Dubai's rise from tiny trading nation to one of the world's wealthiest countries within 40 years has been remarkable. Instrumental in its booming growth was the construction of Jebel Ali port, which opened in 1979.
The original port was designed by Halcrow. It was sealed off from the sea during construction, and only ooded when complete. It remains the world's largest man-made port - and when construction started, its scale was vastly at odds with that of Dubai's trading activities.
'When Sheikh Rashid built Jebel Ali port, everyone thought he was off his head, ' comments Halcrow Middle East development director Jim Fyvie.
'But now the plan is to double its size.' The port is virtually at capacity today, thanks to businesses flocking to the tax-free special economic zones around it and to Dubai's emergence as a major container shipping hub.
There are ambitious expansion plans for the port; part of the Dubai masterplan. It falls within an expanded free trade zone which also incorporates the Emirate's new airport, now nearing completion. It is hoped that the zone will exert a gravitational pull on developers and that Dubai will spread towards it.
The free zone already occupies all the land around the port, meaning that any expansion has to be out to sea. The expansion is in two stages - the first will add an extra 1.6km of reclaimed coastline to create a 2.6km long dock. The second will add another 2.6km, on an articial island (NCE 21 April 2005).
The £206M expansion incorporates berths suitable for the largest Post Panamax super tankers, so channels 17m deep must be dredged. Material will be used to create the reclaimed land and articial island.
Halcrow subsidiary HPA is responsible for the dredging contracts, let to contractors Hyundai and Jan De Nul Dredging. The reclamation contracts are being handled by Scott Wilson.
'These are fast-track contracts, ' explains chief civil engineering ofcer for the state-owned Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation, Nazek Al-Sabbagh.
Al-Sabbagh says the reclaimed coastline requires some 22Mm 3 of fill, and the island another 23Mm 3. 'Five packages have been let so far for reclamation, walls and piling, ' she says.
These are being undertaken on a partnership basis. 'If there are problems, we ensure that they are resolved later so there is no impact on following contracts, ' she says. The pressure to complete on time is significant. For Al-Sabbagh, managing such a vast project means focusing on one thing - the result.
''Don't ask me how many sub-projects there are. I have just one project, ' she says.
Dredgers are deepening channels by up to 10m of material to get the depth down to 17m.
Material being used for land reclamation is carefully monitored to ensure it meets minimum engineering requirements.
'Material is silt, sand, sand with pebbles and sandstone.
Really fine material is not suitable, ' explains HPA chief resident engineer Ehab Tanagho.
Fine silts are removed by screening material through a No.200 sieve. They are disposed of in deep water.
'There are 7,500 bored piles of 800mm to 1m diameter in the reclaimed area, ' says Al-Sabbagh. These will provide support for the rail mounted gantries and the land side container crane rail beam.
HPA has started construction of the reclaimed area and is monitoring its behaviour, says Tanagho.
'Settlement does not happen in the upper layers; the real settlement happens in the bottom layers. The biggest settlement happens in the first 12 to 18 months, but will keep settling for perhaps five years, ' he says.
Settlement is being accelerated by dropped weight dynamic compaction.
The quay walls rise 23m from the sea bed. They are formed of 11 courses of precast blocks each weighing between 54t and 75t.
Once complete, the new quays need breakwaters to protect against waves fetched in by prevailing northerly winds.
The client originally wanted floating breakwaters - one 300m long, the second 700m to 800m long, but this turned out to be impractical.
'Floating breakwaters of this size have never been made. We went to a specialist but it was just not possible. We resorted to a simpler option, ' says Tanagho.
This is a conventional rock breakwater. In all, 5.5Mt of material was needed to construct all of the breakwaters, revetments and walls.
Doubling the ports capacity is merely the rst step of expansion. A further five island docks - each with a similar capacity to the island under construction - are planned for the next 30 years, as Dubai's growth continues apace.
Client: DP World, the Dubai government-owned enterprise that bought P&O in 2006
Design engineer: HPA (formerly Han Padron Associates), bought by Halcrow in 2005
Contractor: Hyundai Heavy Industries, Korea
Dredging contractor: Jan de Nul Dredging, Netherlands
Around Jebel Ali
New airport: The existing airport expects to handle 33M passengers in 2007. The new Dubai World Central International Airport, to open in June 2008, will have capacity for 120M passengers and 12M tons of freight per year. It will have six parallel 4.5km runways. The 140 km 2 project is estimated to cost £41bn.
Dubai World Central: A series of huge residential and commercial projects including a 'residential city', a 'logistics city', an 'enterprise park', a 'commercial city' and a golf resort. These developments will help boost Dubai's population to 3M by 2017.
Dubai Metro: To open on 9 September 2009, the metro will be a £2.1bn network covering 35km across two lines, carrying 1.2M passengers per day, supplemented by bus links. Two more lines will eventually double the size of the network.
Dubai Waterfront: 440km 2 of articial islands and canals for tourists and 400,000 residents. The rst phase will include the Al-Burj super-skyscraper, which may exceed the height of the BurjDubai, which will be the world's tallest building when it is complete.
A small proportion of land along the coast was opened for sale in July 2005. Worth £7.5bn it was sold within ve days.