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Sat 24 Feb 2007 01:06 PM

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UK firms cement their presence in the region

With a history of partnership within the region, UK firms continue to influence the expanding infrastructure. Rupert Cornford takes a look at some of the contractors and key deals they have secured over the last 12 months.

Major contractors from the UK have long-been associated with the GCC construction sector. The development of joint venture companies with local partners has enabled the top flight of British builders to take part in the Middle East's construction industry for over 30 years, leaving them well placed for the building boom that has taken hold in the region over the last decade.

Carillion, Balfour Beatty and Laing O'Rourke currently share some of the major high-profile construction projects not only in the UAE, but also in Oman, and have helped to shape the infrastructure of 21st century Arabia as Gulf states look to move away from oil dependency towards new forms of economic growth such as tourism.

In an effort to meet the infrastructure needs of a region experiencing huge population growth, Balfour Beatty's tie-up with UAE civil engineering firm Dutco has been working in the UAE since 1977. As well as working on major pivotal contracts such as Jebel Ali Port, and Dubai International Airport, the firm is well known for its road-building activities in the country.

In August 1998, Dutco Balfour Beatty Group (DBBG) completed a US $55 million (AED202 million) upgrade project on the coastal section of Shiekh Zayed Road between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The works included the development of 27km of twin four-lane roads from the original dual carriageway, 27 cloverleaf interchanges and 200km of new road. Working with Ital Consult, the project was completed in 24 months.

Major road contracts since then have included the US $26 million development of Interchange 3 on Sheikh Zayed Road into a full cloverleaf design, including widening work between Interchanges 2 and 4. And the $14 million construction of Al Awir Bypass, which included 13.5km of dual carriageway. The work included substantial cut-and-fill sub base, road base, camel underpasses, culverts and 11kV overhead lines.

In 2006, the firm scored a double deal in Dubai by winning $190 million worth of contracts from the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). The work includes the widening of Emirates Road from three lanes to five in each direction over a distance of 35km, including auxiliary lanes and ramps. The project, in which DBBG saw off competition from Emirates Road Contracting and Wade Adams to land the deal is due for completion in September 2007.

The firm also won a major contract to build an interchange at Jumeirah Lake Towers in Dubai. Commonly known as Interchange 5.5, the scope of works involves the construction of five elevated viaducts, a three-span bridge across the existing Dubai Marina, associated service roads and other related infrastructure.

"It is one of the biggest projects we have ever won in Dubai," said Grahame McCaig, general manager, DBBG.

The project, which is due for completion in September 2008, will not only provide access to both Jumeirah Lake Towers residential development and the Dubai Marina, but will also assist with improving the traffic flow on the main thoroughfare to Dubai.

Laing O'Rourke has also been operating in the UAE with its joint venture partner Al Naboodah since 1977, and is currently working on the Dubai International Airport Extension project. The contractor is also involved with the Old Town Commercial Island development on the site of Burj Dubai, and the Atlantis, which is a themed resort development on the Palm Jumeirah.

More recently, however, Laing O'Rourke teamed up with Abu Dhabi-based developer Aldar to form another joint venture specifically set up to deliver projects on the $18 billion Al Raha Beach project. Known as Aldar Laing O'Rourke, its first project is the construction of residential and commercial property on the site, which will occupy a 500ha coastal site at the entrance to Abu Dhabi city.

"Al Raha Beach will be the first project to benefit from the agreement with Laing O'Rourke," says Ron Barrott, CEO, Aldar Properties. "We intend to begin work immediately so as to take advantage of the synergies between our two businesses. We shall be expediating design, speeding procurement, building solid relationships with contractors and seeking efficiency everywhere."

The contractor is also planning to use its skills and experience to influence other projects in the emirate.

"We will be using all the innovative skills and modern construction techniques that we have adopted from our experience around the world and focus them on Al Raha Beach and future developments in Abu Dhabi," adds Ray O'Rourke, chairman and CEO, Laing O'Rourke.

Al Raha Beach is a mixed-use scheme covering residential, commercial, retail and leisure facilities, with an overall total development value of some $18 billion. The development is divided into a number of smaller communities each offering a different mix of lifestyle, entertainment and business opportunities.

Al Futtaim on target

UK contractor Carillion won a raft of recognition at last year’s Construction Week Awards. Picking up the gongs for Health and Safety, Major Project of the Year and the Supreme Judges’ Award, the company, with its local joint venture partnerships showed the talent, tenacity and commitment to set it apart from the crowd.

In Dubai, Al Futtaim Carillion is currently in the advanced stages of Dubai Festival City (DFC). And the company has introduced a series of health and safety measures aimed at improving performance and achieving its “Target Zero” objective on the DFC site, having achieved 10 million man hours without a lost time accident.

Al Futtaim Carillion managing director, Nick Down, said: “The construction industry in the UAE is developing at a tremendous pace and many clients, quite rightly, are demanding innovation from their contractors to ensure that their development hits the market on budget, on time, with good quality and, just as importantly, with the safety and welfare of the workforce as a prime consideration.”

In Oman, where Carillion operates with joint venture partner Alawi, the contractor has already delivered the Bar Al Jissah Resort and Spa. The 124 acre site, for which Carillion picked up the Major Project of the Year honours is the Shangri-La’s first three-hotel luxury resort located on the Gulf of Oman.

The Omani joint venture also took advantage of a raft of contracts worth more than US $259 million (OR100 million) that were handed out for phase one of The Wave residential development in Muscat.

Carillion Alawi will undertake the construction of 191 townhouses as well as infrastructure work, including the manufacture of quay wall blocks for the marina and core-lock blocks for the offshore reef.

In total the resort comprises 680 rooms overlooking 580 metres of beach.

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