Kuwait mulls re-tendering its major airport project – again

Kuwait may go back to the drawing board yet again to re-tender its multi-billion dollar second international airport terminal, and may also exclude expensive infrastructure works in the new work packages, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on 4 January.

The report in an Arabic-language daily, translated by Zawya, said a committee formed by the public works ministry to oversee the project had shortlisted three options for what to do next, and one was re-tendering the project, which is already much delayed.

The report said the committee would make its recommendations on 10 January.

"This option involves new terms, including dividing the project into separate packages for private sector contractors and leaving the execution of the infrastructure and other major construction works to the government, given their high costs," the report said.

It did not say what the two other options were or the reason for the re-tender.

Observers thought the delayed project would go ahead after it emerged in November last year that a consortium led by Kuwait’s largest contractor had submitted the lowest bid for the project. 

The team led by Kharifa National, and containing Limak Holdings of Turkey, had offered to do the work for $4.8bn, which was understood to be nearly $1bn lower than the second lowest bid.

The list of prequalified bidders had also included China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), Abu Dhabi-based Arabtec Construction and Italy’s Astaldi SpA.

The race to build the airport extension has been controversial. The project was announced in October 2011, with a design by London-based architecture firm Foster + Partners (pictured). But the first attempt to elicit tenders stalled after firms withdrew their bids, citing difficult contract terms.

When the work was retendered in late 2013, the Ministry of Public Works invited 27 firms to bid, of which 16 responded positively. The work was due to begin in April 2014, and the expected price was $3.2bn.

A source in the Al Anba newspaper said most of the firms were from Britain, "given the experience of British firms in the region and in executing similar projects worldwide".

But many of these British firms walked away from the job in September 2014, complaining that a number of Chinese contractors had entered the race and were offering unrealistically low bids in an attempt to break into the Gulf’s infrastructure market.

If the project is re-tendered, however, firms may be hoping for another chance to bid.

The new terminal will boost Kuwait airport’s annual handling capacity from approximately eight million to 25 million.

The terminal has a trefoil plan, comprising three symmetrical wings of departure gates. Each façade spans 1.2 kilometres and all extend from a dramatic 25-metre-high central space.

The design targets a LEED ‘gold’ rating and would be among the first passenger terminals in the world to attain this level of environmental accreditation.

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