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by: Vessy Nick

  Ranked as one of the world’s fastest growing cities, Dubai boasts one of the world’s fastest growing airports. Dubai International Airport was visited by a total of 21.7 million passengers in 2004, a figure which represented an increase of over 20 per cent over the previous year. And the flow of passengers is likely to continue to rise.

  Presently undergoing a US$ 4.1 billion expansion, which will see the construction of a third terminal alongside the upgrade of the currently existing Terminal 2, as well as a cargo mega terminal and two new Concourses, Dubai International Airport will be able to handle over 70 million passengers annually in 2008, when the expansion will be over.

  Having all these staggering figures in mind, it is hard to imagine the city needs additional airport infrastructure. Yet, according to civil planning experts who are looking well ahead into the 21st century, it does need just this. HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has ordered the construction of another mega project – the Dubai International Airport City project at Jebel Ali and construction has already started.

  HH General Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence, UAE, was briefed about the project by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group.

  Located 40 kilometers away from the already existing Dubai International Airport, the project was initially supposed to begin in 10 years’ time. However, the rapid growth of the city has made civil planners fast-track its commencement into the present days and work on it has begun already.

  The Airport City project will spread to some 140 square kilometres. At the heart of the project will be one of the world’s largest airports, which, when completed, will have an annual capacity of 120 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo.

  The airport will be surrounded by several smaller cities which will offer office space and other facilities to the financial, industrial, service and tourism industries. The airport and the surrounding infrastructure will cater to the industries that are progressively being established around the Jebel Ali industrial belt.

  Building world-class infrastructure has for a long time been a major factor in the government’s efforts to spur economic growth and prosperity. Dubai International Airport City is expected to emulate the huge success of the neighboring Jebel Ali Port, which is the largest man-made harbor in the world with 67 berths and extensive dry-dock capability. When completed in 1979, Jebel Ali Port ranked alongside the Great Wall of China and the Hoover Dam as the only three man-made objects that can be seen from space. Although complementing Port Rashid in terms of trade and transshipments, the concept of Jebel Ali was geared more towards industrial development and soon attracted major aluminum, gas and cement projects.

  Establishing the surrounding Jebel Ali Free Zone made the location a magnet for international businesses looking for the best facilities, cheaper overheads and the freedom to operate with an offshore status. At present, the Jebel Ali Free Zone is home to many global brand leaders such as Black & Decker, PFAFF, Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle, HJ Heinz, Unilever, Nivea, L’Oreal, BP, Shell, BASF, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Acer, Bose, JVC, Toshiba, Sanyo, Yamaha, Sony, Matsushita, Philips, Siemens, Nokia, and Daimler Chrysler.

  With the completion of the new airport, which will offer a large number of warehouse facilities, strong and effective road network with easy access to the free zones and industrial parks, the area will become the largest air-sea logistics and transportation centre of its kind in the Middle East. The Airport City complex will also facilitate smooth and efficient cargo flows, in turn boosting industrial development around the complex.

  A strategic road network will link the airport to other parts of the UAE as well as some of the other Gulf countries, in turn giving Airport City-based businesses easy access to all the affluent markets in the region.

  With its enormous logistical potential the project will also be of great significance to projects such as Dubai Aid City, which has set itself the ambitious goal of becoming a hub for international aid organizations looking to store, stockpile and distribute aid cargo via sea, land or air to locations around the world. When the new airport complex is completed, Dubai Aid City will boast a strategic location, which augurs well for its success. The International Airport City will also be connected to projects such as the Techno Park and the Dubai Investment Park.

  Apart from serving Dubai’s ever-growing industrial sector, the new airport is also designed to cater to the city’s growing travel and tourism demands. Its proximity to the ‘New Dubai’ area means it has the potential to become a hub for tourists heading for some of the leisure and entertainment projects currently being built in this area such as the multi-billion dollar Dubailand and the Palm Islands in Jumeirah and Jebel Ali. The new airport is very good news for budget carriers, which currently do not have access to the busy Dubai International Airport.

  The new airport and the surrounding infrastructure will be completed in phases. The first phase, costing US$ 547 million (Dhs2 billion) will include one runway as well as Dubai Logistics City, which is designed to become the world’s largest multi-modal logistics hub for air, sea and road services.

  Initially, the focus will be on cargo requirements. The airport will consist of a number of terminals, six parallel runways, a large area for cargo and two main entrances. All facilities will be equipped to handle new generation aircraft including the new super jumbo Airbus A380.

  The new airport will be encompassed by a carefully designed and integrated complex that will cater to businesses and tourists alike. This diverse, urban environment will be organised into ‘cities’ featuring aviation, logistics, commercial, residential, educational, recreational, technology and entertainment facilities.

  The project envisages the creation of Commercial City, which will be the financial and business heart of the Airport City project and will form a breathtaking new Dubai skyline with a high-rise area featuring over 850 towers.

  Another part of the project is Aviation City, which the Civil Aviation Authority would like to see become the regional headquarters for leading aviation industry companies, including suppliers, maintenance specialists and manufacturers. A development to serve the industrial and technological sectors is also envisioned.

  Dubai International Airport City will also offer a wide range of residential properties – from luxury estates to affordable apartments and airport staff housing. Commercial and community services for residents will also be available. Golf enthusiasts will also be catered for as, according to the plans, the project will include the region’s largest golf course.

  Building world-class infrastructure has been a major factor in Dubai’s bid for economic prosperity and development. The new Dubai International Airport City project is yet one more step in a strategy to make the emirate a leading global destination for tourists and entrepreneurs alike.


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