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What have been the biggest challenges and the most satisfying elements of the project? The temperature in the Kurdistan Region can reach as high as 50ºC (120ºF) in the summer, and this has meant challenging working conditions on many of the outdoor tasks. There are very few manufacturing facilities in Kurdistan and as a result, the vast majority of materials 126 infrastructure and development and equipment have had to be imported, in particular from Turkey. Every kilogramme of cement and steel, for example, has had to be brought in by road with each vehicle working on a seven-day turn-round basis. From a logistical point of view this has been a major achievement and all concerned should be congratulated on a job well done. All construction numbers have been very big; for example, in excess of 12 million cubic meters of excavation has been necessary to construct the new airport. Now that the new airport is near to commissioning, we are starting to receive comments from aviation experts that this new facility is able to be favorably compared with many world-class airports. This is an achievement of which everyone involved can be very proud. How easy or difficult is it for foreign companies to work in the Kurdistan Region? What are the challenges? Most people associate the Kurdistan Region with Iraq, and the mistaken perception is that the Region as a whole is a less than desirable place to work and travel to. All Scott Wilson employees without exception have enjoyed their time in Kurdistan; they take the view that the project is very technically challenging, yet rewarding. There are many countries where security is an important factor in business, but the important thing is to make sure that adequate precautions are taken to minimize or even eliminate the risks. Five years ago, conditions could have been described as difficult, but increasingly and with the opening of new roads and airports, travel has become much easier and Kurdistan has become a very attractive place to work. Regular visitors can see for themselves that there are many business opportunities in a wide range of fields. The city of Erbil is bustling with tower cranes and new construction, and it is great to see everyone busily going about their daily business. Scott Wilson has always employed local people who have worked very well as part of a successful team. To my mind, this is the formula for success and it also gives something back to the local community. What plans have been made for the staffing of the airport? The airport, when opened, will be one of the larger employers in the Region, and a 24/7 operation. It is important that as many local people as possible are recruited and trained to fill what could be as many as 800 long-term jobs. Many staff will be transferred from the existing airport, which will soon close, and the recruitment process for the additional staff has already begun. Though there are clearly going to be some specialist roles, many of the new positions will be available to local people who have the basis skills to work in what is a global and growing industry. You have been visiting the Kurdistan Region since June 2004. What are your impressions of working and living there? Back in 2004 the only viable way to get to Erbil was by road from southern Turkey, and it goes without saying that this was not the most satisfactory or comfortable way to travel. When the existing airport was commissioned back in 2005, access to the country became so much easier, and it is now wonderful to see a mix of people traveling to Erbil. These include local and overseas business people, as well as families with children who, in many cases, wanted to meet with families and friends after a gap of many years. I have traveled to Erbil more than 25 times now in the last five years. Erbil is very welcoming, the locals are very friendly and keen to support the increasing numbers of international companies in Kurdistan and, of course, to improve their English language skills. Most goods are significantly cheaper than the U.K., and the food is wonderful; it is clear that the Kurdistan Region can and will become an attractive place, both to visit and to do business. What about daily life when you’re in Kurdistan? What do you do in your spare time there? What is life like for expatriates? As an international businessman, unfortunately there is very little spare time. The pleasure of travelling to any new country is to see different cultures and meet new people. The highlight of any trip to Erbil is a trip to the “souk” or market where the variety of goods on offer is mind-boggling. I suspect it is possible to buy almost anything if you know where to look. I have many colleagues who travel to and work in Erbil and life can be very good, particularly in the summer, when the sun always shines. What advice would you give to foreign companies wanting to do business in Kurdistan? My advice is simply not to spend too much time thinking about it; just come on an inexpensive visit to Erbil to see for yourself what is happening, and the sorts of opportunities that exist. For foreign companies coming for the first time, a local partner can make life so much easier. Many things are done differently, and a local partnership with local people can keep the learning curve to the absolute minimum. There are a number of local organizations, such as the local Chambers of Commerce who, from my own experience, are keen to be associated with foreign companies. Kurdistan for me is a great place to live, work and invest in. Therefore I have no hesitation in traveling here on business. The people are friendly and the opportunities for business are excellent, provided that it is undertaken in a considered and controlled manner As Technical Director of a U.K.-based plc, I find the support from the KRG, both in Erbil and London, to be excellent, and they are very supportive of any initiatives that can bring prosperity to the Region. ? Scott Wilson Group plc is a multi-disciplinary international design and engineering consultancy for the built and natural environments. With more than 6,000 members of staff, the Group offers integrated professional services in the transportation, property, environment and natural resources sectors. The Group, from its U.K. headquarters, currently controls a worldwide network of 80 offices, of which 40 are in the U.K. The main international centers are located in Australia, Canada, China, Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, India, the Middle East and South East Asia.
No Longer Just Up in the Air: The Capital’s New Airport Vian Rahman interviews Stewart Vickers, Technical Director of Scott Wilson, about the Erbil International Airport construction
With one of the largest runways in the world, Erbil International Airport is one of the most ambitious and forward-looking projects in the Kurdistan Region. For the land-locked Region, the airport is vital for increasing investment, trade and tourism. The new airport is scheduled to open in 2009 and to replace the existing smaller one in Erbil, Kurdistan’s capital. Stewart Vickers is the Technical Director for Scott Wilson, the U.K.-based international consultancy that designed the airport for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the contractor, a joint venture between Makyol and Cengiz. He has been working in Erbil since the project started in the spring of 2004. Vian Rahman interviewed him about the new airport and his experience of working in the Kurdistan Region. Why did the KRG decide that Erbil needed a new airport? British companies have been involved with international infrastructure projects for many years now and Scott Wilson used to have a large permanent office in Iraq. When the political situation deteriorated, a reluctant decision was taken to move staff to other regional projects, although it was always expected that things would return to the way that they were, as and when the political situation returned to normality. In Spring 2004, Scott Wilson was invited to carry out a concept design for a new airport in Erbil. Various meetings took place to establish the parameters of such a far-sighted development which, when operational, would open Kurdistan to much-needed infrastructure and development 125 infrastructure and development One interesting feature of the new airport is the iconic flame tower that has been located at the main entrance to the site, and is readily visible from many parts of the city. The aim is to reflect Kurdistan’s vision of the future and the rebirth of a nation. What is the concept behind the airport’s design? It was to produce a modern, state-of-the-art facility that will soon become the regional airport of choice for passenger and freight services in and out of the Kurdistan Region, and indeed the wider Region. It also needed to incorporate suitable features to enable local people to be trained to operate and maintain the facilities in the years ahead. It needed to be large enough to cope with the anticipated traffic, and at the same time, be readily expandable as demand grew. It also needed to be planned so there is scope to construct longer-term developments, such as hotels and international conference facilities. The airport construction is now substantially complete, and based on the reactions of KRG officials, the overall objectives have been achieved in full. Scott Wilson was always mindful that over the next years, millions of visitors will gain their first impression of the Kurdistan Region by arriving at the new airport, so the welcoming design was always an important factor of the project. What about the gates, runway capacity and airport facilities? The new airport has been designed to incorporate all of the features that both domestic and international travellers would expect. There are the normal retail areas, food halls and duty free facilities, and many lounges to accommodate both standard and commercially important passengers (CIPs). Six airbridges have been installed for easy access to and from the aircraft, and in total the airport can accommodate 12 aircraft at any one time. Freight services will be a very important aspect of the airport operation, and both covered and open facilities have been constructed. These facilities included temperature-controlled and bonded warehousing areas, allowing the vast majority of goods to use Erbil International Airport. A total of five largecapacity cargo aircraft can be accommodated at any one time. A separate VIP building has also been constructed for senior Government officials, core diplomatic personnel and VVIPs. The concrete runway, at 4,800m long by 75m wide, has been designed to accommodate the largest aircraft in the world, with more than sufficient room for expansion in the years ahead. Many countries would wish to have such technically advanced facilities and a long-range capacity runway. Apart from the design, in what other areas of the project is Scott Wilson involved? Airports by their very nature are extremely complex facilities and we have also provided full support and site liaison services from both U.K. and Kurdistan Regionbased personnel. Over the past few months, Scott Wilson has been working closely with the KRG to get the airport licensed to very demanding world-class standards, and ready for operation. These types of facilities need to satisfy both national and international regulations. This role is ongoing and it is likely that this support will continue to enable local Kurdish personnel to ultimately take over full control. What about the other companies and partners in the project? Two Turkish companies based in Istanbul, Makyol and Cengiz, have undertaken the construction of the airport. This joint venture has achieved a great deal in extremely difficult working conditions and the quality of the finished product should be applauded.
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The information on this website is aimed for American Corporates and Manufacturers to understand  the potential business opprtunities by understanding the rapid economic growth, security and safety in the Kurdistan Region.