Bahrain’s “year of delivery”

Could Bahrain soon be a force to reckon with other GCC markets? CW travelled to Manama to find out

Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco)’s Sitra multi-billion dollar oil refinery expansion
Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco)’s Sitra multi-billion dollar oil refinery expansion
Phase 1 of Edamah’s flagship project, Bilaj Aljazayer, will be launched to co-incide with Bahrain’s Formula 1 event
Phase 1 of Edamah’s flagship project, Bilaj Aljazayer, will be launched to co-incide with Bahrain’s Formula 1 event
Diyar Al Muharraq’s masterplan development
Diyar Al Muharraq’s masterplan development
Construction on the Salmaniya Medical Complex car park
Construction on the Salmaniya Medical Complex car park
Bahrain Economic Development Board director of business development for real estate, Ali Murtaza
Bahrain Economic Development Board director of business development for real estate, Ali Murtaza
Bahrain Minister of Oil, HE Sheikh  Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa
Bahrain Minister of Oil, HE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa

While all eyes are firmly fixed on Expo 2020 Dubai and gigaprojects in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom of Bahrain could well steal the spotlight on construction activities across the region.

Driven by Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 agenda, which was launched in October 2008, construction is set to play a major part in the country’s economic growth as it looks to reduce its dependency on the oil and gas sector.

Construction Week witnessed first-hand the sheer number of developments that are shaping the future of the kingdom.

Among the sectors that Bahrain is targeting is real estate, with several residential projects being built by the country’s major players.

Bahrain Bay, a 100% privately-owned development, is gaining momentum in the country, and CEO Gagan Suri told Construction Week that he sees Bahrain Bay playing a significant role in Manama’s growth story.

“In my opinion, the future of Manama is in Bahrain Bay. Many years from now, this will define the skyline of Manama,” Suri told Construction Week. “We are about 25% vertically developed and we have another 20% under development. This is almost 50% that has happened or is happening as we speak.”

Suri elaborates about the type of real estate construction happening throughout Bahrain Bay, including its first residential towers within the area.

“We are always trying to be ahead of the game. We are trying to put the horse before the cart. We have our Waterbay development, which is three residential 10-storey towers. The middle tower is very close to completion in a matter of not months, but weeks, and this will be the first time in Bahrain Bay that we will have people starting to live here.”

He adds: “The other two towers of Waterbay are not that far behind the middle tower, maybe a few months behind the first delivery. Within this area, we will cumulatively have close to 600 apartments coming to Bahrain Bay, which is substantial.”

This is just the beginning for real estate projects in Bahrain Bay, with plans for a Four Seasons apartment concept and the Golden Gate residential project.

“The Golden Gate development will have the tallest residential towers in Bahrain. The other project that is on the ground right now is the One Bahrain. Most people recognise it from the contractor which is Kooheji, and they are building residential towers as well,” Suri explains.

“We are also working on Four Seasons apartments – the piling and construction of this should start very soon.”

In addition to residential, hospitality is also a key part of Bahrain’s on-going construction progress, with a Hilton hotel being developed within the first phase of The Avenues development.

The main contractor for the building works of the hotel is Abdulla Nass Contracting, and the property is expected to be completed by November 2020.

Bahrain’s 12.2km2 masterplanned Diyar Al Muharraq megaproject, which is being constructed in four to five phases, is also capitalising on the demand for hospitality and residential developments.

Established as part of a joint venture with Abu Dhabi-based real estate developer Eagle Hills, construction work on Diyar Al Muharraq began in 2007, which the development’s chief executive officer, Ahmed Alammadi, told CW is a “huge” masterplan for any region, especially for a “small island such as Bahrain”.

“Within this joint venture, we are developing a shopping mall, the Vida and Address hotels, as well as many residential towers. The 2,000m2 shopping mall will be one of the largest shopping malls in Bahrain. Vida hotel and Vida residences, Address hotel and Address residences, as well as two residential towers, which will be called Marassi Residence, are all linked to the mall,” says Alammadi.

“The development of all these towers, along with the mall, which are all under construction, except the Marassi residence, have been handed over and should be ready by 2021.”

Edamah, the property development arm of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, also told Construction Week that 2020 would be the “year of delivery” for the kingdom as it focuses on the deliveries of three major projects.

“I would like to think of 2020 as the ‘year of delivery’ for Edamah. We did a lot of planning in 2019, and a lot of strategising for 2018, but in 2020 is when we will start to deliver,” Edamah CEO Amin Al Arrayed told CW.

“We will deliver Sa’ada in Q1 2020, Salmaniya car park towards the end of Q2 2020, and phase 1 of our flagship project which is Bilaj Aljazayer will be launched to co-incide with the Formula 1. This goes back to our ethos that is execution. We need to be able to execute on projects.”

Located in Muharraq, the waterfront development, Sa’ada, comprises a gross area of 13,112m2 and will include F&B outlets, kiosks, prayer halls and other supporting facilities.

For the 5,700m2 Salmaniya multi-storey car park, Al Arrayed told CW that they have an agreement with Bahrain’s Ministry of Health to build a multi-storey car park within the hospital complex to support patients, visitors and doctors.

Phase 1 of Edamah’s Bilaj Aljazayer, will be a mixed-use seafront development, which is around 3 km and is located approximately 5 km south west of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), which hosts the Formula 1 event. The total site covers approximately 1.3km2, which comprises a public beach and 309 leased chalets.

Al Arrayed added that car park infrastructure is a major part of its growth plans.

“We acquired 36% of the Bahrain Car Parks Company last year - they are a listed company on the Bahrain bourse – and one of the mandates that was identified as part of our strategy was to develop car park buildings and structures.”

Bahrain Economic Development Board’s director of business development for the real estate sector, Ali Murtaza, outlined that the growth for the country has been driven primarily by government investment into infrastructure to develop sectors for the future.

“From our side, we have committed about $32bn worth of investment into public and private infrastructure. Around $7.5bn out of that came from the GCC support fund, another $10bn came from semi-government entities, and an additional $10-15bn came from the private sector,” Murtaza tells Construction Week.

“A good example of where this investment is being put towards is the upgrade to the airport terminal, which is about to open in Q1 2020 and will cost $1.1bn, as well as the second causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which is the King Hamad Causeway. These are major government infrastructure investments.”

Digitisation has also been highlighted as a potential growth opportunity for Bahrain’s real estate sector, with Murtaza explaining that there was scope for property technology firms into the market.

But while the country is seeking to move away from its dependence on the oil and gas sectors revenues through its Vision 2030 agenda, there are still major developments for Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco)’s Sitra multi-billion dollar oil refinery expansion.

Touted as the biggest industrial project in the 90-year history of Bapco, construction works on the oil refinery have reached 40% and is expected to be commissioned in 2022, Bahrain’s Minister of Oil HE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, reveals to CW in an exclusive interview.

HE Sheikh Al Khalifa also said that the expansion is being handled by a consortium led by Italy’s TechnipFMC, South Korea’s Samsung Engineering, and Spain’s Tecnicas Reunidas, which he described as “three major construction companies.”

“We’re expanding our one and only refinery, Bapco, which has been operating since 1936. This expansion is well underway, and we have reached 40% completion on the project already,” HE Sheikh Al Khalifa tells CW.

HE Sheikh Al Khalifa went on to explain that the oil refinery is working with state-of-the-art process technologies, which would allow products to be produced to market specifications.

“As of January 2020, the International Maritime Organisation has implemented a law saying that all bunker fuel has to be below 0.5%wt sulphur, therefore high sulphur fuel oil is not allowed in the shipping industry.”

He added: “People are observing how compliant shipping companies are, but so far we have seen it in the margins. The price of high sulphur fuel oil has collapsed repeatedly. If you’re not ready with producing products that are on spec, refineries will go out of business.

“This is one of the first milestones in making sure that the Bapco refinery meets customer demands, and hopefully by 2022, we will see the commissioning of the refinery and the world wide export of its high quality products.”

With huge investments in the private and public sector, Bahrain is certainly a market on the rise and an area of the Middle East’s construction industry to watch out for in 2020 and the years to come.

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