The contract involves the construction of the northern runway and taxiway system, along with aprons, roads, utility buildings and other civil works.

It is the first of seven packages to be tendered under the sultanate’s wider programme to modernise its two main airports, at Muscat and Salalah, and develop its tourist industry. Further packages at Muscat will cover a terminal building, an air traffic control tower and ancillary buildings.

Salalah airport will be expan-ded as one package. Two other packages for airport management systems are expected to cover both airports. Muscat airport, formerly known as Seeb International, will have capacity for 12 million passengers a year once work is complete. It currently handles 4.5 million.

The new terminal building will have a floor area of about 290,000 square metres. It will be built between the airport’s runways and will be linked to the existing terminal by rail. It is due to be completed by 2011. Three additional phases could increase capacity to 48 million passengers a year.

The development of the smaller Salalah airport is due to be completed by 2011. A new terminal will have capacity of 1 million passengers a year, rising to 4 million in subsequent expansions.

The existing runway and taxiways will also be upgraded to accommodate larger aircraft.