Qatar: Skills, materials shortages ongoing issue
As Qatar's construction sector surges forward to meet immovable deadlines, the threat of materials and skills shortages looms
Experts have warned that increased pressure on Qatar's mammoth construction projects ahead of the 2020 FIFA World Cup and its 2030 vision deadlines could cause a shortage in materials supply and skills, creating bottlenecks and delays on key projects.
As part of a JV with QDVC, and working on a major contract worth over QAR4bn ($1BN) for the Orbital Highway, Konstantinos Kanellaidis, pavement works consultant, Bin Omran, is wary of the prospect of material shortages.
“The main challenge is securing the project from any kind of shortages in raw materials, gabbro, bitumen, and cement,” he says.
“As the construction activities in our contract will be at their peak concurrently to other mega projects in the State of Qatar, we may face shortages in some of the aforementioned raw materials.”
However, forewarned is fore-armed and Bin Omran has ensured that it has already started procurement of almost the full quantity of gabbro required for completing the project. “We are planning to produce our own special bitumen product that ensures high quality road performance, which is expected to be in high demand during the peak of construction,” he adds.
According to John Kristian Wallgren, business development manager, Al Hamad Engineering, competition is high in Qatar, with the immovable timeframe around 2022 and 2030, resulting in constraints on companies, “It’s a huge undertaking and the contracts are fairly tough so you have to carry some risks if you want to meet the schedule, more so in Qatar with all the delays. Delivery is severely hampered by red tape.”
He also advises having a reliable procurement process in place to prevent materials shortages: “You have to have strong procurement in place to prevent materials delays or shortages – you have to look ahead and plan, also, bearing in mind that everything has to be imported into Qatar.”
Red tape around work permits and visas creates obstacles to securing the right skills and is exacerbated with the sheer number of workers required for each project, making recruitment logistics a mounting nightmare in the region.
Tom Wilkins, façade manager, KEO International, working in the QP District, overseeing the installation of the glass façade, believes that part of the delays in projects generally, has more to with skills shortages: “Getting the right people on the job, with the right qualifications will ensure that projects are delivered on time.”
He stresses that this is not only about the professionals like engineers and architects, but also labourers. Even qualified installers are in short supply, according to Wilkins. “The labour force is recruited from areas where there are no apprenticeship processes in place, like in the UK and Germany, for example, so when they arrive in Qatar, they have to be taught everything.”
Kanellaidis adds, “We are always looking for the best people for the job, qualified to use the equipment and run the project; people who can anticipate problems and find solutions, which sometimes results in having to look beyond the region for the skills-set.”
Wallgren adds, “Manpower is another challenge. We have done a number of projects with joint ventures and if it’s your first time here with estimates based on numbers say from Europe or North America, you are not going to get the same productivity out of the labour force with numbers that are based on a workforce coming out of Europe. You have to look at it from a more pessimistic viewpoint.”