Planning, Protecting, and Controlling: Delivering Phase 1 of Thebahrain International Airport Program
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Planning, Protecting, and Controlling: Delivering Phase 1 of Thebahrain International Airport Program

Ashok Dutta, Editor, Hill International
Ashok Dutta, Editor, Hill International

Ashok Dutta, Editor, Hill International

This year, Bahrain’s aviation industry marked a turning point with the handover of the first phase ofBahrain International Airport’s (BIA) $1.1 billion Modernization Program.This first of two phases delivered a new 210,000 sqm terminal featuringpremium-class check-in halls, check-in desks, passport control booths,Egates, security lanes, a 9,000 sqmduty-free retail space, premium-class lounges, food and beverage zones, 24 departure gates, and 7,000 new parking spaces both at-grade and in multi-story facilities.These new facilities will enable BIA to meet the needs of an estimated 14 million passengers per year.

The Program, undertaken for the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications (MTT) and Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), is emblematic of the major airport expansions underway in several member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Like those projects, the BIA Modernization faced challenges ranging from procuring the right expertise to design and deliver the new facilities to coordinating among a myriad of invested stakeholders, each with their own expectations, concerns, and issues. Thanks to the careful and well-considered planning efforts of the MTT and their management team, Phase 1 was completed as envisioned and with minimal cost overruns.

Making Future-Based Decisions

The project required a true reimagining to meet theMTT’s goals of delivering astate-of-the-art facility, reflective of the airport’s role as a national gateway capable of accommodating passengers and modern aircraft for decades to come.

Hill International Vice President and Project Director Uzair Wasif explained: “The program is a full-fledged development that entailed drawing up a new masterplan to assess future needs and an entire site plan with airside and landside facilities. The MTTbrought on industry experts who recognized that to achieve the project’s goals for the long-term, the existing facility had to be decommissioned and a new terminal constructed.

Wasif added: “In 1932, the first commercial aircraft arrived in Bahrain from London, heading to Delhi with 24 passengers, making Bahrain the first GCC country to operate a commercial international airport. To keep pace with aviation industry developments, Bahrain opened a new passenger terminal known as Bahrain International Airport in 1961. The new terminal recognizes that legacy, but with all of the technology, amenities, and capabilities today’s travelers and airlines expect.”

Aligning Procurement with Schedule Goals

The process of turning a newly constructed facility into a fully functioning airport needs to be carefully managed. To oversee preparations were implemented as planned, the Project Steering Committeewas formedin the initial phases of the projectto enhancee coordination among various stakeholders.

In the early stages of the Program, Hill’s management priorities focused on the procurement of construction and engineering speciality packages. Wasif noted five packages werecritical to meeting Phase 1’s handover date. The team procured these packages on a design-build basis, which used a traditional design-bid-build delivery method, prior to the award of the main contract. The five design-build packages were: Baggage Handling System (BHS),Information and Communication Technology(ICT),Security and Screening Equipment (SSE),Passenger Loading Bridges (PLB), and Horizontal / Vertical Transportation Systems (HVTS).

Wasif noted that structuring the program’s procurement this way provided greater schedule control and took advantage of the design-build delivery method by aligning the risks of these intricate systems with teams who understood how to best realize these packages on-time and within budget. “Design-build procurements always involve a trade off in control,” explained Wasif. “The owner exchanges a degree of control, while the contracting and design team assumes more of the risk. For the ICT and BHS packages in particular, this trade made perfect sense for our project.”

As the project manager, Hill International was responsible for the development of the performance criteria for these specialty packages, with eachpackage outlining the needsand requirements for the Program. According to Wasif, “The benefits of this early procurement enabled tighter control of the project’s timeline.”

Controlling Costs Proactively

The projectrequired a high level of coordination among many stakeholders to maintain progress. These stakeholders includedGovernment ministries, authorities, ground handlers, operators, airlines, and duty free, among others, each with their own requirements.To address stakeholder concerns, Hill identified the requirements, challenges, expectations, timelines, and programming of all major stakeholders early in the project process, codified this data, and used it to drive decision-making and keep the project moving.

“Major infrastructure programs can have delays due to necessarystakeholder-drivenchanges,” said Sharif Makki, Hill Director of Operations and Contracts Manager for the project.“This happened with the Bahrain project, but early efforts to account for and consider the needs of our stakeholders helped to mitigate these impacts.”

As is normal with industry projects of this nature, there were marginalcost overruns. This was partly due to Hill’s leading ofteamworkshopsin claims avoidance,as well as reviewing and resolving claims submitted by the contractor before they could impact costs.

Protecting Against COVID-19 Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic presented several challenges, however,Hill worked with the entire team to quickly and effectively address them. On site, this meant ensuring proper PPE was always available and inuse, and that laborers were screenedfor symptoms daily before beginning work. This helped to protect the workforce and minimize the risk of the virus spreading. From a planning and management perspective, Hill coordinated with the MTT, BAC, vendors, and contractors to find workarounds to supplychain bottlenecks and to maximize work during available hours.

“Much like the entire aviation industry, we had to adapt quickly to the new normal of COVID-19,” said Makki.“Our priority was the safety of our people and we enforced social distancing and encouraged team members to meet virtually whenever possible. Then, we needed to make certain we were doing everything we could to help keep the project moving. Hill excels at finding solutions to challenges, and this was no exception. The work our team did to get the project safely back up and running, and to make up as much lost time as possible was remarkable and I expect the lessons learned and best practices the team developed can aid the MTT on other projects going forward.”

Delivering Success

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of passengers and staff at the new facility, BAC is meticulously checked the operational readiness of the Phase 1 facilities. To oversee preparations were implemented as planned and keep the project on track, the National ORAT Steering Committee, which was formed as per Royal Order (10) for 2017, issued by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier, met regularly to address key issues.

Soon airlines and passengers from around the world will enjoy the capabilities and amenities of the reimagined BIA.Hill International and the entire project team are proud to have overcome the complex challenges, achieved the clients’ goals, and left an indelible mark onBahrain.

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