Saturday, October 06, 2007

Deal inked for 40km mega-bridge

Deal inked for 40km mega-bridge

by Reuters on Sunday, 30 September 2007

Deal inked for 40km mega-bridge

A consortium led by state-owned Qatari Diar and French construction firm Vinci has signed a preliminary agreement to build a 40-kilometre bridge between Qatar and Bahrain in a project worth over $2 billion.

Qatar's official QNA news agency said the final contract between the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation and the Diar-Vinci consortium would be signed within four months, once the technical details and designs for the bridge were finalised.

Construction on the causeway was likely to begin in May and be completed by 2011, Qatar's Gulf Times said. The bridge, which will be one of the world's largest, will start at Ras Ashiraj, 5 km from the Zubara fort on the western coast of Qatar, and end on Bahrain's eastern coast, QNA said. A bridge to Saudi Arabia already links Bahrain, a small Gulf island, to the Arabian Peninsula.

QNA said that the causeway would later be extended to link the Qatari capital Doha to the Bahraini capital Manama.

Qatari Diar Real Estate & Investment Co is one of the vehicles used by the government of Qatar, which has the world's third largest gas reserves, to invest windfall revenues from energy exports. It has launched over 18 projects across the Arab world.

Vinci said earlier this month it expects full year underlying earnings to grow faster than sales.

The two companies agreed in June 2006 to set up a contracting joint venture for the local, regional and international markets.

Qatar & Bahrain to build friendship bridge


by Conrad Egbert on Saturday, 29 September 2007

(Any decision to construct the causeway linking Qatar and Bahrain would be influenced by social, political and economic considerations).

Bahrain was accessible only by air or sea before Saudi Arabia built the 25km King Fahd Causeway in 1986, making the mainland archipelago accessible by land, while Qataris could only access Bahrain by road through Saudi Arabia.

But the possible construction of the Bahrain-Qatar Causeway could change the dynamics of the country drastically - politically, economically and socially.

We're just waiting for the green light from the top levels to get the ball rolling.

The Arabic press has hailed the project as the new 'Al Mahabe Causeway', which means 'the Friendship Causeway'.

Plans for the causeway began in 2001, around the time when Qatar and Bahrain were in dispute over ownership of the Hawar Islands off the coast of Qatar.

Qatar based its claim to the islands on the principle of proximity and territorial unity, while Bahrain based its claim on a 1939 British decision granting it ownership. The islands, Qatar claimed, all lie within the 12 nautical mile limit of the Qatari coast, and most lie within a three nautical mile limit.

Bahrain said that it had exercised sovereignty over the Hawar uninterruptedly for two centuries, and that Qatar never exercised any competing authority. But, in addition to citing many examples of Bahraini links with the islands over the years, the country has also relied on the British decision of 1939.

The decision came about after Qatar claimed that Bahrain had illegally occupied the islands in 1937. The two sides both appealed to the British and the latter ruled in favour of Bahrain. Bahrain insisted that this amounted to an arbitration award.

In March 2001, the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Bahrain, with the islands falling under Bahrain's sovereignty.

Speaking to Construction Week, Essam Khalaf, assistant undersecretary for roads, from the Bahrain Ministry of Public Works, shed some light on the long awaited road corridor to Qatar. Political issues between the two countries have delayed a decision on the project, with talks thought to have stagnated or even having collapsed, but Khalaf has confirmed that the project will go ahead.

"It is definitely going ahead, that's for sure. We're just waiting for the green light from the top levels to get the ball rolling in terms of construction," he said.

In September 2001, Cowi signed an $11.3 million contract with Qatar's Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture for the project's preliminary engineering and environmental investigations.

"I think it's mostly at a political level now, with decisions revolving around financing to be made. Saudi [Arabia] built the King Fahd causeway to Bahrain, so I think both countries are still negotiating over whether one will build it, or if it will be jointly financed."

Khalaf added that both nations stand to gain tremendously from the construction of the new causeway. "The affects of the causeway will be massive for both countries," he said. "Politically and economically, it would benefit both sides as it would make Bahrain more accessible as a trade partner as well as physically unite the two countries."

At the moment, any movement by road - be it for travel or trade - between the two countries, occurs via Saudi Arabia.

Both countries have much in common: politically they lead the region in the introduction of democracy. Ties of kinship also bond the two countries: almost every family in Bahrain has relations in Qatar, and vice-versa.

"Socially, it will be a big boon to society because most Bahrainis have blood relatives in Qatar and vice versa," added Khalaf.

"It will bring the people together and make social interaction so much better. This is one of the main reasons, along with political ones, why it's being called the 'Friendship Causeway'."

In September 2001, Denmark-based Cowi signed an $11.3 million contract with Qatar's Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture for the project's preliminary engineering and environmental investigations.

"The bridge will bring with it a new dawn of bilateral relations between the two counties," said Indian Ambassador to Bahrain, Balakrishna Shetty.

"It will not only link the two countries, but will provide convenient road access to the rest of the GCC as well. It will also link Bahrain to the UAE."

Shetty added that the new bridge will not only benefit both countries by allowing cars and road freight to travel freely between them, but its construction would be symbolic of the new spirit of partnership.

Tenders for world's longest causeway imminent


by Conrad Egbert on Saturday, 29 September 2007

(Plans to build the causeway remain in place, officials say, but many issues need to be resolved before it can be given the green light).

The hunt for contractors to build the proposed US $3 billion (AED11 billion) Bahrain-Qatar causeway could soon begin.

The causeway, whose construction has been shrouded in doubt for the past few years, would be the world's longest fixed sea link connecting the GCC states of Bahrain and Qatar.

The 40-kilometre bridge will link Ras Esharaq on the northwest coast of Qatar with Askar Village, south of Manama on the east coast of Bahrain.

The link is expected to consist of a number of bridges combined with roads constructed on embankments and will be a natural extension of the King Fahd Causeway that connects Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which will then end up linking the entire region.

Danish engineering consultants, Cowi, completed the preliminary design and study of roads two years ago, but financing and political issues have so far hampered the project.

"Cowi has completed the preliminary designs, so their work is over," said Essam Khalaf, assistant undersecretary for roads, Ministry of Public Works, Bahrain. "It still hasn't been decided whether they'll be taken on as consultant for the project, or if another company will.

"Discussions are still ongoing on a political level, so that is what is taking time. A lot of things need to be decided - the financing, the cross-country border issues, systems that have to be put in place and other political issues. We're just waiting to get the green light to take on a contractor. The plans are definitely going forward though. Qatar also plans to build an 80km highway to Doha from where the bridge joins its side, in order to link its capital."

Construction on connecting roads in Qatar has already begun. "The North Road, which will connect the causeway to the mainland, is already under construction," said Mahmud Jamil, project manager, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture, Qatar. "The bridge will probably be the last part to be constructed. We aren't waiting for it to be done, we're carrying on with our own works on this side."

In September 2001, Cowi signed a US $11.3 million contract for the first phase of the project with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture in Qatar.

Together with Sund & Bælt Partner, DHI Water & Environment and the architects Dissing+Weitling, Cowi undertook the preliminary engineering and environmental investigations and studies.

A spokesperson for Cowi said: "We have no comment at this stage except that we have completed our task and don't know where things are at."
Is it time to build that bridge?


by Angela Giuffrida on Saturday, 29 September 2007

The slow and complicated history of the Bahrain-Qatar causeway is vaguely reminiscent of another major infrastructural project: Europe's Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Talk of digging a tunnel under the English Channel began way back in the 1880s - with the idea staunchly backed by Queen Victoria as a welcome remedy to seasickness. It wasn't until the 1960s that an engineering study established that the high-speed railway linking London with Paris and Brussels was both technically and economically feasible.

But despite boundless enthusiasm from the French, public protest and political wrangling among the British plagued the project for the best part of twenty years - mainly out of fear that it would be yet another spear in the erosion of UK sovereignty.

The scheme was deemed by some as absurd, and nothing but a cost burden to the public purse. But as the politics continued, work continued apace with a workforce of around 8,000.

More than four decades later - and decades largely filled with talk of cost overruns and scepticism over returns on investment - the project is being flagged up as an exemplary engineering feat, and one that is hoped will inspire a new generation of civil engineers. Earlier this month, the US $10.4 billion project, now rebranded High Speed 1, reached its jubilant climax with the completion of the high speed track on the UK side extending to the newly refurbished St Pancras station.

The journey time between London and Paris is now just over two hours - far shorter than the amount of time it takes to cross London on the Underground. Hopefully the politics that have so far hampered the proposed bridge linking Bahrain and Qatar will soon be overridden and lead the way to the construction of a similar infrastructural achievement.

A project of such size will inevitably pose many risks, and the actual benefits may not be seen for years to come. The job will also need a strong team of consultants and contractors behind it, along with huge financing.

But if the final product leads to stronger economic, political and social ties between the two countries, then surely that's good enough reason to steer the project ahead.

Post a Comment

© 2006 TOXIC