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UAE Dredging Company Gulf Cobla Delivers Maldives Airport Land Reclamation for Expansion Project

 

Cutter suction dredge Deira Bay sourcing sand for land reclamation.

 

In February 2017, Velana International Airport announced the delivery of the land reclamation completed by Gulf Cobla, a dredging company based in the United Arab Emirates. In June 2016, Gulf Cobla reported that it had been awarded a contract for land reclamation for one of the most important of the Maldives airports, then known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, which as of January 1, 2017 was renamed the Velana International Airport. 

Gulf Cobla’s unit Gulf Cobla Tennssor Maldives, which has a head office in Jebel Ali, Dubai, was selected by main contractor Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) to create the land reclamation for the new runway.

Reclamation work for the expansion of the airport and the addition of a second runway began a month later at an official ceremony at the eastern side of runway lagoon area in July. The reclamation, scheduled to be completed within approximately five months, was delivered on time in late February 2017. At the beginning of March 2017, Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Ltd. Adil Moosa issued a statement that “the new land reclaimed from the sea” was officially ready for the construction of the runway to begin. The new land expands the airport by some 30 percent.

According to Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed, the land reclamation project and airport extension are intended to build a stronger runway to accommodate the Airbus A380 aircraft. The new runway and airport are expected to be fully functional in 2018.

Velana International Airport is located on Hulhule Island and is nearby the capital island Male. The total land area reclaimed is 620,000 square meters (62 hectares) along with 4 kilometers of shore protection.  The reclamation work is divided into five phases, which will account for the expansion projects of developing a new runway of 3,400 x 60 meters, a new cargo complex which would cater for 120,000 tons of air-cargo per year and a brand new fuel farm with a storage capacity 45 million liters of Jet A1 fuel along with fuel hydrant system.   

The Maldives, an island nation on a double chain of 26 atolls comprising 1,192 islands, encompasses a territory spread more than 90,000 square kilometers, making the country one of the world’s most geographically dispersed. Its population of some 330,000 inhabits only 192 of the more than 1,000 islands. 

To increase social and economic benefits for local communities and increase tourism, the Maldives government launched a broad program of airport construction, including Thaa Thimarafushi, Gan International and Velana International airports. All these airports were improved from 2010 to 2014. In 2016, additional expansions and improvements, including the new runway, were approved and begun for Velana International Airport.

Dredging and Equipment

Initially, Gulf Cobla deployed its cutter suction dredge Deira Bay to the site. The dredging company then followed up with its cutter suction dredge Khaleej Bay to increase the progress in order to meet the early 2017 completion date for the land reclamation.  

The cutter suction dredge Deira Bay is a medium size shallow draft cutter suction dredge designed to excavate hard material. It can be controlled by one operator and is well instrumented to ensure optimum outputs. The overall length is 48 meters (157.5 feet), and hull length is 38.5 meters (126.3 feet) with a width of 12 meters (39.4 feet), a draft of 2.1 meters (6.9 feet) and dredging depth of 10.5 meters (34.5 feet). The suction pipe diameter is 600 millimeters (23.6 inches) and the discharge pipe diameter is 500 millimeters (19.7 inches). The Diera Bay is equipped with a 750hp cutter drive and a total installed power of 3,500hp.

The Khaleej Bay, commissioned in 2004, was the first cutter suction dredge ever built in the United Arab Emirates. It is larger with more total installed power than the Diera Bay. Based on local experience and the latest technological developments, she was specially designed by shipbuilders in the Netherlands to operate in coastal as well as shallow waters and is equipped with a 1,250hp cutter drive to handle the cutting of medium rock and sand stone and a total installed power of 1,620hp. Her relatively short hull, combined with high precision control equipment makes the dredge suitable for narrow channel dredging and for controlled dredging activities. It has an overall length of 60.8 meters (199.5 feet) and a hull length of 49.8 meters (163.4 feet). Her width is 14 meters (45.9 feet), draft 2.2 meters (7.2 feet), and she can dredge to depths of 16 to 18 meters (52 to 59 feet). Auxiliary plant and numerous wear parts, such as the dredge pump, suction and discharge pipelines, are identical to the Deira Bay. 

Both cutter suction dredges working together were able to deliver the reclamation as planned within the five-month time slot. According to Gulf Cobla Tennssor Maldives more than 4 million cubic meters (more than 5.2 million cubic yards) of sand for the new runway construction were reclaimed. The sand for the new runway was dredged from the same inner lagoon where the company also dredged more than 2 million cubic meters (2.6 million yards) of sand for the previous expansion of the airport, which took place in 2012.

The Maldives government secured a US$373 million concessionary loan from the Chinese EX-IM (Export-Import) Bank and enlisted China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group to build the new 3,400 meters long x 60 meters wide (11,160 feet x 196 feet) runway, the fuel farm, and cargo complex. 

Besides the land reclamation, Gulf Cobla Tennssor Maldives has also installed sheet piles and constructed revetments for the protection of the newly created land for the runway as part of its contract with Beijing Urban Construction Group. According to Maldives Airports Company Ltd., with a floor area of 78,000 square meters (92,290 square yards), the new terminal will have 40 departure checking counters, 38 immigration counters, 12 jetties, and six aero-bridges. The airport will be able to cater to more than seven million passengers by 2018, the project’s estimated date of completion. Some 1.2 million tourists visited the country in 2015. Minister Saeed reported that the Maldives’ lucrative tourism industry earns US$3.2 billion a year. 

Gulf Cobla LLC is an international dredging company, which focuses its operations in the Middle East and surrounding areas. The work being done now at Male is a follow-up to expansion work done earlier at Male, as well as at the Thaa Thimarafushi and Gan International airports from October 2010 to October 2014. For almost 50 years, the company has played a major role in a substantial number of urbanization projects in the Middle East. 

 

 

Land-based equipment, bulldozers and excavators, move sand at the reclamation site.

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