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Londoners Force £25m Party Yacht on River Thames to Leave Town

Oceandiva London party yacht
The 282-foot(86m) 'Oceandiva London' party yacht

In a story that surprisingly isn't from a waterfront American city like Miami or Los Angeles, citizens of London, England have rebelled against a 'party yacht' set to take up residence on the River Thames.

The Oceandiva London was built by VEKA Shipyards in the Netherlands for roughly £25 million (about $31 million USD) and is a carbon neutral vessel that its owners describe as a "floating venue." The Oceandiva is operated by SmartGroup, who describe themselves as a "dynamic collection of hospitality, catering, venue and event management businesses." The company caters and manages over 500 events per year and has hosted events for clients including Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

The Oceandiva London is 282 feet long (86 m) with a 56' beam (17 m) and is described as "a 2.2Mw battery powered CO2 neutral event vessel." It includes a plethora of green technology including battery-powered propulsion, an onboard sewage treatment plant to recycle wastewater, and an HVAC system that generates airflow for energy saving. It also has a backup biofuel generator. The vessel carries room onboard for up to 1000 guests.

But despite its progressive construction, it was denied an alcohol license in spring 2023 after a local outcry. According to Marine Industry News UK, organizers withdrew their application for a "3 am license," which permits late night events on the Thames, after receiving upwards of 980 complaints sent to the Newham Council.

The primary issue, according to locals, was the inevitable disruption from 1000 potentially inebriated guests entering and exiting the vessel at all hours. Because of its the urban moorage, locals claimed that accommodating the vessel would be harmful to the city. The Oceandiva was set to be moored at the Royal Docks in Newham, with stop-offs at six piers in Greenwich, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets.

“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, as this carbon-neutral, cutting-edge vessel will no longer be redefining events on the River Thames. It is quite simply a missed opportunity for the city" Smart Group’s managing director Chloe Jackson wrote in a letter.

SmartGroup estimated that the Oceandiva would have generated around £77 million ($97 million USD) for the local economy. They also claimed that their unique events would have a positive impact on London’s nightlife and the environment. According to the company, the vessel would have been the first carbon-neutral vessel on the Thames.

Despite their efforts, the stigma around the Oceandiva never let up. The cause wasn't helped by another hiccup in June 2023 when the boat collided with the anchor chain of a moored barge during tests to evaluate its seaworthiness. The accident is still under investigation with to The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).

The final decision to leave London was made by the Dutch owners and "comes after prolonged challenges in navigating the complex web of regulatory and certification processes in the U.K.,” SmartGroup wrote on its website.

According to the BBC, Rachel Bentley, a Liberal Democrat councillor for North Bermondsey, campaigned against the yacht's presence.

"A vessel the size of a football pitch is completely unsuitable for a narrow urban river," she told BBC.

"Residents of Shad Thames were rightly concerned about rowdy party-goers disembarking into their historic neighbourhoods all day and night."

The decision comes just a month after US company Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) also withdrew plans to build 21,000-capacity Las Vegas-style “Sphere” entertainment venue in East London. The MSG firm said it could not participate in a permitting process that was ‘merely a political football between rival parties.' The "Sphere" music venue was expected to cost upwards of £800milllion (nearly $1.1 billion USD) to build.

Despite the setback, the Oceandiva is likely headed to other parts of Europe where sister vessels are already in operation. The company has similar operations ongoing in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Dusseldorf, Germany, where partygoers can organize events for everything from on-water club nights to corporate retreats.

You can get a walkthrough of the Oceandiva courtesy of Daniel Brightmore below:

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