Khalifa Port bears Bechtel stamp

The port’s Terminal 1 phase has been completed with high technology and finesse but the comprehensive port and industrial zone project has still a long way to go

01 October 2012

Khalifa Port, Abu Dhabi, the Mena region’s most technologically advanced port, which began commercial operations at the beginning of September, is one of the crowning achievements of Bechtel, the engineering, procurement and construction specialist.

Bechtel formed an expert team from 40 nationalities to work with Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) whose port and industrial zone project has a monumental scale and scope and is an integral part of Abu Dhabi’s 2030 economic plan. The project is being implemented in phases between the first 51 sq km phase for the first port terminal – one of five terminals – through to the full 400 sq km of the industrial zone in 2030. The government has further expansion in mind.

It is envisaged that by 2030 the port and industrial zone will contribute 15 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s non-oil GDP.

Bechtel has delivered the first phase within which it is currently bringing on more of the internal road structure and utilities to support the industrial zone’s tenants, 44 of whom have signed up at the last count.


Khalifa Port and the adjacent
industrial zone will be pivotal
for Abu Dhabi’s growth


Bectel’s programme manager Steve Kay spelled out the project milestones.

Master planning was the first stage from Q1 2006 to the end of Q3 2007 when the first major marine and earthworks design and construction contracts were awarded. The port is strategically placed about half-way between Abu Dhabi’s old port at Mina Zayed and Jebel Ali, is close to the E11 highway and has been integrated into the planned Etihad rail link with many of the bridges and structures built around the rail corridor.

The second stage, from Q3 2007 to the end of 2010, was the main marine and earthworks design and construction period and was marked by dredging of the shipping channel to the first terminal and construction of an 8 km environmental breakwater to protect the hugely significant coral reefs at Ras Ghannada.

By 2010 an island was created forming the first terminal. It was located 5 km offshore and connected to the mainland by two causeways and a bridge. Some 45 million cu m of material was dredged and reclaimed. More than 500 trucks were in operation and 100 vessels on the water.

Since the end of 2010 work focused on buildings, roads, utilities and the terminal infrastructure itself. It was a major push to complete the port side works in just two years before the terminal cranes started to arrive in Q1 2011.

Kay said the $7.2 billion infrastructure project, being a programme of a multiplicity of projects, called for the drawing up of a milestone plan to show how all key members of the team – Bechtel, ADPC, stakeholders, design consultants and construction contractors – could work together to achieve the September 1 deadline for commercial port operations to begin.

“Two years out, we created a 100-step plan taking us through the main aspects we had to deliver to commence commercial operations on budget and on time by September 1 with all key players committing to the plan by signing it and mounting it on the wall as a reference point.

“To deliver the plan, we broke the delivery phase into 100-day chunks and created what we called a Sprint Plan, which broke down milestones into various elements that each team could define as being important and take ownership of. The Sprint Plan complemented the traditional project management approach with its defined critical path.

“It was a successful methodology. We would have regular sessions with the contractors’ executive management and their regional executive management. We all recognised that all reputations were on the line unless we successfully delivered the project.”

Kay said the Bechtel-ADPC relationship remains very collaborative. “On such a grand and unique project, there are no precedents and you can’t just take an existing system off the shelf and use it. Technology has moved on since Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed and the first phase of Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port were built. We worked closely with the vendors and ADPC as the terminal operator to define what operating system they wanted, coming up with a single operating platform where all systems talk to one another – leading to a more efficient control room scenario equipped for the future.”

Bechtel’s impressive resume of involvement with mega projects includes the Hoover Dam, the Channel Tunnel and HS1. The company has overseen 80 port and harbour projects worldwide, 28 in the last decade. The Abu Dhabi project was delivered while the company was marking 50 years of its presence in the UAE. It has a close working relationship with The Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu at Jubail Industrial City.


The MSC Bari was the first cargo
vessel to use the new port


Khalifa Port’s container terminal has a container capacity of 2.5 million teu a year, with an additional 12 million tonnes of general cargo, including 4 million tonnes a year from the busy Emirates Aluminium (Emal) berth which opened in late 2010.

“This is a proud day for ADPC and also for Abu Dhabi emirate as the company demonstrates its commitment to fulfilling its role in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030,” said Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chairman, ADPC, at a ceremony to mark the start of commercial operations:

Tony Douglas, CEO, ADPC, told assembled staff and stakeholders: “I am delighted to confirm that the port has been delivered within budget, on schedule and to specification … We look forward to a bright economic future for Khalifa Port, for Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad) and for the emirate as a whole.”

At the heart of Khalifa Port is the advanced Terminal Operational Building which houses state-of-the-art computer technology used to control much of the container terminal.

“It is the long-term investment thinking in features such as Khalifa Port’s sophisticated digital infrastructure which allows Abu Dhabi to offer shipping lines and trucking companies streamlined logistics with shorter container transportation times at highly competitive costs,” ADPC said.

Khalifa Port’s container terminal will be operated by Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT). Martijn Van de Linde, chief executive, ADT, described the port as a “technical triumph.”

Khalifa Port is designed to be rolled out in phases should market demand require it. It has been dredged to be deeper than needed to accommodate ever larger ships and its world-class ship-to-shore cranes are among the largest in the world.

The port’s landmark features include the UAE’s longest bridge (the Emirates Aluminium trestle bridge at over 1 km in length) and the multi-award winning Environmental Protection Breakwater, the 8 km arm that curls around the port to protect the Ras Ghanada coral reef, the only example of its kind in the Arabian Gulf.

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