Top 10 construction news stories from 2016

Challenging for some, rewarding for others, 2016 was anything but boring. CW recaps 10 of the biggest GCC construction stories from the past year


1. World’s largest indoor theme park opens to the public in Dubai

The world’s largest indoor theme park, IMG Worlds of Adventure, opened its doors to the public in late August. Wholly owned by Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari Group, and managed by IMG Worlds, the project has been touted as the first international mega-theme park to open in Dubai – a development designed to redefine the modern entertainment experience with its unprecedented size and offering.

Spanning 139,354m2, equivalent to 28 football pitches, IMG Worlds of Adventure is the first theme park to feature international brands, Marvel and Cartoon Network, in addition to two proprietary brands, IMG Boulevard and Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure. The theme park boasts an array of roller coasters and attractions, complemented by 28 original food and beverage (F&B) offerings and 25 retail outlets.

In comments made following the project’s inauguration, Ilyas Galadari and Mustafa Galadari, executive co-chairmen and owners of Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group, said: “The creation of IMG Worlds of Adventure is the realisation of a shared childhood dream. This landmark launch has turned our aspirations of creating the world’s largest indoor theme park into a reality.”

2. Government ends rescue talks with Saudi Oger

In September, the Saudi Arabian government called off rescue talks with Saudi Oger, an anonymous source told Reuters. The collapse of the talks left the troubled contractor facing a multibillion-dollar debt restructuring process. A second KSA-based source said that, in addition to $4bn (SAR15bn) of bank loans, Saudi Oger owed $670m (SAR2.5bn) to workers, and billions of riyals to contractors and suppliers.

3. Fast finishes Riyadh metro green line tunnelling

In June, FAST Consortium, which is working on six lines of Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Metro, completed excavation works for Line 5. Also known as the Green Line, this portion of the metro runs underground along the length of King Abdulaziz Road, a main artery through the kingdom’s capital city. It boasts 13km of bored tunnel, 11 underground stations, and transfer stations that connect with the project’s Red and Blue lines.

4. Oman sees early real estate boom

The total traded value of Oman’s real estate sector grew by 244.3% during the first four months of last year, compared to the corresponding period of 2015. The traded value of mortgage contracts increased by 324.1%, reaching $13.5bn (OMR5.2bn) by the end of April. Fees collected from real estate-related legal actions hit $65m during the same period.

5. Kuwait awards $4bn airport deal

In May, Turkey’s Limak Group and its local agent, Kharafi National, were awarded a contract to build a $4.34bn (KWD1.31bn) terminal at Kuwait International Airport. Once completed, the terminal will increase the airport’s annual capacity from its current five million to 25 million passengers.

6. ETA Doha accused of non-payment

In September, Doha’s ETA Engineering & Contracting was accused of failing to pay final settlement dues to employees laid off during the preceeding year. Sources close to the company alleged that the contractor, a Doha-based subsidiary of ETA Ascon Group, failed to pay end-of-service dues to more than 100 staff members following the termination of their contracts.

The sources told Construction Week that the former employees were also denied exit passages. One source, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “More than 100 staff have been terminated in the past year, without anyone receiving their end-of-service dues.”

Documents given to CW suggest that at least one employee secured diplomatic intervention from the Indian Embassy in Qatar in a bid to secure payment from ETA.

7. DP unveils Marasi Business Bay project

Dubai Holding’s Dubai Properties (DP) unveiled Marasi Business Bay in May. Located on the Dubai Water Canal, the $272m (AED1bn) development will be home to a 12km-long promenade – the longest of its kind in the UAE. In November, satellite images captured by DubaiSat-2 confirmed the completion of the $545m (AED2bn) Dubai Water Canal.

8. Fire hits Dubai’s Sulafa tower

A blaze broke out at Dubai Marina’s Sulafa Tower in July. Residents were forced to evacuate the building, and local roads were closed. Witnesses reported seeing burning debris falling from the side of the 75-storey residential building. The tower is situated across the road from The Marina Torch, which was also the scene of a major fire in February 2015.

9. Dubai ruler launches Jumeirah Central project

Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, unveiled the Jumeirah Central project in September. The project will feature smart infrastructure, such as a multi-modal transport network, environmentally friendly transport options, and aerial gondolas. The all-season city district will comprise 83.6ha of retail space, including three malls.

10. Saudi Binladin secures $667m loan

Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) was reported to have secured a $666.5m (SAR2.5bn) loan from local banks as it looked to consolidate its fluidity. Arab National Bank and Saudi British Bank were said to be providing the loan. Two sources close to the matter said SBG pledged land as collateral for the funds.

Details of the land’s size and location, and the loan’s tenure, were not disclosed. SBG was expected to use the loan to cover redundancy costs for laid-off workers, unpaid salaries, and severance costs, sources told Reuters. The sources added that the inclusion of collateral resulted from doubts about the health of Saudi Arabia’s construction sector. In September 2015, the country’s government barred SBG from bidding for new state contracts after one of its cranes fell into Makkah’s Grand Mosque during a storm, killing 107 people.

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