London, which would have hosted 21,000 people.
The firm said it could not participate in a process that was ‘merely a political football between rival parties’.
Main image courtesy of Smart Group.