There is still plenty of opportunity in Qatar
There is still plenty of opportunity for suppliers, contractors and machine specialists in the once-sleepy country of Qatar.
Different from other Gulf States which have been focusing on construction and real estate projects, Qatar is taking a multi-pronged approach to development that encompasses everything from infrastructure, through to healthcare and education.
It is little secret that thecountry owes its riches to oil revenue – and like other countries it is using this wealth to modernise both the civil and petrochemical infrastructure works.
Tourism was given a boost back in 2006 when the country hosted the Asian Games, which required a huge amount of work to get stadia, athelete’s villages and the associated tourism infrastructure for visitors ready in time.
However, the downturn hit Qatar like everywhere else, though the abundance of oil money meant that it could recover reasonably quickly.
Qatar can produce its own fuel, but pretty much all other construction materials need to be shipped in. This makes it particularly vulnerable to peaks and troughs in supply and price of concrete, steel and so on, which is point heavy equipment owners should bear in mind when considering the likely cashflow of the lead contractor.
In particular, the country is reliant on the UAE for aggregates such as cement. As the UAE itself experienced a shortfall in the amount of cement for domestic consumption some time ago, supplying neighboring countries came quite far down the list.
Amazingly, until a couple of years ago, aggregates could only be bought from an approved list of suppliers. Fortunately, in a recent diversification of resources, firms are now allowed to import their own stocks to bolster their supplies.
Additionally, local firms are bringing in their own production equipment, such as batching plant, crushers and other process-controlled machinery.
Roads and road buildingGetting lorries and equipment around Qatar has been the usual experience for most operators, with pitted roads and unfit-for- purpose intersections.
However, a massive new road building programme has been underway for the past few years, bringing benefits to road users and road builders alike. There are many new roads and interchanges being commissioned by Ashghal – the country’s civic works department.
Among the major road projects implemented so far, is the Gharafa Interchange, which serves as an entry point to Doha for traffic from the northern cities like Al Khor, Ras Laffan, Shamal and Zabara.
It consists of a three-tiered flyover with three lanes on each direction to the length of 900m, and an underpass with three lanes, also with a length of 900m.
It is being built according to international specifications. with emergency side parking spots and parallel service roads with 15 intersections.
It will be provided with all the necessary infrastructure services. The authorities say that traffic safety will be a ‘hallmark’ of all these projects, with adequate landscaping and illumination.
Not the most glamorous of topics, but as the capital expands, so does its need to get rid of waste. In fact, a lot of it appears to have been done already, with around a dozen projects appearing on the municipality’s recent list of completed projects.
There are still contracts going for more though, with a drainage and outfall system at Markhia, a whole sewage network at Aziziyya and a sewage treatment works at Al Thakhira - all of which need to be dug by heavy machinery.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world. This is offset somewhat by having some of the poorest migrants in the world – even by Gulf standards.
A report by the US State Department has found that bringing migrants in to the country under false promises and then keeping them as workers in effective slavery is commonplace.
The report found that all the usual ‘tricks’ are common among unscrupulous employers, such as withholding passports, paying irregularly, if ever as well as falsifying the wage chitty.
To this end the government has commissioned contracting agency Barwa to build a ‘Workers City’ which will meet all modern requirements for welfare and safety - a start perhaps.
However, the old-fashioned ‘sponsorship’ system where an employer takes full responsibility for an employee, including if and when they are allowed to leave, is still alive and well.
Anyone using subcontractors would do well to bear this in mind. It is worth noting that while the conditions of migrant workers are lamentable, Qatar has a much better track record than other GCC countries in employing nationals.
In spite of the downturn, there is an exciting amount of new builds happening in Doha. In a process that would be called urban renewal in the West, the rag-tag assortment of concrete buildings, souks and narrow streets that make up the old heart of Doha, are to be ripped out and transplanted with a new mega-development fitting called ‘New Heart of Doha’.
The new development will include 226 buildings ranging from 3 to 30 floors high.
The design phase has been handled by Allies and Morrison from the UK and Burns & McDonnell of the USA. Contracts are still being awarded for the work.
Of course, most of the folk who live and work in the current old town won’t be able to afford a place in the new, so once again Barwa along with Marbu Contracting has stepped in and is building the Barwa Village.
“It is a big development valued at US $412 m” explained project manager Khalid Abdulla Al Hitmi.
“It’s a mixed residential and commercial development and it is like one of those gated communities that you have in Dubai and in other places of the Gulf.”
“The project has all sorts of amenities including an international standard school, nursery, park, public plaza, playground, shopping plaza, admin centre and a mosque” he continued.
“The quality of construction is also very good, but then in Qatar the quality of the finish and construction is generally much better than in other places,” he added.
It isn’t all low rise residential projects though, Qatar already has a busy airport, with a somewhat overcrowded terminal building used as a transit hub for people flying all over the region and the world.
While adequate, Doha plans to have a facility that will rival the best in the world. The New Doha International Airport will be built just east of the existing terminal.
One of the first jobs for heavy machines will be to move a sprawling old rubbish dump to a new and better landfill facility elsewhere. This will be the first time that such a mission has been attempted in the region, to the best of our knowledge.
Undoubtedly a complement of wheel loaders, excavators and dump trucks will be needed to scoop the muck out – and presumably land-fill spec compaction rollers will be required at the other end.
After this, the ground works for the terminal building are scheduled to begin. Phase I and II works of the Passenger Terminal Complex, which are carried out by Turkish TAV Construction and Japanese TAISEI Corporation Joint Venture, are scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
Elsewhere on site, work continues on the new runways and hangars – this claims to be the first airport capable fully handling the Airbus A380.
Back in 2007 Malaysian contractors Gamuda Berhad and WCT Engineering won the US $490 million contract to design and build the runways, road tunnels and other facilities.
After this the consortium ordered a large amount of equipment, including two asphalt plants made by Linnhoff. “The (consortium) is placing about 10,000 tonnes of asphalt per day,” said Linnhoff Technologies general manager Thomas Wolf.
“The contractor is working six days a week, and using a fleet of Tata trucks from India to shuttle the asphalt to the laying areas,” he told us last year.
The two main road maintenance suppliers are Modern Construction Co. and Roots Qatar, while there are also around a dozen equipment rental firms in the capital. For heavy equipment, the major brands are well represented and the area is well serviced.
Obaikan Equipment & Services represent Bobcat, and Araco deal in Volvo. Less common far eastern brands are also represented.
All of the countries in the region seem to have got a taste for light rail at the moment and Qatar is no exception. Unlike the rest of the GCC though, they don’t seem in any particular hurry to begin.
A company named Qatar Rail has just been launched with the entire project overseen by another company called Qatari Diar.
The plan is for a rail system that combines light passenger trains for the city, while tying up to a larger freight network nationwide.
However, plans are still at an early stage, as no track will be laid before 2012 so there is plenty of time to investigate possibilities for bids and tenders.