World Central phase one gets off ground

Construction has started on Dubai World Central, which will include the largest airport in the world.

Work on phase one of the project is currently taking place, including the first runway and infrastructure works, which are being carried out by Al Nab
Work on phase one of the project is currently taking place, including the first runway and infrastructure works, which are being carried out by Al Nab

Of all the mega developments proceeding or being planned in Dubai, be it the Burj Dubai or Business Bay, the Dubai World Central (DWC) project dwarfs them all. In its sheer scope, ambition and size, it is hard to think of a bigger construction project underway in the Middle East. Certainly there is Emaar's massive King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia, and work continues on the masterplan for the Mohammed Bin Zayed City in Abu Dhabi. However, neither will include the world's largest airport. Dubai World Central International Airport is set to become the largest in the world, eclipsing the current record holder - Atlanta - by 50%, and eventually accommodating 120 million people and 12 million tonnes of cargo each year.

With its current construction value of US $33 billion (AED121 billion) the 140km2 DWC development - almost twice the size of Hong Kong island - is being viewed as a multi-phase development designed to support Dubai's aviation, tourism, commercial and logistics requirements.

Within the masterplan of DWC will be Residential City, which will offer a combination of freehold and leased homes to accommodate 250,000 people; Commercial City, the business and financial hub with more than 850 towers of up to 75 storeys in height, a golf resort and Enterprise Park - home to research institutes, alternative technologies and a science park. In total, DWC is expected to be able to accommodate up to one million people when it is fully developed.

The airport will be 10 times larger than Dubai International Airport and Cargo Village combined, will have six parallel runways - each 4.5km in length - with as many concourses and a 92m-high control tower.

"Once completed, I don't know of any airport that will match this [in terms of size]," says Khalifa Al Zaffin, director of engineering and projects, Department of Civil Aviation, Government of Dubai.

The plan is to link Dubai World Central International Airport with the existing Dubai International Airport via an express rail system, which will ultimately will be served by the Dubai Metro development.

Work is currently progressing on the first runway, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, with the first flights expected in mid-2008.

Unlike other projects in Dubai, there is a clear rationale to justify such elaborate figures: "A key feature of the airport is that while many airports around the world have cargo as an ancillary feature, there is a very clear focus on the cargo element here from the beginning, and as such, it will be probably the most efficient cargo airport in the world. We are in a truly unique position of bringing together the number nine container port in the world, with the largest airport in the world when fully developed," says Michael Proffitt, CEO, Dubai Logistics City (DLC).

As such, Proffitt contends that market forces, particularly with globalisation seeing markets moving their manufacturing bases to the Far East, strengthen the need to base a transport hub in Dubai. "Its value proposition is Dubai as a hub, not an origin destination. Dubai is uniquely positioned within the greater region, such as southeast Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Indian subcontinent and Africa. So it's uniquely positioned with over two billion consumers within that market. Over the next 15 years, it is expected to grow by another billion, and that is the value proposition people are buying into," he adds.

"Historically, on a global basis, you had hubs in North America, Europe and the Far East. But with globalisation, you need a hub in the Middle East and there is no area better suited than Dubai to cover that hub," he says.

Work is currently taking place on phase one of the project, which Proffitt estimates is only 10-15% of the final development. Control towers and infrastructure works are taking place, along with the first runway for the site and works for DLC. This initial work will require some 5,000 labourers, which will steadily increase as more projects begin. "I think at least 30,000 labourers will be on site once all the projects are up and running," says Al Zaffin.

Two key contracts were awarded last week as construction gathered pace on the site. The turnkey construction of the DLC headquarters and office park has gone to Kuwait-based MA Kharafi & Sons - a $3 billion privately-owned group. Completion is scheduled for March 2009.

The contract for the construction of two Central Utility Complexes (CUC) to meet the cooling requirements for DWC's phase one facilities has gone to The National Company, part of the Kharafi Group. The first CUC will serve the airport area while the second will cater to DLC's headquarters and the Office Park.

Such contracts are merely a precursor to a raft of awards, which are to be delivered, to ensure that construction begins on time within the necessary projects. "We are going through post-tender clarification with a dozen different groups, including terminal buildings and various infrastructure and landscaping, so there is much more being looked at," says Al Zaffin, adding that the contract for the passenger terminal will be awarded imminently. "We are negotiating at the moment," he says.

DLC, which claims to be the world's first integrated multi-modal logistics platform, is central to Dubai's business proposition as a global and regional hub for integrated supply chain management and multi-modal transport. The project encompasses all transportation modes, logistics and value-added services, such as kitting and assembly, in a single-bonded and free-zone environment. Spanning 25km2, DLC is designed to handle 12 million tonnes of cargo annually and up to 16 air cargo terminals. At present, Proffitt says more than 100 companies have reserved land, totalling three million m2, which translates to 1.5 million m2 of warehouse space.

"The key issue here is that it is a project focused on the next 50 years and beyond," says Proffitt. "It's a statement saying that Dubai will have no issue with passenger growth or air cargo growth for years to come."

There can be no doubt that DWC will represent one of Dubai's most significant projects - it stands to steer Dubai into the latter half of the 21st century with an infrastructure that will cope with all the demands that tourism, business and the economy places on it.

The resulting development, when it is finally complete - and initial estimates expect demand will see the airport operating with up to three runways within 15 years - demonstrates a foresight and emphasis on engendering growth that is rare and is a timely reminder that Dubai, for all its short-term, elaborate developments, is aware of the bigger picture.


Dubai World Central – Site Team

Phase one contractors

Al Naboodah Contracting, The National Co., MA Kharafi & Sons


Department of Civil Aviation


“Once completed, I don�t know of any airport that will match this [in terms of] size.� - Khalifa Al Zaffin, director of engineering & projects, Department of Civil Aviation, Government of Dubai

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