9 February 2004
BERLIN – Authorities in Germany have given the final go-ahead for the world’s largest indoor rain forest inside a giant structure outside Berlin which was built as a hangar for 21st Century dirigibles.
Colin Au, 54-year-old head of a British-Malaysian business consortium, received the final permission in Berlin, where he also discussed a request for an undisclosed amount in government funding subsidies to help get their “Tropical Island” enclosed rain forest scheme off the ground.
“I am very pleased to be bringing Tropical Island to the Berlin area,” Au said after what were termed fruitful discussions.
The project, which will cost about EUR 75 million, envisions using the enormous hangar – the largest free-standing arched hall in the world – to house rain- forest flora and fauna and six villages representing indigenous cultures in Malaysia, Thailand, the Congo, the Amazon, Bali and Polynesia.
Visitors will be able to wind their way on 1.2 kilometres of jungle pathways alongside lagoons and will be treated to cultural performances by 160 artists and performers from the six indigenous regions depicted inside the giant hall.
CargoLifter, the now-defunct German company which once had high- flying dreams of launching a new generation of airships to haul 160- ton loads around the world, managed only to build the world’s largest airship hangar.
The enormous arched glass-and-steel structure – more than 100 metres tall, 360 metres long and 210 metres wide – was sold for about EUR 20 million to Tropical Island Corporation.
Work is to begin immediately on converting the hangar into a rain forest attraction. Some 1,000 workers are to be employed, most of them hired locally.
A tentative opening date of 3 October 2004, is planned by the consortium.
Tropical Island Corporation is a subsidiary of Tanjong PLC of Kuala Lumpur and London and of Au Investment Company of Singapore.
CargoLifter, in reorganization for two years, has laid off most of its 260 staff. A skeleton staff of 30 remains at the company’s site in Brand, south of Berlin, securing the plant and a huge hangar built to shelter the company’s planned dirigibles.
CargoLifter had planned a zeppelin-type fleet of giant airships for transporting heavy freight. The company, set up in 1996, employed 500 people at its peak, but never built a full-scale airship.
Many aviation experts said the idea was doomed from the outset, because engineers could never work out the mechanics of hoisting ballast aboard the airship when it deposited a heavy load – running the risk of having the craft rise sharply and uncontrollably aloft.
The CargoLifter idea was to deliver freight to inaccessible places. However those delivery sites lack the mooring facilities the airship would need to discharge its load, and ballast transfers would be very risky in even moderate wind conditions.
Subject: German news