Al Habtoor races to finish last major airport project

Al Habtoor, M&R and Takenaka JV has just 120 weeks and US $1 billion to do airport fit-out

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By  Eudore Chand Published  January 8, 2005

Al Habtoor Engineering (AHE) has been presented with the challenge of fitting out the massive Terminal 3 and Concourse 2 at the expanded Dubai International Airport within just 120 weeks. The clock began to tick as of 18th December 2004 when the Letter of Intent was signed between the two parties. Al Habtoor’s joint venture partners in this project are South Africa’s Murray & Roberts and Japan’s Takenaka. Between them, they have to present the best-in-the-world airport look for just under US $1 billion. The job is the last major contract in the on-going $4.1 billion airport expansion project and involves work on an immense surface area of more than 1 million m². The strict adherence to deadline indicates that the two major expanded airport facilities will be operational by the middle of 2007. “The main challenge is to finish on time,” says Al Habtoor Engineering commercial director Cyril Williams. “For example, it takes about 12 months to finish an AED 120 million tower. Given the size of our job, [in equivalent terms] we have to finish one such tower every month. The challenge is huge and it is only a company like AHE that can do it. It requires an incredible amount of professionalism in the organisation.” The Dubai-based contracting house had the responsibility of the entire estimate input. “Our estimators priced the job and then we sounded out our partners for their input,” Williams said. Once all was in order, the bid was submitted. “It is an AED 3.59 billion (more than $978 million) job. Al Habtoor Engineering is the lead contractor in the joint venture with Murray & Roberts and Takenaka. The last specialises in airport projects like us. We have done a lot of contracts at Dubai airport. It is like home for us,” says Williams. AHE, which is the local sponsor of M&R, holds 40% of the joint venture, as does the South African firm. The Japanese partner holds the balance of 20%. “We are very excited about the contract,” says Lina Sadek, corporate affairs manager, AHE. “AHE has local knowledge and expertise.” AHE officials pointed out that given the time constraint, mobilisation started almost immediately following the signing of the letter of intent (LoI.) “We are already into the planning and projection phase. Preparation work started three seconds after the LoI was signed,” says Williams. “We have started mobilising staff. We are trying to make this a local contract with a local flavour. We are trying to get the our percentage right in terms of local people we employ – nationals, if possible because we believe they should be trained,” says Sadek. Williams adds that the joint venture is also bringing in specialists from outside places such as South Africa and UK. There is a requirement from the UAE Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs to employ one national for every 50 people employed. “It is through contracts like this that we can achieve the 2% target,” Williams points out. The job calls for the entire fit-out of Terminal 3 and Concourse 2. “It is a 28 month contract. We have to provide the finishes. It is different than putting in concrete and formwork. We’ll be doing the floor finishes, ceilings, walls, interior design and décor,” Williams explains. “Dubai has a huge vision in this concourse. We have involved local interior designers and decorators to make Dubai a chosen venue for overseas people. The Dubai flavour is coming through in the entire project. We will try to amalgamate the UAE feel and put a Dubai stamp on it.” Asked if the multiplicity of major contracts in the country has led to labour shortages and how the joint venture would find both labour and skilled workers, Williams replied: “Obviously there is shortage of manpower and materials. But we have very competent managers in charge of resources. With good planning, procurement began before the job starts.” At any time there could be 4000 to 5000 workers at site, rising to close to 8000 at peak times including staff from subcontractors. “We have to use people most efficiently. The success will depend on managing the resources efficiently,” says Williams, pointing out that much of the work would be handled by AHE. “We have one of the biggest steel workshops in Dubai; we have interiors, joinery and woodwork; we have marble and other in-house capabilities.” No subcontractors have yet been appointed, but the contractor aims to employ as many local firms as it can.

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