Work halted on $75mn 'labour town' in Bahrain

Low occupancy on Bahrain Investment Wharf’s first phase blamed

The project is designed to provide better accommodation for workers in Bahrain.
The project is designed to provide better accommodation for workers in Bahrain.

The developer of a $75mn (BHD 28.2mn) “labour town” in Bahrain Investment Wharf (BIW) in Hidd has stopped work on the project due to low occupancy rates in its already completed first phase.

Around half of the first phase remains unoccupied and work is not expected to resume on the second phase, which was due for completion next year, until demand for labour accommodations increases.

Operator of the project, Circo Properties and Facilities Management, said occupancy levels have been affected by companies choosing cheaper labour camps.

“Phase one, completed in 2009, is made up of 12 buildings and can hold around 7,000 labourers – but at the moment it is between maybe 50% and 60% occupied,” company sales head Imad Al Masri told Gulf Daily News.

“We have 30m² rooms that can hold a maximum of eight people, which is plenty of room.

“The idea is not only to get them out of residential areas but to give these labourers their rights. These accommodations will be clean, the surrounding areas kept neat, and it will be well maintained.

“The problem is that most companies will only want to spend between $39 (BHD15) and (BHD20) per head which they can do by cramming them into houses, but with us the cost is between BHD27 and BHD30 per head and most companies choose the cheaper option.

"Phase one was almost 100% occupied last year but following the completion of the Mina Salman project the numbers dropped to about 50%.

“Phase two's main structures are complete and two buildings of the 13 have already been handed over but with the low occupancy this year work has stalled as there isn’t the demand for it.”

Muharraq Municipal Council chairman Abdulnasser Al Mahmeed has called on parliament to issue new regulations to force companies to house their labourers in non-residential areas.

“This is a problem that has existed for many years, many labourers will rent an old house which is cheap - sometimes more than 20 people living in one home,” said Al Mahmeed.

“The Tameer (Bahrain Investment Wharf) project, started in 2007, was supposed to solve this issue but there are no rules or regulations or laws that force companies to house their labourers there, not in residential areas.

“It all has to do with money – a company will choose to pay less and put the labourers in a home rather than spend more and put them in the labour town and until there is a law that can force companies to use them nothing will change.

“We want parliament to take this seriously and draft a law that benefits everyone.”

He added that Bahrain’s five municipal councils have received complaints for years from residents who worry about labourers living in their areas.

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