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Are contactors ready for the new wave of aviation growth in the GCC?

by Neha Bhatia on Mar 24, 2018




The last few weeks have seen good news emerging from the Gulf’s airport development sector. In the past seven days, a new airport has opened in Oman, and an expansion contract has been awarded for a UAE airport. Not only will these developments boost tourism numbers in their respective markets, but they will also benefit local construction activities.

Take the example of the new, $4.4bn (OMR1.7bn) Muscat International Airport (MCT), which opened on 20 March. The facility currently has capacity for 20 million passengers per year, a number that will grow to 56 million passengers in the project’s subsequent phases, ONA reported last week.

A contract has also been awarded to expand the Fujairah International Airport (FJR) in the UAE. A joint venture (JV) comprising Orascom Construction and the UAE’s Al Sahraa Group won the $180m (AED661m) contract for FJR’s expansion programme, which includes main infrastructure works such as extension of the runway and development of an air traffic control tower, an emergency runway, rapid exit taxiways, and special airport systems.

FJR is not the only UAE airport that is being updated to meet the demands of contemporary aviation and tourism – Sharjah International Airport will also be put through a $410m (AED1.5bn) revamp programme to help it serve increased passenger traffic. To be implemented in multiple phases, the airport’s expansion will feature key projects, such as the expansion of the local road network that serves the facility. 

The investments in Muscat, Sharjah, and Fujairah underscore the significance of aviation in the Gulf, and the Middle East, a region that flew more than 206 million passengers in 2016, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA figures, reported in October 2017 by Construction Week’s sister title, Arabian Business, revealed that the Middle East’s 2016 passenger numbers were 9.1% higher than corresponding 2015 figures.

But more importantly, these aviation schemes will bring steady, long-term benefits for construction companies in the GCC. A high volume of work is inherent to airport schemes, and regional contracting outfits will likely see their order books expanding due to aviation megaprojects.

Equally significant is the impact that airport developments will have on construction supply chains. MCT’s MC3 Component, worked on by the Bechtel-Enka-Bahwan (BEB) Consortium, saw the involvement of 911 local companies, and employed 2,248 Omanis. To learn more about BEB’s work at MCT, and how its development might influence Oman’s ongoing Sohar and Duqm airport schemes, visit Construction Week’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/c/constructionweekonlinecom.

Building experts, from architects to facility managers, agree that airports are a visitor’s first impression of a city. The Gulf’s contractors are instrumental in shaping this vision, so they must start to prepare for a new wave of airport development to take off in the region. 



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