Italian engineering firm abandoned highway project in 2011 as uprising started
Italy’s Saipem is preparing to restart work in Libya after almost a year’s absence following the country’s uprising and civil war in 2011.
The Italian engineering and contracting firm was awarded a $800m contract in February 2011 to build a 650-kilometre-long highway linking Tripoli in the west of Libya to Benghazi in the east of the country funded by the Italian government. Just 10 days after the contract signing ceremony, the contractor was forced to evacuate its 120 expatriate staff, abandoning its office and equipment in Tripoli.
The project was part of the friendship treaty signed by the former ruler Muammar Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2008 which called for Rome to invest $5bn in Libyan projects over twenty years.
Despite the end of the LIbyan civil war being officially declared in October 2011, a date is yet to be set for the company’s return, although it is imminent, according to a source close to the company.
Saipem is currently attempting to recall its local hires, some of whom are thought to have fled the country at the outbreak of the conflict.
“The warehouse was looted and computers taken, but all the [construction] equipment was safe and untouched,” says the source.
Libya has planned several infrastructure investments, including $22bn-worth of rail and port projects. Libya currently has three major airport expansion projects, worth a combined $2.5bn, under way in Sebha, Tripoli and Benghazi. The turmoil has caused work to stop on all three schemes and it remains unclear when it will restart.
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