“In December, two contracts were awarded,” Ian Raine, development manager for the project at real estate developer Limitless tells MEED. “One was for enabling and excavation work in the inland area close to Jebel Ali Airport. It was awarded to local company Bund Construction.

“The second was for a pilot excavation towards the northern end of the inland area that will make up part of the canal’s final profile. That contract was awarded to South Korea’s Samsung Corporation.”

The Samsung contract will serve as a trial run before tenders for the main excavation contracts are issued later this year. About 12 contractors expressed interest in the project when a prequalification exercise was carried out in late 2007. More detailed tenders will be issued to those contractors based on the technical feedback from the pilot section.

Limitless has identified 13 packages for the main excavation works, and contractors are expected to bid for several contracts each. The packages will be split geographically.

The largest element, known as the Arabian Canal Inland, is located inland of the Al-Maktoum International Airport being built in Jebel Ali. It will cover 200 square kilometres and will be developed by Limitless.

Its first two phases will cover 30 square kilometres and will be built over five years.

The canal will also pass through the Dubai Waterfront and Discovery Gardens developments planned by Nakheel, Dubai Industrial City, the Jebel Ali Business Park planned by Emaar Properties, and the Jumeirah Golf Estates project that is being built by Istithmar Leisure.

Limitless will manage the entire project, but will co-ordinate its activities with the other developers, which will contribute to its financing. “Each developer will make a contribution for the excavation in their development areas,” says Raine.

The excavation works are expected to take three years, and will involve moving about 1 billion cubic metres of material, at a rate of 1 million cubic metres a day. This will be used for landfill and landscaping on adjacent developments.

Contracts for associated works, such as marinas, will be awarded separately.

The canal will be constructed at sea level for its entire length to allow yachts to sail along it.

It will enter the Gulf at two points: one southwest of Palm Jebel Ali, as part of the Dubai Waterfront project; the other southwest of the Dubai Marina.

An added complication for contractors will be dealing with the existing infrastructure and services in the area, including the Dubai metro, underground gas and fuel