Qatar said it had awarded a $2.5 billion contract to US construction firm Bechtel to design and build a new international airport.
‘The project will be implemented in three phases, costing about $5 billion, and the first phase, worth $2.5 billion, has been awarded to Bechtel,’ Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi, chairman of Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, said.
Bechtel had completed the masterplan of the airport.
The new Doha International airport will be the operating hub for Qatar Airways and is expected to handle around 50 million passengers a year by 2015. Currently, the state’s existing airport handles around 4.6 million passengers a year.
“The airport will be one of the biggest in the world with an annual capacity of 50 million pasengers in Qatar when it is finished around 2015,” said Al Nuaimi, with a target of 60 million five years later.
Nuaimi said the new airport will have two runways: one of 4,850 metres, capable of handling a fully laden Airbus A380-800 — the world’s largest passenger aircraft, and a second 4,250 metres for VIP and strategic use.
It will also have a 416,000 square metre three-storey terminal and three luxurious hotels.
The first phase, expected to handle 12 million passengers a year, includes building a 130,000 sq metre terminal, 24 contact gates, seven remote gates, and the national carrier Qatar Airways headquarters, Nuaimi said.
Construction is to start next year on a 2,200 hectare (5,400 acre) site near the existing Doha airport and the first stage is expected to be completed by 2008.
Qatar Airways announced in June a $5.1-billion deal to acquire 18 Airbus aircraft and took an option on another 16.
Bechtel has been awarded the engineering, project and construction management (EPCM) deal for the first of three stages for the New Doha International Airport which would be completed by late 2008.
The scale of the project underlined the mighty ambition of Qatar which sits atop the world’s third largest reserves of gas but has a population of just 650,000 people.
Qatar is aiming to take global leadership of the liquified gas field and plans to have an annual production of 60 million tonnes by the start of the next decade.
Qatar’s North Field is the world’s biggest natural gas field, with proven reserves that were increased threefold in May to 25.5 trillion cubic metres.
Last month, Qatar Petroleum and US oil major ConocoPhillips signed a memorandum of understanding for a $2.5-billion gas liquefying project, the latest in a series of mega schemes.
Qatari officials announced the same month plans to invest more billions of dollars in tourism to make turn one of the most barren spots in the Gulf into a ‘tourist, cultural, and sporting’ destination.
The impact of such huge projects resonates round the world and in London, where a team of think-tank experts, travel specialists and market researchers on Thursday tipped Qatar to become a mass-market holiday destination, with more than 1.5 million Britons alone predicted to visit the Gulf state’s beaches within five years.
Nuaimi said the new airport, four kilometres east of the existing airport, would ‘set the benchmark for all future airports. It will be an international signature for the vision of Qatar.
‘The new airport will position Doha and Qatar as a leading regional aviation hub for the next 50 years,’ added James Van Hoften, Bechtel’s senior vice-president.
It will include reclamation of a large area of land from the sea, the construction of two parallel runways and a passenger terminal with 25,000 square metres (270,000 square feet) of retail space, a special royal terminal, a cargo terminal with a capacity of 750,000 tonnes per annum, a free trade zone and three hotels.
‘The airport will also be pivotal to the continued significant growth of Qatar Airways as a global airline,’ said Doha International Airport and Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker.
It will also seek to rival the region’s dominant hub at Dubai where a $4 billion airport expansion project is underway to handle annual traffic of about 30 million passengers by 2010 and more than 60 million by 2020.
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