Korea-led consortium inks $20bn Saudi housing deal

by Ashleigh McGinley on Mar 28, 2016 

A consortium including Korean group Hanwha Engineering & Construction has inked a $20bn deal to build 100,000 homes in Saudi Arabia, it has been reported.

The deal was inked to build 100,000 homes in Saudi Arabia. [Representational Image] 

The consortium, which also includes Korea's Daewood Engineering & Construction and Saudi construction firm Saudi Pan Kingdom for Trading, Industry & Contracting (Sapac) signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Housing to build the new city development project close to Riyadh International Airport. 

The singing of the MoU took place in Seoul, according to English language daily Korea Herald as cited by Arabian Business. 

The development will reportedly represent the largest ever project that a Korean builder has clinched from a foreign country, Hanwha said in a statement.

A Hanwha spokesman said: “We will supply 100,000 houses and city infrastructure in Alfursan near the Riyadh International Airport and this will be a landmark deal for Korea’s overseas construction history in terms of the size.”

“It is too early to tell the details of the deal, but the consortium expects to push for the mega project with a stable financing source, backed by the Saudi government.

“The company has sought the deal, which will be helpful to cement its reputation as a global city developer in the Middle East, following the ongoing Bismayah new city project in Iraq."



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Indonesia's Pertamina and Marubeni sign gas turbine deal with GE

The logo of U.S. conglomerate General Electric is pictured at the company's site in Belfort, April 27, 2014.


A consortium made up of Indonesia's state energy firm PT Pertamina and Japan's Marubeni Corp (8002.T) has signed a deal with General Electric (GE.N) for the U.S. firm to provide gas turbines for a $2 billion power plant in Java, Pertamina said.

The consortium intends to bid to build and operate the 1,600-megawatt plant, which would be the biggest gas and steam power station in Indonesia, in a tender held by state utility firm PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara in May, Pertamina said in a statement on Sunday.

The consortium has also asked South Korea's Samsung C&T Corp (028260.KS) to provide engineering, procurement and construction for the power plant, Pertamina said. It did not give any financial details.

Southeast Asia's largest economy has set an ambitious goal of building more than 35 gigawatts of power stations by 2019, the bulk of which are expected to be coal-powered.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies)



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Thailand to go it alone on Thai-Sino high-speed rail 

Sole investor status 'will end delays' 

The high-speed rail project has been touted as a joint Thai-Chinese operation since the junta first promoted it, but now will be all-Thai because of unsuccessful haggling over cost sharing. (File photo)

24 Mar 2016 

Thailand has decided to wholly invest in the Thai-Sino railway project after it failed to agree in talks with China on the terms of the arrangement which has set back progress for months. The decision... 

The decision was announced Wednesday by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as he was attending the first Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) summit in Sanya, Hainan province. "Lancang" is Chinese for Mekong The... 

The summit, which brings together leaders from Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and China, ends Thursday. 

Gen Prayut said after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang that, as well as cooperation on sharing resources from the Mekong River, Thailand and China also discussed the development of the... 

It was decided Thailand will wholly invest in the project and hire China to develop the project, instead of a joint investment venture planned earlier, Gen Prayut said. 

This is because Thailand wants the country's first high-speed train project to "get off the ground", Gen Prayut said. 

The first section to be developed will be the 250km Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section, the prime minister said. 

The Thai-Sino dual-track rail route, which can handle medium- to high-speed train services, will involve two phases of construction. The first phase will involve the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section and... 

Previously, Thailand made a proposal to the Chinese authorities that China should hold a 60% stake in a special purpose vehicle, or SPV, for the project but China disagreed. 

The loan issue has played a part in delays in the Thai-Chinese train scheme as the government repeatedly urged China to cap the interest rate at 2%. The government argued China was pushing for too high... 

This graphic shows the plan for the joint Thai-Chinese high-speed railway as of last July. The plan now is largely out the window, after China's participation has been axed.




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Panama to Open $5.3B Canal Expansion June 26 or `Lose Face'

Michael D McDonald  Naureen Malik

The last gate of the Pacific Locks is being installed as part of the Panama Canal expansion, as the media is offered a tour, in Cocoli, near Panama City, on April 28, 2015. Photographer: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images

Contractors building new locks will finish work on May 31

Shipments through widened canal may rise to 360m tons by 2017

The expansion of the Panama Canal, a $5.3 billion project almost two years behind schedule and plagued by cost overruns and contractor disputes, will open on June 26, Canal Authority Administrator Jorge Quijano said on Wednesday.

Contractors building the new locks, which will allow bigger ships to pass through the 102-year-old waterway, will complete works on May 31.

"The date is very close and there is still a lot of work to do," Quijano said Wednesday during the inauguration of a new canal training center. "We can’t lose face."

The Panama Canal Authority has resolved problems associated with contractors and seepage from the new locks discovered during testing, said Jose Ramon Arango, senior international trade specialist at the agency that operates the 50-mile (77-kilometer) waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The authority is planning a test of the new locks with a tanker in May, he said at a shipping conference in Stamford, Connecticut on Tuesday.

The expansion may shift international trade routes, allowing ships to reach Asia from the U.S. Gulf Coast more than two weeks faster than they would going east through the Suez Canal. It’ll make room for vessels with the capacity to carry 12,600 containers, almost three times what the existing locks permit, and will be able to handle tankers carrying liquefied natural gas.

Shipments through the canal may rise to 360 million tons in 2017 following the project’s completion, after reaching a record 340.8 million tons in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the authority said in October. The expansion has spurred a series of port and infrastructure upgrades throughout the Caribbean and the U.S. East Coast as docks make room for bigger vessels.

The project was 97 percent complete as of Tuesday, with testing, with the construction of minor structures accounting for the remaining 3 percent, Arango said.



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Are these the seven most sustainable cities? - in pictures

Landmarks around the world went dark for Earth Hour this weekend but many cities are making longer term moves towards sustainability. From Hamburg’s coffee pod ban to São Paulo’s ad-free streets – seven cities taking radical steps



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How to invest in infrastructure for steady cash flows



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Korea-based firm to build 4-in-1 bus and rail depot

An artist's impression of the East Coast Integrated Depot. PHOTO: LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY

Bus depot to be built beside stack of 3 train depots in East Coast site

Adrian Lim

The contract to build a four-in-one rail and bus depot - said to be the world's first such facility - has been awarded to South Korea-based GS Engineering & Construction Corporation for around $1.99 billion.

The East Coast Integrated Depot will contain three train depots and one bus depot within a single site of 36ha.

It will be able to stable around 220 trains and 550 buses, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

GS Engineering was previously involved in the building of the Downtown Line 2's Gali Batu Depot, and is currently constructing the Downtown Line 3's Fort Canning and Tampines East stations, as well as the Thomson-East Coast Line's (TEL) Woodlands interchange station.

Works for the East Coast Integrated Depot and its associated tunnels will start by the second quarter of this year and are targeted for completion in 2024.

The three train depots in the facility will be stacked one on top of the other, with a bus depot built next to them.

The depot to serve the Downtown Line will be built underground, while the TEL depot will be on the road level, and the East- West Line depot will be built on top of it.

The LTA had said previously that if the four depots were to be built separately, a land size of 80ha would be required.

The 36ha East Coast Integrated Depot will allow the authorities to save 44ha - the equivalent of approximately 60 football fields.

Separately, the LTA also said yesterday that it has awarded three more rail project contracts.

A joint venture between Australian firm John Holland and Zhen Hua (Singapore) Engineering has clinched the deal to build the TEL's Siglap station for $176 million.

The construction of the TEL's Bayshore station and its associated tunnels has been awarded to Woh Hup-Shanghai Tunnel Engineering Co (Singapore) Joint Venture at a contract sum of $296 million.

Meanwhile, Korean firm Samsung C&T Corporation has been awarded the contract to build the Xilin station on the Downtown Line 3 extension, as well as reception tunnels to the East Coast Integrated Depot, at a contract sum of $834 million.

Works for all three projects are expected to start in the second quarter of this year.

The Siglap and Bayshore stations are targeted for completion in 2023, and the Xilin station in 2024.

Siglap and Bayshore stations are part of the nine-station, 13km East Coast stretch of the TEL, and will benefit commuters living in the eastern parts of Singapore - such as Tanjong Rhu, Siglap, Marine Parade and Bedok South - who are currently not served by an MRT station.

The East Coast stretch will connect to the 22-station, 30km Thomson segment to form the 43km TEL.

The Downtown Line 3 extension adds another two more stations and 2.2km to the 42km Downtown Line, and will improve accessibility to the Changi Business Park and Expo areas.



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Las Vegas Sands bets $10,000,000,000 on Korea

George Tanasijevich, managing director of Global Development for Las Vegas 

Sands Corp.

US gaming operator plans to build $10 bil. casino resort

By Kim Jae-kyoung

SINGAPORE ― Las Vegas Sands Corp. will push ahead with its plan to build an integrated resort worth more than $10 billion with a restricted-entry casino in South Korea, according to a senior executive of the U.S. resort and casino operator.

In a recent interview at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in Singapore, George Tanasijevich, managing director of Global Development for Las Vegas Sands Corp., said that the firm will convince the Korean government and people of the opportunity its resort can offer, "whatever it takes."

Tanasijevich, who also serves as CEO of MBS, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands, is responsible for the group's global development activities.

"We understand this is an important decision for the Korean government and people. We are patient and the pace of this doesn't determine our interest level," he said.

"Our interest level is high because we think the opportunity presented by the (Korean) market is a very strong one. So we will follow the guidance of the Korean government and Korean people."

The government has previously thwarted the Nevada-based company's proposals to build a world-class MICE (meeting, incentive tour, convention and exhibition) focused resort a few times because Sands' model requires legal gambling for locals.

"I wouldn't say that our efforts have been thwarted. We recognized that this is a process we have to go through to educate people what the opportunity is and what we would like to do," he said.

"We weren't asking for the opportunity to develop something starting right at that moment in time. It was more of us continuing this education process where we hope to explain what we could in the contribution we would make."

The Singapore-based CEO said that Sands is willing to invest more than $10 billion, nearly twice its $5.6 billion investment made in developing MBS.

When asked whether $10 billion would be the maximum investment amount, he said, "It depends on how many buildings we are allowed to build and how many locations we are allowed to build in. It can be more than that."

He stressed that Korea is not just one of their choices but a must-go-to destination.

"Korea is a top development destination for us. We believe so strongly. We proposed some ideas for consideration so that people would understand what level of interest we have and how committed we are to investing in Korea," he said.

"But as I say, this is the process that takes time so that you, the Korean people and Korean government, can make the right decision on it."

For Sands to build an MBS-style resort in Korea, the passage of appropriate legislation in the National Assembly is essential but the government has yet to show its clear stance due to the public's negative sentiment against casinos.

"We know that nothing can move forward unless and until the Assembly passes the appropriate laws to allow for it," he said.

Public sentiment improving? 

Tanasijevich said he remains optimistic about the passage of a law allowing the MBS-style resort, citing recent survey results showing that Koreans' sentiment has been changing.

"I think the public sentiment toward the resort is shifting. We can see the trend of increasing awareness and increasing support for it," he said.

In a Gallup survey of 1,033 Korean adults commissioned by MBS in late 2015, the company found that 74.5 percent of those surveyed supported the development of an IR similar to MBS in Korea and 25.5 percent were against.

However, of that 25.5 percent, the survey showed that about one-third changed their minds after being told that the casino was less than 5 percent of the total area.

Referring to the Singapore case, the CEO said that appropriate regulations can control negative side effects from a casino.

"We are proposing not an open, but a restricted-entry casino where locals have to pay levies and be subject to restrictions ― if they are financially at risk ― to enter the casino which will occupy less than 5 percent of the total integrated resort area," he said.

He explained that it is important that there be strict entry barriers into the casino and that the Singapore model has proven that with appropriate entry barriers, the potential negative effects on society can be avoided.

"Thus, we believe that any law permitting Korean citizens to enter casinos in Korea should include provisions that prevent entry to those who should not be entering the casino," he said.




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China Banks on Ski Resort at The Top of The World

The Potala Palace in Lhasa in a file photo.

Beijing’s plan to build the world’s highest ski resort near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa is raising concern among some environmentalists who wonder why the Chinese would build where there is little snow.

Nestled in the Himalaya Mountains at nearly 12,000 feet, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture is the perfect spot for a ski resort, China feels, but Tenpa Gyaltsen, director of the Environmental Section at the Tibet Policy Institute tells RFA’s Tibetan Service there is little snowfall there to support a resort.

“In the official Chinese news it is stated that the resort will be developed near Lhasa, but there aren’t any snow mountains near Lhasa,” said Gyaltsen, who is based in Dharamsala, India. “If they transport the snow from somewhere else, how would this impact Tibet’s melting glaciers?”

The ski resort is included as an important part of China's 13th Five Year Plan, the state-linked China Daily reported on Feb. 24. Approved this week by the National People's Congress, it is another example of the nation’s hopes for its ski slopes.

China is estimated to have 450 ski resorts, and the country is banking on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to give snow sports a boost, according to reports.  The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain resort near Lijiang in southwestern China's Yunnan province is the current record holder for the world’s highest ski resort.

Snow is not Gyaltsen’s only concern. As usual with Chinese development projects in the region, information is difficult to find, he said.

“Lack of transparency and accountability for Chinese developers is a major source of problems both in Tibet and China,” he said.  “It is important to know who the stakeholders are, and if this project will be tainted with corruption as is the norm on many others.”

There are also questions about who will ultimately reap the benefits of the resort, Gyaltsen told RFA.

“While any development that benefits the Tibet region is welcome, the concern is whether the Chinese developer has done any professional risk assessment and the required study that takes into account the long and short-term geosocial, cultural, and environmental impact of such a project,” he said.

“The main purpose of such project is for economic benefit,” he added. “But how much will the local Tibetans benefit?”

Tibetan supporters say the benefits will trickle down, and that Lhasa is a natural choice for a resort because it is near five mountains higher than 26,000 feet, more than 70 mountains higher than about 23,000 feet, and no fewer than 1,000 mountains higher than about 20,000 feet.

"With an average altitude of 4,500 meters above sea level, Tibet is rich in unique natural resources for ice and snow sports," Nyima Tsering, deputy director of the region's sports bureau told the China Daily.

A contract has already been signed between the sports bureaus of Tibet and China's Heilongjiang province to aid in the training of Tibetan talent, China Daily reported.

Tsering contends that a ski resort near Lhasa will encourage young people to take on a winter sport.

"Just as China is new to the winter sports game, Tibet also has a long way to go," he told China Daily, adding that he hopes "to see the faces of Tibetan skiers" at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Reported and translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.



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World's best airport for 2016 named in annual Skytrax awards

Singapore's sprawling Changi Airport has pretty much everything you might need.

Air travellers have voted for their favourite airport in Skytrax's World's Best Airport awards 2016, with Singapore's Changi Airport topping the list for the fourth year in a row.

This is the seventh time Changi has topped the list, awarded at a ceremony held at the Passenger Terminal EXPO in Cologne, Germany.

CEO of Skytrax Edward Plaisted said that the airport's popularity is due to its "continuing ability to be able to innovate in product and service options for its customers, and to make the experience as relaxing and comfortable as possible."

Changi also collected an award for best Leisure Amenities at an airport, such as music bar lounges, the swimming pool, and the napping and rest areas in the in-terminal Transit Hotel.

The airport was commended for its unique features such as the free sightseeing tour of Singapore offered to those with layovers, proving the airport's dedication for providing stand-out customer service.

Lee Seow Hiang, Chief Executive Officer of Changi Airport Group said "it is the extraordinary effort and commitment of the entire airport community that drives Changi's success.

"We thank our passengers and partners alike for their continued support and confidence in us."

Asian airports dominated the list, taking out seven of the top 10 slots, though three European airports - Munich (No.3), Zurich (No.7) and London's much maligned Heathrow (No.8) - also made the grade.

Votes for the The World Airport Awards are cast by customers in the largest, annual global airport customer satisfaction survey.

It is based on 13.25 million customer nominations across 106 nationalities and includes 550 airports worldwide.

The survey evaluates customer satisfaction across 39 key areas such as service and product from check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security and immigration, through to departure at the gate.

The top ten airports for 2016 according to Skytrax:

1. Singapore Changi Airport

2. Incheon International Airport

3. Munich Airport

4. Tokyo International Airport (Haneda)

5. Hong Kong International Airport

6. Chūbu Centrair Nagoya

7. Zurich Airport

8. London Heathrow Airport

9. Kansai International Airport

10. Hamad International Airport



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