Beijing Urban Construction Group: Cooperation through Localisation
BUCG is renovating the Maldives airport to meet demands in air transportation and increase local tourism.
The Maldives reminds people of coconut trees and their shadows, clear waters and the white sandy beaches. Now, as travellers around the world fly above Malé, the capital of the Maldives, they see through the cabinet windows not only picturesque scenery but also BUCG'S logo. Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) Company Limited is here having renovation and expansion works on the airport to bring about a brand-new airport to meet a growing air transportation business demand and to drive development of local tourism. BUCG faces different geological conditions and building requirements from those in China and needs to overcome all sorts of engineering and technical difficulties. However, they have greater experience and thinking on how enterprises achieve localisation, serving the local area and promoting the regional economy.
Reclaiming Land from the Sea
“Is the Maldives a country along the Belt and the Road?” asked President Abdulla Yameen of the Maldives before meeting President Xi Jinping at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games in August 2014. Yes, the Maldives, the renowned “Country of Thousands of Islands,” will be a point of great significance along the “Maritime Silk Road.”
One month later, on President Xi Jinping's visit to Maldives, under the witness of the leaders of both countries, BUCG and Maldives Airport Company signed the Preliminary Agreement on the Renovation and Expansion Project of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, making BUCG the general contractor of the largest building project since the Maldives
was founded. On April 6, 2016, a grand commencement ceremony was held in Malé.
According to one official in charge of the International Business Department of BUCG, this project is an F+EPC project (Finance+ Engineer, Procure and Construct), consisting of various construction areas including a reclamation project, embankment project, runway and tarmac, fuel tanks and plane refuelling pipelines, the navigational lighting aid project, and the airfreight material warehouses. Many construction contents are not only a first for BUCG but also for Chinese construction enterprises.
This has posed some difficulties to the BUCG, renowned as “a State Builder” within the construction industry, which has participated in national key projects like Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport, the JinanQingdao High Way, and the National Stadium.
Reclamation is the first challenge.
The reclamation for this airport is the first coral island reclamation project for Chinese enterprises in Southern Asia. In the early phase, BUCG had done lots of research and analysis. As the Chinese construction industry was not involved in reclamation, a design plan simply based on China's geographical and climatic conditions didn't work there. This poses a challenge to the enterprise's project management and communication with an international project owner. The Chinese management team in the Project Department has taken the initiative to have international bridging, integrate domestic and foreign resources, and engage AECOM, an international team for design consultation. Subcontracting of the design, reclamation, and site, as well as sea exploration have involved first-class research institutes, design academies and companies in China. After trials of standards and design, BUCG has worked out a locally suitable engineering design plan and overcome technical challenges. “All sorts of standards and regulations, whether coming from China or foreign countries, are all equal. However, the best is the one that suits the locality,” said one employer in Project Department.
In July 2016, renovation and expansion of the Maldives Airport began. Yang Yang, deputy director of the Party-public Work Office of the International Business Department of BUCG, who once visited the construction site, sighed because, different from the construction scenes of a group of Chinese workers, the reclamation scene has machinery working in replace of the labour intensive construction. Machines like the sand boats, the bulldozers, and the excavators are performing their duties to collectively complete a series of works in retreating and levelling sands. It is said that by February 2017, the reclamation has finished 70 percent and will have completed by the end of June. Other designs for foundation treatment, hydrology research, fuel warehouses and refuelling pipelines are also underway.
Maldives Gets Economic Uplift
A country with thousands of islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is globally famous for its tourism and renowned as “a pearl dropped by God.” So far, it has developed about 120 tourist islands. With an output occupying one third of its GDP, it offers 80 percent of its foreign currency earnings, while tourism is its main economic pillar.
Due to its geographical location, air transportation is the major means for travellers for the entire Maldives, with the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport as its major gateway. As local tourism has been further developed and
facilities improved, the number of travellers in the future will maintain a higher growth rate. It is estimated that by 2040, passenger volume of this airport will exceed 12 million people. Because of its limited scale and hardware conditions, the airport has been operated in a state of saturation, unable to satisfy quick growth in needs of air transportation business and posing a severe threat to socioeconomic development.
Against this background, it is urgent to implement the airport's renovation and expansion project. It will not only satisfy increasing local aviation demand but also respond to needs of an overall development strategy of the Maldives. One official said that fostering tourism as its pillar industry was needed to reverse its outdated airport facilities. The current 4E runway is only suitable for midsized aircraft like the A320, A300 and others. The expanded runway is expected to reach the F Level to accommodate larger aircraft like the A380, with improved transportation and reception ability.
In recent years, docks on more than 50 islands across the Maldives have been renovated, with shipping lines dredged. After renovation and expansion, the airport will have unique multimodal transportation, able to conduct an inner transfer of international flights, domestic continental flights, seaplanes and speed boats. To reach the Maldives, a passenger can choose to take a sea plane or a speed boat, playing a positive role in promoting tourism and related business in the Maldives.
In addition, air transportation makes it easier to go beyond geographical limitations and participate in international division of labour and the international economy. After the airport's renovation, the Maldives will enhance its ability in attracting and gathering productivity on a global scale. For this, minister for Economic Development of Maldives, said at the commencement ceremony that the new airport will bring a net revenue of more than US$4.7 billion to the local area. At the same time, the construction project will promote the local economy and generate around 9,000 jobs. After its completion, it will generate about 75,000 jobs for local tourism and related industries, increasing the employment rate by 20 percent.
The renovation and expansion of the airport will play a positive role in developing local tourism, air transportation industry, and regional economy, tackling unemployment and increasing its international competitiveness. As not only an exemplary project for conducting cooperation and cementing the traditional friendship of both countries, it is also an iconic project of the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road for both countries.
This is just one of many of BUCG'S outbound engineering projects offering services to local production and livelihood and promoting the local economy. Others include the Teheran Metro in Iran, Kuala Lumpur
City Centre in Malaysia, China-assisted Sierra Leone Fixed Biosafety Laboratory, Algeria Opera House, Costa Rica Police Academy. For over 20 years, BUCG'S staff have established overseas projects with both inspiration and perspiration, contributing to the development of that country or region and witnessing a deep-rooted friendship between Chinese and people from other countries.
Presently, BUCG has overseas projects in 21 countries, among which include 12 countries along the Belt and Road Initiative. BUCG has also won the bid of the fifth section of the expressway project in East Kalimantan Province in Indonesia. This project has a total length of 10.941 kilometres and as for its design, is bidirectional with four lanes. After its completion, it will link Samarinda, the capital of East Kalimantan and Balikpapan, the second largest city of the province, promoting interconnectivity within the province and the regional economy.
In June 2016, the Astana Light rail project in Kazakhstan began. As a key project of the Belt and Road Initiative, it has gathered interest from multiple Chinese enterprises, with BUCG undertaking subcontracting of design and civil engineering. With a total length of 22.4 kilometres, this project is the first urban light rail in the country, passing by key architectural buildings like the Office of the President, Abu Dhabi Plaza, Ministry of Defence and scenic spots, and connecting the Astana World Expo Park to be completed this year. After the completion of this project, it will become the most technologically representative urban transportation project in Kazakhstan and even Middle Asia.
As BUCG participates in more overseas construction projects, making a project sustainably promote local development and truly achieving cooperation and winning as advocated in the Belt and Road Initiative has now become a prime power for BUCG to enhance its capacity in building and shift its original project management philosophy.
“In the past, when we undertook some projects in underdeveloped countries, we adopted construction and management methods used in China and followed drawings. However, most of the countries along the Road and Belt Initiative are emerging economies, with a fast growth rate and their own technical standards and design regulations. How to merge with them and achieve localisation is a new issue the Chinese construction industry has to face.” From the perspective of many employees in the International Business Department of BUCG, forging an international construction team, respecting local values, legal system and employment and others are key elements in ensuring a smooth run of the project.
This is outstanding in renovating the Maldives Airport. In the Project Department are not only Chinese employees from BUCG, but also construction professionals from Australia, France and other countries, and local personnel undertaking the reclamation. In Indonesia's expressway project, BUCG and two Indonesian companies formed a consortium to undertake the project, thus having fully realised the localisation so as to better communicate and understand local needs during construction.
So far, the key projects related to Belt and Road Initiatives undertaken by BUCG are orderly underway. “The challenges met during construction also present opportunities for the growth of the company.” The BUCG staff said that, during the implementation of each project, BUCG will have mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual learning of civilisations with the project owners, while also improving BUCG'S professional abilities, design and management philosophy, project implementation and management ability, to closely follow national policies and become a pioneer of the Belt and Road Initiative.
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