Douglas urges UK firms to look to £16bn Abu Dhabi project
Tony Douglas, the former chief operating officer of Laing O’Rourke who was recently appointed chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports Company, has urged UK firms to seek a role on the firm’s estimated $24bn (£16bn) Khalifa port and industrial zone project.
Speaking to Building magazine two days into the role, Douglas, who is overseeing the 420km2 project, said: “This is a massive project that is two-thirds the size of Singapore. As a global scheme we won’t pander to a UK-type solution but please come and see us.”
Douglas also spoke to Construction News, saying that the job was “a true mega-project” and adding: “To think of it as a port is misleading - this is 420 km sq of land that will become the UAE’s largest industrial and multi-modal development.”
The project will be developed in five phases with a completion date of 2030, with the port area up and running by the fourth quarter of 2012.
Asked about the company’s ambitions outside Abu Dhabi, Douglas told Construction News: “The ambition is high.”
The first phase of the Khalifa Port project will become operational in 2012 and is worth about £5 bn. A number of firms - including Atkins, Bechtel and Scott Wilson - have been involved so far and Douglas said three large packages of heavy civil engineering work were due to be awarded in the next three to four months.
Douglas left Laing O’Rourke in November last year after chairman and chief executive Ray O’Rourke apparently went back on a pledge to relinquish the reins to Douglas.
He was previously chief executive of BAA’s Heathrow operation and heavily involved in the construction of Terminal 5.
Talking about the prospects of recovery in the Middle East he told Building: “The UAE is a mixed bag. Dubai is still struggling to come out of a very big downturn although there are one or two early crumbs of comfort like rising hotel occupancy rates and some listed companies posting better than expected results.
“It is broadly accepted that Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have greater opportunity for industry because of their natural resources but nobody is putting too much commitment into investment yet.”