Khalifa Port says it spent $240m protecting coral

ADPC has built an 8km breakwater to protect the valuable Ras Garnada.


Tony Douglas, CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC), said one of the biggest obstacles planners had to overcome was to design the facility around the nearby Ras Garnada Reef, a 7km long coral habitat which is home to some of the most valuable and densest coral in the Gulf.

“It is a massive story here… This is not only a national treasure, this is an international treasure,” Douglas said in an interview. “The leadership was very clear from the outset that this had to be protected… This was non-negotiable, this had to be protected.”

In order to protect the reef, ADPC built an 8km environmental breakwater and a 1km causeway bridge linking the port to the shore, which allows for continued current flow to the reef.

“From a civil engineering point of view, it was a massive marine sustainability project in the way it was engineered. If that hadn’t existed you would have done it slightly differently… [The breakwater and bridge] cost US$240m. That gives you an idea of the investment and scale we are talking about,” Douglas explained.

Officials from the Florida Coral Marine Institute and Al Ain University are also on-site to make sure the condition of Ras Ghanada Reef has continued to be preserved.

With a budget of AED26.6bn (US$7.2bn), the money existed to plan around the environmental obstacle and Douglas is very proud of the fact that the project has so far come in under budget and is ready to be unveiled to the public on September 1.

“What you can be absolutely sure about is we are inside the budget… Handsomely inside the budget,” he added.

Abu Dhabi’s biggest ever infrastructure project, Khalifa Port and Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad) combined are the size of a small country.

Around 420 sqkm in size, the project will be four times bigger than Abu Dhabi island, two-thirds the size of Singapore and will be a quarter the size of Greater London, stretching from Canary Wharf to Slough.

While the opening of the port has been kept relatively low-key, its long-term growth plans are impressive. “In terms of size, this year we will do about 800,000 containers, last year we did 767,000 and that was about a 45 percent increase on the previous year,” Douglas said.

At present the main port in Abu Dhabi is Mina Zayed, but the 40 year-old facility is set to hit its capacity of 800,000, just in time for the entire container business to be transferred over to Khalifa Port from the start of September.

“When we move [to Khalifa Port] on September 1, we will use Terminal 1, which [can handle] 2.5m containers… Then, when that gets to be full, we will add Terminal 2… So 5m containers plays 800,000,” Douglas explained.

Once demand has exceeded the first two terminals at Khalifa Port, ADPC plans to expand further in the run up to the emirate’s 2030 vision. “Capacity is for five million and… when demand fulfills capacity, we will put another L-shape on [the port] and total theoretical capacity in 2030 is 15 million [containers per year],” Douglas added.

However, he was realistic that the port does not want to develop to full capacity straight away and growth will be phased. “The smart thing is to try and phase it as best you can… You wouldn’t put 15m in from day one.”

Douglas said around 44 industry heavyweights have already signed up to lease land in Kizad, which will add around US$40bn to Abu Dhabi's economy and create around 100,000 jobs when fully completed.

Leasing of space began in May and so far around 2 sqkm has been leased and a further eight sqkm is in the final stages of negotiations. A total of 22 sqkm is available for rental.

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