Bahrain Investment Wharf sets sights on free-zone advantage

With Bahrain looking to cash in on the flow of investment with its newly launched Bahrain Investment Wharf, CEO, Muhannad Al-Durrah explains how the development plans to capitalise on the regional growth.

There are a number of names attached to this investment: Tameer, the Ministry of Industry and Trade – who is the main decision maker? The main day-to-day operation is with us, but we always have the directives of the chairman, the board and the managing director on how to proceed. That means the main policy makers are the board of directors, through the chairman and the managing director.

So what exactly is your role on the project?
We are the executioners; we are the people who do the groundwork in developing all aspects of the project. For example, on the dredging contract, we have the policy on the directive to reclaim ‘so much’ land. We do that by getting tenders, valuating, choosing contractors, and getting approval of the board to proceed.

It is a Bahraini project, and specifically, BIW is a contract from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Bahrain.

Was there a conscious decision to capitalise on the free zones that have been set up in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and was BIW influenced by them?
Bahrain has an easier way of life; the standard of living is more reasonable. I think to develop Bahrain will attract investors and I think it is a very successful approach. And now with the Bahraini government signing the free-trade agreement with the US, it will attract medium and light industries.

So is there any US investment yet?
As of now, no, but we are starting our marketing campaign now. Before the end of the year, we will be targeting the US, European and Far Eastern markets.

Which is the most important of the three?
I think we will be targeting the US market but possibly indirectly – there are a lot of exhibitions that occur in Indonesia and Malaysia; that is possibly where major businesses will be gathering and that is possibly where we will be visting as well. We are scheduled to participate in an exhibition in Texas next year but within the next four or five months we will concentrate on Europe and the Far East, India, Malaysia, China and the Gulf region.

With regards to site, which contractors are you using and how long before actual structural construction will take place?
We have signed the US company, Great Lakes, for the dredging, which should be imminently. The dredging will take 11 months; one month for mobilisation and 10 months for reclamation. We have a Cypriot contractor on site that is currently building the Bahrain Investment Wharf HQ’s.

Have you utilised a masterplanner for this development?
We have a masterplanner engaged in the initial stage: Ansari Consultants. It is a local company and they are associated with international consultant, WSP, which submitted the initial stage of the master plan.

Within one week we will be making an announcement of engaging an international consultant for the detailed design of the infrastructure and for putting more accurate studies into the master plan.

Are you concerned, given the amount of free zones similar to this in the region, that the project will struggle to attract investment?
No, as a matter of fact, before we started the campaign we took lots of requests and enquiries.

What makes the project different?
The location of Bahrain is different and important. People who come to Bahrain because of the positive factors; their immediate response is to come to Bahrain Investment Wharf because there isn’t much industrial land developed at the moment. It stands out as ‘the’ immediate target to invest in. None of the industrial areas in Bahrain have yet been zoned to have accommodation, business building, retail, or hotels. We are the only people to have that.
Will it have an adverse impact on Bahrain – the traffic, for example?
The Hidd industrial area is outside the commercial centre of Bahrain. There are good highways to the new Khalifa port. We will be injecting some traffic into that, but we will not have a traffic problem in future. Our studies on traffic control have shown us that we should not be worried.

Who has shown interest so far?
There are the main investors behind BIW who have invested 50 million Bahrain dinars [US $132.6 million] to start the development, which covers the infrastructure, reclamation and the operation. There are five to six investors representing various interests such as Tameer and Gulf Finance House. The investors in the basic project are regional, but we expect international investors as we go along. On the hotel, for example, we are talking to international brand names that want to get involved. We have interest but I don’t want to mention names. There are some international logistic companies interested as well.

Do you think you will be taking trade away from other regional free zones and ports?
I think it will be parallel. I think a lot of the investors, even in logistics or business, may have a base in Dubai but they still want to extend and to come to Bahrain.

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