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Site visit: Muscat International Airport

TAV/CCC JV working hard to finish infrastructure works at new airfield

ANALYSIS, Site Visits, Projects, Muscat international airport

The expansion of Muscat International Airport (MIA) is being delivered under the ‘Development of Muscat International Airport project (DMIA). It is arguably one of the most important steps forward for Oman’s growth and development strategy to become a major commercial, touristic and transfer hub in the Middle East. It is one of a number of airports currently under development in the Sultanate.

The new terminal at MIA will have a capacity to handle 12mn passengers annually. Further expansions planned in three subsequent phases will ultimately boost capacity to 24, 36 and 40mn passengers when demand is required. It is understood that the existing terminal will eventually be used only for domestic flights.

Expansion work was scheduled to be finished this year according to the website of the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), but due to a number of operational and design changes, including one which saw Hill International take over from Cowi-Larsen as lead engineer in January 2013, no official completion date has been announced.

The main contracts have been split into 12 packages – all of which are now awarded. Carrying out the civil works (package MC1 ) under a multi-million Omani rials re-measurable contract signed in June 2009 is a joint venture (JV) of Turkey’s TAV and the Omani affiliate of Greece’s Consolidated Contracting Company (CCC).

The footprint of MC1 is around 23.2mn m² and TAV and CCC’s full scope of works includes: construction of a new airfield (northern runway and all associate taxiways); refurbishment of the existing airfield; all utility works, construction of utility buildings and substations; airside and landside road system including bridges and interchanges; drainage works; and soft and hard landscaping.

Kerim Kaya, acting project director of the JV, says the work was organised into two phases at the outset. The first phase was marked as the completion of new runway taxiways and related utilities, ancillary buildings and control systems required for the operation of the new northern runway. It also included the completion of all utility and power supplies to the new Public Authority for Civil Aviation building. Phase two was the completion of all landside road system works, fuel farm and hydrant system works as well as the new aprons and refurbishment of the existing airfield.

As things stood at the end of March this year, 88% of MC1 was finished. Currently on the critical path is the completion of the northern runway.

“We are targeting to open the northern runway and related taxiways by October this year,” says Kaya. “Civil works are 99% complete; the only remaining parts are the final bits and pieces of MEP works, especially in terms of landing systems. So we’re shooting to finalise our works by end of May so that operational readiness and airport transfer can happen during the coming six months.”

Once the northern runway is ready it will operate in parallel with the existing southern runway, servicing planes from the current terminal before the southern runway is closed and renovated by the JV at the start of next year.

“It will take another year to finalise these rehabilitation works,” says Kaya. “That’s why the northern runway has to be opened so that we can do our work on the southern runway.”

He adds that the workforce will likely ramp up from 2,606 labourers, as of March 20 this year, to 4,000 in order to complete this work alongside hard and soft landscaping. On this particular date, there were also an additional 366 staff bringing the total number to 2,972, with 533 of these Omanis.

The project peak was reached in October 2012 when 11,478 personnel, including subcontractors, were on site and mainly focused on finishing the landside road and bridges, the runway and taxiways and the MEP works for the utilities.

Kaya says the new airport will have two public entrances/exits from Sultan Qaboos Highway and 18th November Street and be linked by seven bridges and two interchanges, all of which are already completed. Commuters will be able to cut through the airport to travel between the two main highways, thus greatly quickening the flow of traffic.

“We are waiting for the official opening as per the municipality’s regulations,” says Kaya.

One of the main challenges of the project for the JV has been adapting to some of the design changes that were mainly introduced in 2010.

“The design changes were mainly the changes in the capacity of electrical demands for other buildings like the terminal building and the ATC (air traffic control) tower and this has of course changed a lot the configuration of the three main substations which we are doing,” says Kaya.

“Another change was the provision for the extension of the west pier of the terminal which resulted in changes of aprons and some taxiways; so we had to adapt and re-plan and reconfigure our resources to work as per the new designs.

“So the effects of the major design changes have been overcome by means of flexible planning and by being a solution-orientated, pro-active and cooperative service provider.”

An additional challenge has been interfacing with contractors involved in other packages of the airport’s expansion where areas of access are shared. This has included the new terminal and the air traffic control tower (ATC), which at 99m is now the tallest building in Muscat.

“The major issue is the access to the interface zones and the coordination of this access not only in terms of technicality but also in terms of schedule; so to manage this properly we have weekly interface meetings with all of these other contractors chaired by the overall engineer for all the packages, as well as the employer,” says Kaya. “To properly define these interface zones is one of the key elements to success.”

Kaya says the JV will finalise apron concrete works around the new terminal soon, however access is currently limited while facade and roofing work is carried out. But he insists that this will not prevent the JV from meeting the deadline for the northern runway as apron works need only be finished in time for when the terminal is opened.

In addition the JV is also coordinating with contractors on other packages where it is providing them with utility services.

“We are providing basic electrical, mechanical services to the ATC, for example. We are giving chilled water, potable water, electricity, sewerage, and utilities so that the building can function,” says Kaya.

“It is the same for the contractor which is responsible for the navigational aid systems. We are giving them the appropriate electricity and the low voltage and the IT infrastructure. We are also providing the contractor responsible for finishing the headquarters of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation with all the utilities.

“It’s a finely tuned coordination and commitment by all the parties involved to reach this one goal of delivering this major expansion project.” Kaya says an interesting aspect of the project is its main stormwater drainage system which has a capacity to discharge 500m³ of water per second. Parts of its surface are entirely soil while other parts are complete concrete. The water collects in a natural marshland before being diverted to sea.

“Because the airport is near to the sea and because when it rains in Muscat there is a chance of flooding the water has to be diverted so that the airport is not affected,” says Kaya. “It’s an indispensable element of the project.”

The majority of materials have been sourced locally, says Kaya, apart from some specific technological and MEP equipment. The new airfield is designed and constructed as per International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) category 4F airport and will be able to accommodate the Airbus A380, currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

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