• Design work for Fly Dubai to be tendered this year
  • Al-Maktoum International airport is Dubai’s largest planned project
  • UK government has offered funding guarantees for the scheme

Contracts for design work for the Al-Maktoum International airport expansion and a planned terminal in the airport for Fly Dubai, the low-cost carrier owned by the Emirates Group, could be put out to tender this year, regional head for Mena and Asia at UK Export Finance (UKEF) Ali Sherwani said on 17 March.

“It looks like the first contracts will be linked to design,” Sherwani told the Britain in the Region conference organised in Dubai by UK Trade & Investment. “We are engaged with Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) on that.” The competition for the terminal could be launched later in the year.

Sherwani was responding to a question about when opportunities might emerge under the $2bn letter of interest in the airport project that was issued by UKEF in 2014. UKEF says the letter of interest is not a binding commitment to guarantee or finance the project but helps to ensure UK exporters have the opportunity to bid for contracts in the project.

The project’s five prime contractors are Carillion, Kier, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, and Interserve. All are headquartered in the UK.

Sherwani said that more than 100 UK companies have been introduced to the DAEP as part of the UK’s campaign to win work in the project.

“We have been waiting for them to put forward contracts,” Sherwani said.

UKEF has also issued a letter of interest worth $500m for projects in the World Expo programme.

Al-Maktoum International is Dubai’s largest single project. It involves $32bn-worth of investment and building in two stages an airport with ultimate capacity to handle about 250 million passengers a year.

MEED reported in February that the award of the enabling works for the project’s first phase had been delayed. DAEP had been expected to award the contract by the end of last year, and the local Al-Naboodah Contracting Company was understood to be the frontrunner. The bidders are understood to include the local Ghantoot Group and the local Tristar.

The contract covers enabling works for five new runways that involves about 70 million cubic metres of earth-moving. Sources close to the project now expect the scope to be drastically reduced, raising doubts about Dubai’s ability to deliver the airport expansion as quickly as initially planned when the project was publicly launched in October last year.

Once the first phase is complete, a second phase will start that will increase the capacity further to 250 million with five runways, another terminal building and more concourses. The entire development will cover an area of 56 square kilometres.

The concept design for the new terminal has been completed by a team of Lebanon’s Dar al-Handasah and France’s ADPI.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said at the conference that Dubai was working on plans to expand the capacity of Dubai International airport to 100 million in 2020 from 90 million when its Concourse D is completed in the second half of 2015.

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