Top 5 airport projects in the GCC

Booming tourism means billions have been ploughed into GCC aviation

136 million man hours were worked without LTIs At Dubai International Airport.
136 million man hours were worked without LTIs At Dubai International Airport.

Billions have been ploughed into GCC aviation markets to build up the region’s profile as a transport hub. ConstructionWeek looks at five of the biggest ongoing airport projects as the development continues.

The GCC’s aviation sector has undergone rapid transformation over the last decade. Recognising that establishing a hub – backed by an international brand – was a strong tool for development, Dubai with Emirates, Abu Dhabi with Etihad and Qatar with Qatar Airways have ploughed billions of dollars into their respective aviation markets.

Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman too have established strong regional hubs and are continuing to modernise their airport infrastructure to cope with double-digit growth in cargo and passenger demand.

ConstructionWeek takes a look at five of the biggest aviation projects currently underway in the GCC, beginning with the biggest potential market, Saudi Arabia.

Despite being left behind by the investment of its GCC neighbours, the kingdom – buoyed by record budget spending – has embarked upon a massive upgrade programme of its airport infrastructure.

In particular, the kingdom’s airports are undergoing extensive and radical overhaul’s to ensure Saudi Arabia will become a major hub by 2035 – and at the same time catch up with newer hubs such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which have already committed significant funds into their respective sectors.

1) King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah
The kingdom’s largest contractor, Saudi Binladin Group last month secured the low-bid for two of the largest contracts set to be awarded in 2010 for the upgrade of the King Abdulaziz International airport in Jeddah.

A number of international and local contractors had submitted bids for two design and build contracts, which covered infrastructure and construction of the terminal and affiliated works.

SBG submitted bids valued at US $3 billion (SR11.3 billion) for the terminal and $3.7 billion for the infrastructure. Other bidders for the work included Almabani General Contractors, El Seif Engineering & Contracting Company, China Harbour Engineering Company and Joannou & Paraskevaides with Murray & Roberts.

Known as the King Abdulaziz International Airport Development Project, it will be developed in three phases. Phase one – which includes the overhaul and construction of two passenger terminals, construction of a general aviation terminal, desalination plant and other facilities – is scheduled for completion in 2012, while phase 3 is scheduled for 2035.

The new terminal will include a new terminal with 42 departure gates, aircraft hangers, new control tower, railway station zone and maintenance facilities.

Unlike the rest of the GCC, Saudi Arabia’s primary target is to meet demand from religious tourist on the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. Jeddah acts as the gateway to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, with approximately 2.5 million visitors during the Hajj period alone. Up to seven million perform the Umrah over the course of a year.

In addition to these plans, Saudi Arabia plans a number of ‘airport cities’ within the kingdom where people can live, shop, study and attend conferences. Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam have all been earmarked as sites where these cities will be developed.

Arabian Business, citing Bloomberg, reported the General Authority for Civil Aviation (Gaca) had short-listed four groups for a $2.4 billion project to build and operate facilities at an Airport City linked to Jeddah.

It will take approximately 10 years to complete and is part of a plan to attract $5.86 billion in investment to build, own and operate an airport and terminal related facilities, according to Alaa Samman, director of business development for domestic airports at Gaca. The winning bids are expected in August, he added.

2) Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai
Al Maktoum International airport – part of the massive US $33 billion Dubai World Central project – is set to open its first phase on June 27 for cargo. The site will also feature a logistics centre and a number of residential developments.

When complete Al Maktoum will be able to handle 160 million passengers a year, making it one of the world’s largest airports.

While falling demand and room for renegotiation on contracts has affected the pace of the project, its overall design has not altered. Anticipating long-term growth, the government is developing the new airport near Jebel Ali Free Zone. It is not clear at this stage, however, when commercial flights will begin operating out of the airport.

The budget has been revised but when finally completed the site will feature 4km of runways, a cargo terminal, passenger terminal, utilities complex and associated facilities. Other phases will see the construction of further runways, a 10km underground cargo tunnel to Jebel Ali port, baggage and cargo handling facilities and associated amenities.

A consortium featuring the local contractor Arabtec Construction and Malaysia’s WCT Engineering won the construction contract for the airport in 2006.

Meanwhile, Dubai airport’s $1.17 billion concourse three, designed specifically to take the A380 is scheduled to open in 2012.

3) Abu Dhabi expansion
Like its neighbouring emirate, Abu Dhabi is anticipating a marked increase in passenger and cargo traffic over the coming years and has subsequently planned for this.

The Abu Dhabi Airports Company is constructing a new airport near the existing site, under the Supervision Committee for Expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport (SCADIA) to increase passenger traffic from the current 7 million to 32 million.

To be completed in two phases the project will include a 21-storey air traffic control tower (ATCC), Etihad passenger terminal, midfield terminal complex, 4.1km runway and a number of taxiways and commercial areas.

The contract for the midfield terminal complex is expected to be awarded in the fourth quarter this year and will be completed by 2015. The contract will see a new terminal built between Abu Dhabi’s International airport’s two runways with a total built-up area of 630,000m2 and the capacity of handling up to 20 million passengers per year. It will also feature a multi-storey car park.

A number of groups are understood to have submitted prequalification forms. These include ACC with Bouygues, Samsung Corporation and Six Construct Abu Dhabi. Bechtel Corporation with Enka and the Al Jaber Group and Al Habtoor Leighton with Murray & Roberts and Hochtief.

Al Habtoor Engineering & Murray & Roberts were awarded the EPC contract for the Etihad passenger terminal, which was completed in 2008. The ATCC is being built by Ascon and Kumho Engineering & Construction Company and is due to be completed in the second quarter. Foundation, piling and excavation works are currently underway.

4) Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Airport, Madinah
In addition to Prince Abdulaziz at Jeddah, Gaca is in the process of prequalifying firms for the public-private partnership (PPP) deal to develop the US $1.5 billion first phase of the Prince Mohammed Bin Adbualaziz Airport expansion at Madinah.

Bids for the first phase are due in September, with an award expected by the end of November. Construction is then due to start one year later. A number of firms have been prequalified including SBG and Almabani General Contractors.

Gaca will renovate the airport to enable a much-increased capacity of 14 million passengers per year, compared to the 3.5 million passengers a year. Construction will involve a new passenger terminal, renovation of the existing runway and a possible second runway.

This second phase is expected to take place between 2021 and 2024 and is expected to push up the overall cost to $2.4 billion.

The expansion of Madinah airport – the first that Gaca is developing under a PPP contract - is part of the kingdom’s wider plan to develop more than $10.5 billion of airport projects to increase capacity across the kingdom.

In total, Gaca is upgrading 16 domestic airports including Abha, Hail, Arar, Al Wajeh and Al Quisumah.

Bids for construction packages are scheduled to be submitted in the third quarter of 2010, with an award following in the fourth quarter. Concept and detailed design has previously been awarded to ADPI Designers & Planners. Saudi Arabia has 27 airports in total.

5) New Doha International Airport, Qatar
Work is also still ongoing on the New Doha International Airport in Doha. Following the success of Qatar Airways, it was decided the existing facilities were inadequate and work is now under way to build a new airport in excess of 22km2, with the ability to handle 50 million passengers. This will make it three times the size of the current airport and six times the capacity.

With a spiralling budget estimated now at US $11 billion (previously it was $5.5 billion), the first phase of the airport is expected to open in 2011. This will comprise of two runways and a 13,000m2 terminal, 24 gates and the capacity to handle 12 million passengers per year. Phase 3 is due to be completed in 2015.

At the beginning of the year, a number of contractors submitted bids for a $600 million contract to build an extension to the passenger terminal. An award is expected in the second quarter of this year. The extension includes a five-storey structure covering 127,000 m2.

Those firms understood to have bid include Six Construct, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company and China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

This will connect with the main passenger terminal currently being built by a consortium featuring Taisei Corporation and TAV.

The second phase of the expansion will double capacity to 24 million and the addition of 80,000m2 of space.

Elsewhere in the region, Iraq’s Ministry of Transport is looking to develop aviation facilities, which meet international standards to receive pilgrims and tourists.

In total, it plans to meet a capacity of 30 million passengers per year on a site of 220 acres at Karbala.

Details of the projects include a runway, taxiway, apron, terminal, passenger bridges, air traffic control tower and administrative buildings. The project has an estimated value of US $3 billion.

Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation is looking to expand the number of passengers annually passing through the airport to 20 million, from the current six million.

It will also be able to receive the new Airbus A380. A new terminal building will be linked to the existing terminal via a tunnel and the new design incorporates a hotel, car parks, new maintenance hangers and both existing runways will be extended by 600m.

Oman’s Ministry of Transport & Communication is pushing ahead with expansion plans for airports at the capital Muscat and Salalah to raise passenger capacity to 7 million.

Consisting of five phases, the ministry plans to develop airside facilities, an air traffic control tower, a passenger terminal, the redevelopment of Salalah airport and deliver updated airport IT systems.

EPC contracts for new passenger terminals at Muscat and Salalah are expected to be awarded in July. For the capital, this will involve the construction of a 290,000m2 airport
terminal. Work is expected to start in the second half of the year. Firms understood to have submitted bids are Joannou and Paraskevaides (J&P), TAV, Consolidated Contractors Company, Bechtel and Larsen & Toubro.

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