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Douglas takes on port ‘mega-project’

Former Laing O’Rourke chief operating officer Tony Douglas has spoken of the “mega-project” he will inherit in his new role at the Abu Dhabi Ports Company.

Mr Douglas was this week named as chief executive officer of the firm that runs the emirate’s ports and port-related industrial zones.

The company is currently building the Khalifa Port development, which will transform Abu Dhabi’s transport infrastructure over the next two decades.

Mr Douglas said the job was “a true mega-project”. He added: “To think of it as a port is misleading - this is 420 sq
km of land that will become the UAE’s largest industrial and multi-modal development.

“There was no shortage [of job opportunities], which is a highclass problem to have, but for someone in my line of work it just doesn’t get better than this.

“It is an energetic and very diverse group of people, with an energetic and visionary chairman.”

Asked about the company’s ambitions outside Abu Dhabi, Mr Douglas would say only: “The ambition is high.”

The first phase of the Khalifa Port project will become operational in 2012 and is worth about £5 billion.

A number of firms - including Atkins, Bechtel and Scott Wilson - have been involved so far and Mr Douglas said three large packages of heavy civil engineering work were due to be awarded in the next three to four months.

Mr Douglas left Laing O’Rourke in November, having joined the privately owned contractor as chief operating officer in 2007.

He was previously chief executive of BAA’s Heathrow operation and heavily involved in the construction of Terminal 5. Mr Douglas was appointed with the understanding that he would take over from Ray O’Rourke in running the company.

He took over from Mr O’Rourke as chairman of CLM - the consortium of CH2M Hill, Laing O’Rourke and Mace -
which is the Delivery Partner for the Olympic Delivery Authority.

In March 2009, in an exclusive interview with CN, Mr O’Rourke described Mr Douglas as having contributed “a huge dynamism that we didn’t have before”.

However, it is thought that the severity of the downturn convinced the reclusive chairman last year that he should continue in the top role for at least the next couple of years.

Laing O’Rourke has major projects in the Middle East, including the Al Raha beach development in Abu Dhabi, which Mr Douglas was heavily involved in.

Mr Douglas joined demolition firm Keltbray as a non-executive director in March. He is also involved in low-carbon development work managed by chief construction adviser Paul Morrell, and leads the non-domestic building
element of the group’s work.

He confirmed that involvement in both would continue. “The low carbon work is due to deliver in the autumn and I will continue my high level of commitment to it - we are in pretty good shape.”

Chairman Dr Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber said he was delighted to welcome Mr Douglas to the Abu Dhabi Ports Company.

“He brings with him great experience and talent in the management of infrastructure projects across the world and in the region.

“The company is developing major projects as part of the Abu Dhabi Vision Plan 2030 and I am confident his stewardship will contribute to the success of their implementation.”

The Abu Dhabi Ports Company was set up in 2006 to own and manage all Abu Dhabi’s port facilities, excluding oil and gas, and military installations. Its remit includes developing and operating other industrial, commercial and services facilities.

Khalifa Port is due to be operational at the end of 2012, replacing Abu Dhabi’s existing main port of Mina Zayed, but with continuing expansion until 2030.

In a statement on his appointment, Mr Douglas said: “KPIZ is world class and world scale with care for the environment factored into its construction.

“It is four times bigger than Abu Dhabi Island, two-thirds the size of Singapore and a quarter the size of Greater London.”