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World beater

Building the largest container port in the world is a major challenge for “occasional client” Abu Dhabi Ports Company. Marissa Lynch reports.

The Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone goes beyond the title of one of the largest port developments in the region. Once complete it will be two-thirds the size of Singapore, cost £4.4bn and deliver an environmental protection plan aimed at impressing the staunchest of environmentalists.

For the first stage of the project the Khalifa Port & Industrial zone will encompass 51km2, but by the close of the second stage, the industrial area will be stretched out to 370km2.

Already, a huge amount of land reclamation has been carried out to create the port island, and to level the land for the first phase of the industrial zone.

In total, 45M.m3 of earth was dredged and used for the land reclamation.

World’s largest

Port developer Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) wants the port to be the world’s largest by 2030. When the project is complete at the end of 2012, annual capacity is expected to reach 2M TEU containers a year plus 12M.t of cargo, while it has projected 15M TEU containers a year by 2030, with 35M.t of cargo.

The Kizad (Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi) development as it is known is located halfway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It has engaged some of the biggest global names in construction and engineering from to help complete the project.

The man behind the huge development is ADPC chief executive and former Laing O’Rourke chief executive Tony Douglas.

Douglas’ mantra is a simple one. “Do everything with a bit of fun. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining,” he says.

But as he slams his fists on the table with a wry smile and proclaims, “we will finish in time”, you begin to see it’s more about intricate management of the process than fun.

As former Heathrow Airport chief executive, and the force behind the delivery of Terminal 5 at Heathrow, Douglas is no stranger to huge projects.

“Occasional” client

But he says the devil has been in the detail, and changing the mindset of ADPC as an “occasional” client has been the biggest challenge.

“There are a few different types of client. There’s the procurer client, which really knows what it is doing and there’s also an occasional client like ADPC, which has never done this before.

Project manager Bechtel, is ensuring all the pieces and the multitude of companies on site work towards the same timescale to achieve the ambitious deadlines.

“The amount of reclamation to bring the seabed up is something I’ve not seen before ”

Peter Marvin, ADPC


Managing the process has been a challenge for Bechtel vice president and project manager Amjad Bangash, but he is completely confident about the work Bechtel has done on site.

“I don’t think there is any chance we are not going to deliver. We will deliver and it will be on time,” he says.
ADPC senior vice president Peter Marvin says the biggest challenge has been working around what he calls “sensitive neighbours”.

“I guess working immediately adjacent to one of the Gulf’s major coral reefs ranks up there,” he says. “On the other side there is the Taweelah power station and the newly constructed Dolphin gas pipeline connecting Abu Dhabi and Qatar. There has been a huge amount of dredging with very, very sensitive neighbours.”

The coral reef presented a major challenge. “This involved moving the port island offshore so that it didn’t touch the reef. The amount of reclamation to bring seabed up, and the environmental breakwater is something I’ve not seen before and more than 800M dirham (£134M) was dedicated to it.”

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