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Sat 18 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Contractors touch down as the airport building boom takes off

The sharp rise in airline passenger numbers in the Middle East and the arrival of the new generation of A380 super airliners has led to the widening of runways, the modification of existing terminals and the construction of new ones across the region. Conrad Egbert reports.

More than US $1 billion worth of airport projects are set to be let in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the next month, as contractors from around the globe look to put down their markers in the booming regional airport construction market.

While the projected increase in passenger numbers and airfreight is one factor behind the current activity, the arrival of the super-sized A380’s is another, as both runways and terminals need to be expanded to accommodate them.

Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Jeddah are all gearing up to welcome the aircraft, and several major packages are now out to tender.

Contractors including TAV and Gunal of Turkey, Lebanon’s Arabian Construction Company, Japan’s Taisei and Takenaka, and John Laing of the UK, are all chasing the estimated $800 million-plus main terminal contract at the $5.5 billion Doha International Airport.

Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, the list of contractors bidding for the new interim terminal includes: UAE-based Al Habtoor; South Africa’s Murray & Roberts; Cypriot firm J&P; Abu Dhabi Contracting; Odebrecht; Arabtec and Six Construct. TAV is also in the running for the new $250 million Hajj terminal in Jeddah, which will be let as a BOT contract.

More than $40 billion worth of airport developments are currently underway across the Middle East, with half of those in the UAE alone, according to the organisers of Dubai’s annual Airport Build & Supply Exhibition.

And that has provided the incentive for an increasing number of international contractors and consortia to target the sector, including Turkish contracting group TAV, which is one of the latest arrivals.

Regional director Ani Ray, said: “We are planning to bid for many new airport projects, beginning with a new terminal building at Khartoum Airport in Sudan, bids for which are expected in August; another terminal at Queen Alia Airport in Jordan; a terminal at Bahrain Airport and the construction and upgrading of two more airports in the Indian cities of Calcutta and Chennai.”

Record oil prices and booming regional economies have enabled GCC governments to invest billions in infrastructure development, while the projected growth of tourism in markets like Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Oman is another reason why many operators are investing in their fleets and infrastructures on the ground.

“Airbus estimates that Middle East and African airlines will require 1,016 new aircraft, worth $124 billion, over the next 20 years,” said Nick Webb, director of Streamline Marketing Group, organisers of the Airport Build & Supply Exhibition, which is scheduled to be held in Dubai in June this year.

“Regional airport developments to cater for this increased traffic are estimated at well over $40 billion, with $20 billion in the UAE alone.

“With an expected budget surplus of $50 billion and a current account surplus of over $100 billion for the six Gulf states, spending is set to continue over the long term,” he added. Saudi Oger is another regional contracting group currently targeting the airport sector.

“The airport boom is definitely here to stay for a while. The two biggest jobs at the moment are the Dubai Airport and the Jeddah Airport,” said Mazen Fayed, corporate communications manager, Saudi Oger, a Saudi-based contractor who is chasing airport contracts in Saudi Arabia.

“Plans for the new airport in Jeddah are currently being evaluated. They will either build a new airport, which will be annexed to the existing one or just upgrade the existing one. We also plan to bid for the new Hajj terminal as well,” he added.

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