Beset on all sides by political instability and suffering from its effects on the economy, Jordan is pursuing several ambitious transport projects that it hopes will boost trade and stimulate growth.

Three flagship projects are on the table: the expansion of Amman airport; the construction of a multibillion-dollar rail network connecting with Iraq and Saudi Arabia; and the redevelopment of Aqaba port.

The local Airport International Group (AIG) signed a build-operate-transfer (BOT) deal with the government in 2007 to redevelop Queen Alia airport, 35 kilometres south of Amman. Under the agreement, the airport will revert to public ownership after 25 years. The government will receive 54.4 per cent of the revenues in the first six years of operation and 54.6 per cent for the remainder of the concession.

The delivery of phase two [of the Aqaba port project] has been brought forward due to increased demand

Ahmad Khalil, Arcadis

The first part of the project was delivered in March 2013, when King Abdullah II inaugurated a new passenger terminal described by Planning Minister Jafar Hassan as “a milestone for Jordan”. The new 103,000-square-metre terminal increased the airport’s capacity to 7 million passengers a year.

New gateway

“The old terminal is no longer capable of meeting the rising demand and turnout by passengers,” said Hassan. “Opening the new terminal… will help meet passengers’ requirements.” Transport Minister Alaa Batayneh said the terminal would be a new gateway to Jordan, boosting the country’s economy and promoting trade.

The first phase of the redevelopment of the airport, costing $750m, was designed to grow capacity to 9 million passengers a year. Phase one was divided into two parts, the first of which was completed with the inauguration of the new terminal. The second involved the demolition of the old terminal and a further extension of the concourse, increasing capacity to the 9 million target.

AIG spent a further $100m during the construction of the new terminal to redevelop existing facilities.

In 2009, the airport catered to 4.7 million passengers, considerably beyond its nominal 3.5-million-a-year capacity. Passenger traffic rose by 62 per cent between November 2007 and December 2012, while aircraft movements grew by 50 per cent over the same period.

The delivery of phase one was substantially behind schedule. Initially due to be completed by the first quarter of 2012, the work was then split in two, with the first part due for delivery in June 2012 and the second a year later. Even this delayed target was missed by several months.

Aqaba port redevelopment
Package Scope Contractor Status
Construction management services Managing integration of four construction contracts; reviewing design documents Arcadis (Netherlands) and Dar al-Handasah (Lebanon) Awarded early 2013
Phase one: marine works Dredging and reclamation; berths for cargo, roll on-roll off and grain terminal; marine services harbour; breakwater; extension of seawater intake and outfall Design: Aecom (US); construction: Bam International (Netherlands) and MAG Contracting & Engineering (local) Construction contract awarded early 2012
Phase one: grain terminal works Grain terminal with capacity of 3 million tonnes a year Pertech (UAE) and Omar Abu Saad (local) Construction contract awarded late 2012
Phase one: onshore facilities Infrastructure, yards, buildings and sheds for all three terminals Consultant: Dar al-Handasah; Contractor: MID Construction under way
LNG terminal Construction of receiving terminal Construction manager: Arcadis Construction under way
LPG terminal Construction of receiving terminal Consultant: Royal Haskoning (Netherlands) Construction under way
MID=Mid Contracting Company; LNG=Liquefied natural gas; LPG=Liquefied petroleum gas. Source: MEED

But despite doubts that the need for a further expansion has been compromised by regional instability and a decline in tourist numbers, work is already under way on the second phase of the airport’s development, which will take capacity to about 12 million passengers a year.

The second phase, which will cost more than $100m, was launched by AIG in January, with delivery set for 2017. When work is completed, daily flight capacity at the airport is expected to increase to 180, from 110 in 2006. The number of destinations connecting to the airport has already risen from 40 in 2006 to 61 in 2012.

Meanwhile, passenger numbers are continuing to grow, partly due to the diversion of travellers from Syria and Lebanon. Passenger throughput rose 14.3 per cent in 2012 to 6.3 million, and steady growth continued in 2013. In the first half of 2014, passenger traffic was up 13 per cent and aircraft movements grew 8.6 per cent, according to AIG. Passenger numbers in June were up 10.5 per cent year-on-year.

Rail disappoints

In contrast, Jordan’s rail ambitions have gone unmet. Plans for a metro network in Amman are in abeyance, and proposals for a light railway between Amman and Zarqa were dropped after the government was unable to secure funding for the project.

The largest proposed rail scheme is a $4.3bn, 897km national freight network with links to neighbouring countries. The plan involves a 509km north-south line connecting Aqaba port in the south to Amman and Zarqa, a 290km line between Zarqa and Iraq and a 91km connection to Saudi Arabia.

France’s BNP Paribas carried out feasibility studies for the project in 2010, and work was due to start in 2012, with completion in 2016. But the scheme has been ill-fated from the start. The outbreak of war in Syria in 2011 removed one of the principal drivers behind the new network, and recent violence in Iraq has created further complications. Little has been achieved so far beyond the start of land acquisition.

The only part of the project to make progress is in the south. A tender has been launched covering the construction of a 28.5km single-track line between Eshidiya and Maan, and the conversion of the existing Maan-Aqaba line to dual-gauge, including its extension to a new phosphate trans-shipment terminal south of the port city. Tenders are also being drawn up for a new loading station at Eshidiya, an unloading station at Wadi al-Yutm to the northeast of Aqaba, and a new rail line between the two.

The new phosphate terminal was developed by Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC) under a BOT signed with Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) and Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority. The new port will have a capacity of 6 million tonnes a year (t/y) and will revert to government control after 30 years. Due for completion in the second half of 2014, the facility will handle cargoes of up to 100,000 tonnes and will include a loading station and storage facilities with capacity of 240,000 tonnes. The masterplan was drawn up by Dutch firm Royal Haskoning.

JPMC is also reviewing bids for the rehabilitation and expansion of the industrial port run by Jordan Industrial Port Company (JIPC), a joint venture of JPMC and the local Arab Potash Company. The consortium signed a deal with ADC in 2013 to develop, operate and manage the port.

The work includes the design, financing, construction, operation and management of the port on a BOT basis for 30 years. Construction is due for completion in 2016, enabling JIPC to export diammonium phosphate fertiliser, potash, compound fertilisers and phosphoric acid, and to import raw materials for the manufacturing of fertilisers and derivatives. Work to increase production capacity at the industrial complex and sulphuric acid plant is also close to completion.

The phosphate terminal and industrial port are part of a broader masterplan for Aqaba that covers the development of an entirely new port. The scheme, which is being developed in three phases spanning several decades, is designed to facilitate increased traffic, including greater trans-shipment volumes. The port will meet local demand, but will also provide a route for shipments to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

“Jordan commissioned consultants to forecast cargo demand in the region,” says Ahmad Khalil, Middle East ports and marine director at the Netherlands’ Arcadis. “The new development will accommodate this demand, including changes in the nature of the products that are being shipped, and will modernise the port infrastructure.” The project is being financed by the government after a public-private partnership deal fell through in early 2011.

The first phase comprises the construction of a general cargo and roll-on roll-off terminal with capacity of 2 million t/y, a 3 million-t/y grain terminal and a cruise ship terminal. The work is divided into three packages: marine works for the three new terminals; specific works for the grain terminal; and onshore facilities for all three terminals. Arcadis and Lebanon’s Dar al-Handasah are carrying out construction services management work on the development.

The first package, on which the US’ Aecom completed design work and construction was done by the Netherlands’ Bam International and the local MAG Contracting & Engineering, was awarded in early 2012 and is now finished. Work is currently under way on the second and third packages. The second package is being carried out by a joint venture of the UAE’s Pertech and the local Omar Abu Saad.

Quay extension

The second phase will add two new 250-metre berths and extend the quay to 1,000 metres. The expanded port will have container capacity of 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units a year (TEUs/y). A design contract for dredging and marine works for phase two has been tendered by ADC; bids were due on 21 August.

“The delivery of the second phase has been brought forward due to increased demand,” says Khalil. The third phase will extend the quayside, raising capacity to 2.2 million TEUs/y.

The port redevelopment also includes building receiving terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Arcadis is the construction manager on the LNG facility. Construction is under way and completion is set for 2015. Royal Haskoning is the consultant on the LPG project, which is also under construction.

The relocation of Aqaba port will enable the $10bn redevelopment of the coastline for tourism projects. “Jordan is shifting the old port facilities to a new location in order to create space for high-end waterfront developments,” says Khalil. “[Jordan] has a limited waterfront and wants to make the most of it.”

Key fact

In the first half of 2014, passenger traffic at Queen Alia airport was up 13 per cent

Source: Airport International Group