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Project: King Abdulaziz International Airport

How Almabani General Contractors' work on the civil packages is progressing

Aprons in front of the huge new terminal.
Aprons in front of the huge new terminal.

While Saudi BinLadin moves ahead with the $7.2bn expansion of Jeddah’s international airport, Almabani General Contracting is continuing with a package of seven subcontracts focussing on external works.

One of the main challenges of delivering the KAIA 2 package of civil works covering most of the external areas of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport is keeping track of the thousands of workers moving through the site, according to the project manager in charge of the works, Wissam Chehab.

The package of works, which was awarded in August 2011, has involved the construction of all airfield civil works including new taxiways and three aprons, a new airfield lighting system, a network of fuel hydrants to connect to planes, a major new ground services equipment tunnel (with associated MEP works), a huge box culvert, utilities networks including power and water to aprons and some demolition and utilities diversions. It has also involved the installation of a jet blast protection system.

Chehab describes the $592.6mn (SR2.2bn) works as “a challenging project that comprises an ultra-complex scope of work in a fast-track tempo”.

“Our scope is spread over an area of 3mn m2,” he says.

Moreover, the web of connecting the 26,000 employees to their facilities passes through Almabani’s work area.
Almabani has therefore provided a series of access roads that have changed and re-routed as the project has progressed.

“All the facilities around the terminal are accessed through the aprons, and some subcontractors work along us within the aprons and taxiways. Therefore, we must maintain a high level of co-ordination.”

The works packages being undertaken will mean that King Abdulaziz International Airport will be the the first airport in Saudi Arabia where all services are embedded underground, so that fuel, glycol, pressurised air, water and waste discharge connections can be plugged directly into a plane as it parks, alongside a 400hz power supply.

The project was initially due for completion by the end of this year, but Chehab says that there have been some delays. It is currently around 70% complete and it has already reached peak activity, when there were around 2,500 workers on site.

“We are in an advanced stage,” he explains. “Completion works are ongoing in certain areas, and are about to start in other areas. Yet we are still facing delays from other subcontractors, and I am afraid those delays might affect the operation of the new airport.”

The entire airport terminal was due for completion this year, but is currently understood to be running behind schedule.

“We are upgrading one of the busiest operational airports in the world,” says Chehab. “In addition, planning and close coordination among subcontractors is crucial, because in each scope/area of the project, you will find several subcontractors engaged.”

He said that overcoming constraints has involved supporting the main contractor by taking a lead role and, where necessary, taking over delayed tasks where other subcontractors have not delivered. Yet despite the issues, Chehab is proud of his involvement with the project.

“Working on such prestigious project with this level of professionalism means a lot for any engineer,” he said, adding that it provided the opportunity to work in a specialist field such as airport projects.

“I consider myself lucky to be working with Almabani, where all my superiors –our chairman, our CEO and our EVPs (executive vice-presidents) are providing us with all the needed support and authority, as well as listening to our day-to-day concerns.”

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