The expansion of Bahrain International airport is expected to attract a broad range of interest from construction companies.

While the project is small compared with much larger schemes in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, it has an interesting twist: UAE funding puts companies from Dubai and Abu Dhabi firmly in front when it comes to predicting who will ultimately win work on the project.

Financing for the scheme is being provided by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development as part of the UAE’s ongoing support for Bahrain, pledged following the unrest in the kingdom in 2011.

That funding means UAE-based companies, and joint ventures in which UAE firms have a 51 per cent or more share, will be given preferential treatment, meaning companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be keen to capitalise on that advantage.

There is plenty of experience on airport projects in the UAE, where major airports have been completed or are being built in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

In Dubai, the most active local contract is Alec, which has completed concourse A and is working on concourse D. Other local companies working at the airport include Al-Naboodah Contracting, Cleveland Bridge, ETA Ascon and Dutco Balfour Beatty, as well as Arabtec Construction, which is the main contractor on the development of Terminal 2. In the past, Al-Habtoor Leighton Group completed the construction of Terminal 3 and concourse B in joint venture with South Africa’s Murray & Roberts and Japan’s Takenaka Corporation.

In Abu Dhabi, Arabtec is working on the development of the Midfield terminal building at Abu Dhabi International airport, in joint venture with Turkey’s TAV and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). Other local companies that have worked on other projects at the airport include Alec, BK Gulf, and Drake & Scull International.

In Sharjah, the local Wade Adams worked on the airport’s runways, and in the past the airport buildings were completed by Saudi Binladin Group’s airports division, which is based in Dubai.

With so much experience in the UAE, international firms looking to work on the project are expected to make forming a joint venture with firms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi a priority. However, having completed major projects on their own before, many UAE firms do not need the expertise that firms from outside the region offer.