Work on the new King Abdulaziz Airport is being fast-tracked to enable its completion on schedule, reports ABDULAZIZ KHATTAK.
WORK on the new King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) is in full swing with thousands of workers and an extensive fleet of machinery working round the clock on the 105-sq-km site in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in a race against time to beat the deadline for its completion.
The multi-billion-dollar project is designed to make the KAIA one of the largest aviation hubs in the world. Spanning an area of 670,000 sq m, the complex will have two new crescent-shaped terminals for domestic and international passengers.
Some 110 companies have been engaged to carry out the construction work on the first phase, which is designed to encompass five times the space and facilities offered by the existing airport in Jeddah, according to a spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca), which is spearheading a number of airport projects in the kingdom.
A total workforce of 26,000 workers and engineers are using some 2,600 pieces of construction equipment to put in place a showpiece aviation hub that will rank among the best airport facilities in the work.
“These figures not only reflect the magnitude of the project but also the frenetic pace at which it is being implemented to meet the schedule for completion at the end of this year,” says the spokesman.
Following completion of the construction, a commissioning phase will ensure that all the systems and facilities and systems function smoothly prior to the launch of commercial operation at the end of the first half of 2015, he indicates.
“Work on the first phase of the King Abdulaziz International Airport project is in a race against time to beat the completion deadline scheduled in 2014 in order to start commercial operation next year,” the spokesman comments.
The architectural masterpiece bearing the name of King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia, is expected to be one of the most beautiful airports in the world in terms of form, specifications, efficiency and modern equipment. The design is inspired by Islamic architecture and has been shaped to blend with the local landscape.
“We are confident that the new airport would be an architectural masterpiece and a milestone for the city of Jeddah. With respect to technology, the systems that are installed in the new airport – such as those for safety, navigation, aircraft refuelling, baggage handling, public addressing and others – are state of the art,” says the spokesman.
In addition, a number of self-service counters and automated systems will help streamline the passenger experience at the airport.
The KAIA project was initiated following extensive studies that have taken into account several factors such as its location and its role as a gateway for pilgrims heading towards the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, as well as to the city of Jeddah, one of the largest and most important cities in the Gulf region, which has seen a substantial growth in aircraft movement as one of the busiest airports in the kingdom, serving around 41 per cent of the total number of passengers at Saudi airports, he points out.
The project aims to:
• Keep up with the growing demand on air traffic movement;
• Support the economic growth of the Makkah region in general and the city of Jeddah in particular;
• Integrate with other economic sectors whose growth depends on the proximity to an international airport;
• Accommodate the new generation of aircraft such as the Airbus A380;
• Provide a large number of investment opportunities for the private sector; and
• Raise the level of services provided to travellers on par with the highest international standards.
The first phase of the three-phase project will see the completion of the major objectives envisaged in the masterplan, raising the airport’s capacity to 30 million passengers a year when commercial operations are launched in 2015. The second phase will aim to raise the airport’s capacity to 43 million passengers, and the third phase is expected to increase it 80 million passengers on completion in 2035.
The first phase comprises the construction of a 700,000-sq-m terminal complex enabling all airlines to operate under one roof.
The twin crescent-shaped terminals will be equipped with 46 contact gates, of which 25 will be allocated for international flights and 13 for domestic flights – four of which will be able to cater to wide-bodied aircraft such as the A380 – and eight dual-use facilities; and 94 moveable bridges to service aircraft of various sizes.
In addition, there will be 220 counters to serve passengers as well as 80 self-service kiosks for passengers. An automated people mover will transport international passengers within the terminal, which will be connected to the second phase development via a tunnel. The terminals will also be served by a sophisticated baggage handling system – monitored by the latest security systems – with belts extending a total length of 26 km.
The KAIA will also have one of the tallest towers air traffic control towers rising to a height of 136 m.
To further facilitate passengers, the complex will have a passenger transport hub that will connect with the Haramain high-speed railway project.
Other facilities that are being developed under the first phase include a 120-room transit hotel.
In addition, a 39,200-sq-m area within the terminal complex will be set aside for business investment.
The new facility will provide 8,200 car parking slots, most of which will be available within three basement levels of the complex. The car-park will have dedicated sections for long- and short-term parking as well as sections for buses, taxis and car rental companies. It will be equipped with the latest electronic systems that enable car owners to locate their cars.
Highlighting some of the challenges of building these car-parking facilities, the spokesman says that extensive dewatering had to be carried out at the site to a depth of 23 m.
Other features of the complex include a fire and rescue station; a 9,327-m-long services tunnel; two fully-equipped information centres connected a fibre-optic cable network; a jet fuel tank with a distribution network; and a 36.5-km road network comprising several tunnels and bridges.
The new airport will be able to service 70 aircraft simultaneously, with all aircraft supplied with fuel and water using underground installations eliminating the need to use vehicles or equipment.
PROGRESS & CHALLENGES
Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) is the main contractor on the project, and has subcontracted a number of specialist contractors to carry out the massive development.
Currently, Al Mabani Group is handling the airside infrastructure works under a subcontract from SBG. The Saudi construction firm is working on Aprons 17, 18 and 19 and taxiways K, H, S and Lima, where the final asphalt layer has been completed on taxiway S. Meanwhile, electrical works are being implemented in tandem, with substantial progress being made on the airside facilities such as airfield lighting and the fuel distribution system.
Work is also under way on the ground services equipment (GSE) tunnel as well as on the box culvert on the western and the northern airsides.
“There is no doubt that the cooperation of the relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Transport and the governorate of the Makkah region has facilitated the smooth operations of the project as per schedule, especially as it is linked to a number of projects such as bridges that will connect the main road leading to the airport and the Haramain railway – all of which are being implemented in conjunction with the new airport project,” says the spokesman.
He says the project officials have been keen to avoid any disruption to the road traffic in particular and the air traffic in general. Hence, every effort is being made to avoid using the roads leading to the terminals or any services that would impact passengers using the Jeddah International Airport. Some 30 concrete batching plant have been installed within a centrally-located site in order to avoid bringing concrete from elsewhere, he adds.
Another key consideration was the environment, with efforts taken right from the outset to minimise the airport’s impact on the environment. “For example, water is being recycled. Environment-friendly construction and electrical materials are being sourced, such as LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting that has been chosen for the terminals and aprons instead of halogen lighting in order to reduce the heat and gain savings in power consumption and cooling load,” he points out.
Work is under way on landscaping the surroundings of the terminals to enhance the aesthetics of the airport facilities. A 20,000-sq-m park is being constructed alongside a 13-m-high aquarium which has a diameter of 7 m, to resonate with Jeddah’s marine environment.
“Travellers can enjoy these aesthetic touches while sitting in the terminals as the sides feature huge glass panels that provide clear views,” he says.
All these parks and green spaces that have been built into the project contributes to the project’s efforts to qualify for Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the spokesman adds.
The South Terminal (Saudi Arabian Airlines) and northern terminals of the existing KAIA will be closed eventually with the former transformed into a cargo facility within a 1-million-sq-m international cargo village. The Hajj and Umrah terminal will continue to provide services for pilgrims.
Meanwhile, studies for the second phase have been completed, and work on the infrastructure work will be launched upon completion of the first phase. The third phase will be decided upon, depending on the air traffic movement and future requirements, the spokesman concludes.