1,000 expats busted working illegally on the airport, but no delay.

So by now everyone will have heard the story that the Times of Oman broke earlier in the week, when on Wednesday the Ministry of Manpower inspected workers at the Muscat International Airport project and found more than 1,000 workers with visas that didn't allow them to work as Construction workers. Apparently the MOM guys stopped the buses bringing the workers into the site right at the security gate and arrested those who didn't have the correct documentation.

This news was then followed with a statement from the Minister of Transport and Communications, Dr Al Futaisi that said, "This (arrest) issue will neither hamper the construction at the airport nor will it delay the opening of the new airport which is expected to be opened at the end of 2016."

Now, obviously the good Dr will have a much better handle on this project than you or I would, it is, after all, his job to know this and I'm sure he has various plans in place to mitigate any delays seen as a result of this culling of illegal workers at the airport.

But how can there be absolutely no delay or hampering on progress? Let's make a few assumptions: There are 1,000 workers, and each worker does a 10 hour day. That's 10,000 man hours of lost productivity per day and so far I assume these workers have not yet been replaced. The raids happened on Wednesday, and today is Tuesday... so Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday & today.... that's 50,000 man hours of productivity lost, assuming no one works on Friday, which I understand is not actually the case - there is work done on Fridays on the airport. My point is, there is no way that this loss of productivity, if left un-replaced, cant be maintained - a delay is inevitable, and surely hampering has already occurred? I guess the question here is, what's the definition of a delay?

Dictionary.com has a definition of hamper that says:
verb (used with object)
1.To hold back; hinder; impede:
A steady rain hampered the progress of the work.
2.To interfere with; curtail:
The dancers' movements were hampered by their elaborate costumes.

Surely a loss of at the very minimum of 50,000 man hours productivity would be something that hampers the project? I don't know, perhaps 50,000 man hours is a drop in the ocean on that job, I've no idea how many employees are on the job.

Because it's never really made clear in the press here, a little fun fact for you: The MC3 contract was formally awarded on 23 February 2011 (but it was announced that it was being awarded in October 2010), and was a Design & Build lump sum contract with a handover date of April 23, 2014. Yup, the airport's over a year late so far, and latest news reports are saying the airport will now not be open until the end of 2016!

So how can a statement say that there will be no delay in the delivery of the airport, when it's already a year late, and going to be another year and a half late? Obviously an extension to the contract must have been given, but I'm assuming that information is sensitive or confidential because I can't find it anywhere in the public domain.

The news reports are silent on who the offending contractors are, but when people refer to the airport project, they usually mean Main Contract 3, which is the big terminal building with the carparks and access roads leading to it. The Runway (MC 1) and Control tower (MC 2) contracts are almost finished (I think, the runway is operational and I'm assuming people are working away in the tower).

So really, there are 3 main Contracts on the airport that involve major construction (as opposed to installing IT kit or baggage handling systems etc). If I were a gambling man, which I'm not, I'd say that these 1,000 illegals were probably working on MC 3 as sub-contractors to the main contractor on that MC. The contractor for MC 1 is a JV between CCC and TAV, MC 2 is Carillion Alawi, and the really big contract, MC3, is a JV between Bechtel, ENKA and Bahwan Engineering Company, and they call it BEB. I seriously doubt any of these main contractors would employ illegal workers, I'd be very, very surprised if they did. I mean, how exactly does one obtain a visa for a coffee shop worker when it's a contracting company?

So, the main contractors have probably appointed sub-contractors to carry out various parts of the job, and those sub-contractors may very well have subbed out parts of their work too. I guess the question is, were the workers that were found to have visa's that didn't fit with their jobs employee's of the sub-contractors, or were they actually employed by coffee shops etc, and had just done a runner to work on the airport instead? If that's the case why didn't the sponsors of those employees not register them as absconding? And will those sponsors be the ones fined?

Mmmm! More concerning than that little money spinner is that it's been reported that the Ministry of Manpower will not issue visa's to the offending companies either. So if some of these offending companies were actually the sub-contractors to BEB, how exactly will they replace their labour (legally) so that they can finish off the job? So you'll have a situation where BEB will have to appoint other sub-contractors onto the project to do the work the now black-listed  (from a visa point of view)  sub-contractors wont be able to do, or perhaps, those 1,000 illegals will just be replaced in a few weeks with new illegals instead. Or perhaps a mix of both?

All of that aside, it's a shame that the new completion date for the airport is now the end of 2016 (the previously published completion date was early 2016 from the arabianindistry.com website). Hopefully we'll all get to enjoy the experience of walking straight off a plane into the airport without having to wait for a bus by the end of next year then!

le fin.
1,000 expats busted working illegally on the airport, but no delay. 1,000 expats busted working illegally on the airport, but no delay. Reviewed by Sythe on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. I think subcontracting should be illegal in Oman. If I choose a company for a bid (not just the lowest cost but also, assumingly, with experience) I don't want a bunch of sub contracted companies doing the actual work---as an Omani citizen I think that's why roads fall apart and many Ministry work is shoddy.

  2. OPNO: I can't say for the Airport contract, but certainly for the standard Omani construction contract, it is stipulated at the time of tender that all subcontractors and materials intended to be used by the contractor have to be named, and the engineer has to agree and accept each sub-contractor and material that is used. So it's more a case of having a speciality subcontractor do certain elements of the work, eg, giving the windows works to a windows contractor and the structural steel works to a structural steel contractor. It's the very nature of the business!

  3. OPNO- if you think the roads here in Oman are bad then you haven't travelled to many other parts of the world! One of truly good things about Oman is the quality of the roads, at least the ones that were built before Galfar and L&T gained roadbuilding experience through building big roads here!

    If you speak to people working on the airport project you will hear 2018 being talked about before it is fully operational. Salalah is being opened well before it is operationally ready.

    I don't know why this country can't just be honest in that it needs to have a large number of jobs covered by expat labour. This is a perfect example of companies flouting the laws because the risk is probably better than the reality of having to employ Omanis who will not want to do those jobs and with whom productivity will drop.
    Yet this is exactly where they should be able to fill jobs with Omanis, entry level engineering, plumbing, electrics, painting, tiling....

    Fuck it, there's no point in flogging this camel anymore....... they get whether deserve.

  4. The good Dr. Was right. There has been no delay.
    They have contracted 1000 robots instead, that are able to work 20 hours a day and only need a 4 hours of recharging.
    With this double productivity in mind, it will take only 5 days to get back on plan, and with the time the are looking at opening the airport right after Ramadan this year 2015.
    Worthy to mention also that robots don't require work visa, and do not screw up the omanisation numbers, as they are considered machines.

    The only way to progress with this project is to re-evaluate the whole process from the scratch, put everyone in jail, because the project was full of corruption from the day the selected the wrong location for it.
    Everyone knows about that, yet everyone is silent because there are some very very very big names involved with it.

    I gave up the hope for one single legitimate project to be completed without issues here, it's a waste of energy, really.

  5. Sythe: Of course, but then you will find often, they are subcontracted out again, and not those named on the original contract...

    Anon May 26th: There's a proposal to highlight trades... we'll see where that goes in gov....

    I mean the roads are not dug as deep as they should be and there is stealing. The engineer for a Galfar road told me, he was paid (or not hired again on big contracts) if he did not accept/sign off on work--- that the foundation wasn't shorter than outlined in contracts. MANY MANY important Omani highways and roads are this...

    ;) Collaboration between Ministries should of course exist in an ideal work, enforcement should exist in an ideal world... flogging the camel....

  6. If it is finished and operational by the end of 2016 I will eat my underwear...

  7. Hey! 10000 jobs for Omanis!
    Start digging, boys!!!

  8. How come a big project like this does not demands its contractors to be ISO certified?

  9. Be very careful, questioning the statements made by a Minister of the Sultanate of Oman.
    You can have a case opened against you!
    The airport will be ready on time. There are no delays.
    Those who know that the airport won't actually be ready until some time in 2018 would never dream of saying that, because it's not true…because there are no delays….all is well. We are ready.

  10. Of course let's make the IT contractor (MC6) the scapegoat for delays at both airports even though the builders are the main problem. Joke of a country!!

  11. Of course there have been issues with MC3, but at least a year of the delay was caused by a ship sinking with about a year's worth of structural roof steel on board. Up to that point the project had 16,000 workers and was working a very aggressive schedule...the concrete pours alone were record breaking.

    When the ship went down, there was no reason to maintain the costly accelerated schedule, so 6,000 workers were laid off and a more usual schedule was adopted.

    Since little of the interior can even be started until the roof and glass has been installed and AC run, it's no surprise the job is behind the original schedule.

    Don't be too quick to judge. All of this is because of a small engine-room fire on a cargo ship.

    As for 1,000 workers being removed affecting the schedule...how often do you see EVERY member of a crew busy here? I suspect the remainder of the workers will fill in until unemployed Omani's rush to fill the vacancies.

  12. "..the concrete pours alone were record breaking"

    That probably explains the problems with the concrete after it set


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