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Posted on October 4th, 2016

Our Changing Landscape – King Abdullah Port

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 8 billion square kilometers of data. Last month we were in Florida with a look at the expansion of a naval air base, this month we go back to the other side of the world with a look at the recent construction of King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia.

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over King Abdullah Port on November 29, 2009, January 21, 2011, November 21, 2012, December 23, 2013, December 3, 2014 and January 9, 2016. In this layer stack, you can see that in 2009 there was no evidence of the port; but by 2011, the port was already being dug into the landscape of Saudi Arabia. And then in the 2016 image, you can see an area of the port (on its south-east side) that looks ready to be dredged and expanded – that is one cool looking facility! (Images Courtesy: Planet)

The Construction of King Abdullah Port

King Abdullah Port (KAP) is Saudi Arabia’s first privately owned seaport and is part of the preplanned megacity, the King Abdullah Economic City. Located some 60 miles northwest of Jeddah on the shore of the busy Red Sea shipping lanes, KAP handled 1.3 million TEUs in 2015 which is about half of its current 2.7 million TEU annual capacity. To put that in perspective, the 50th busiest port in the world (i.e. Salalah, Oman) accepted 3.03 million TEUs in 2014. While it is unclear exactly when construction of KAP began, the port officially opened in September 2013.

Ye olde Internet is surprisingly lacking on interesting details about the construction of KAP, though it appears that the port was built extremely quickly by using huge concrete bricks for the deep water quay wall. In fact, they used a 1,200-ton floating crane to position the 720-ton concrete blocks on the surface of the ocean! In 2015, KAP received the two largest container ships in the world, the largest with a capacity of 19,224 TEUs. The current container terminal stretches over 36,000 feet or more than 6.8 miles. Okay well, without further ado, it is time to turn to the 5-meter RapidEye archive to see if we can get a better sense of the construction date as well as to check out how the build out progressed over the past years.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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