CONFERENCES         Arabian aspirations for greater integration 12 Dec 2013
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
Rapid development of an ultra-modern landscape rising from the ocean seafront and the desert sands of the seven member states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is evident on the approaches to the international airport of the principal state Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa, the highest building the world currently, standing as the iconic landmark among more than 900 additional skyscrapers and outstanding civil engineering achievements including the manmade islands of the Palm Jumeirah and miles of interlaced roads, freeways and elevated metro connections.
Part of the delegation of about 600 that attended the first ATC – TunnelTalk Editor, front row, fourth from right

Part of the delegation of about 600 that attended the first ATC – TunnelTalk Editor, front row, fourth from right

It was against this backdrop that the inaugural Arabian Tunnelling Conference (ATC) was held at the Intercontinental Festival City Hotel and Conference Centre, attracting more than 600 delegates from 50 countries of the world and an exhibition of leading companies and suppliers from across the continents.
In presenting his keynote address His Excellency Engineer Essa Al Maidoor, President of the Society of Engineers - UAE, emphasised the continuing need for public service infrastructure to support the private urban expansion, improve transportation links through the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, and prepare Dubai as host city of the World Expo event in 2020 as announced in November 2013. "The win to host World Expo 2020 by the UAE is the result of prepared projects, plans and programmes commensurate with our international status, and meets the needs and requirements of the establishment of such a global event," said Al Maidoor. An estimated total funding of €6.5 billion is earmarked for the event with €5.2 billion as anticipated investment for the Expo's infrastructure environment.
Engineer Essa Al Maidoor, President of the Society of Engineers – UAE with Søren Eskesen, President of the ITA

Engineer Essa Al Maidoor, President of the Society of Engineers – UAE with Søren Eskesen, President of the ITA

The confidence of the region to stage major international events extended also to an announcement by Al Maidoor in his opening address that the Tunnelling Chapter of the UAE Society of Engineers, one of the newest member nations of the ITA, joining officially at the ITA General Assembly at the WTC in Bangkok in 2012, will bid to host the 2018 World Tunnel Congress and ITA General Assembly. The well organised, professionally managed and comfortable set up event this week, as its first ever international conference and exhibition confirms its ability, under Maged Farouck Hanna, General Manager of SOE - UAE and with organisers Meeting Minds and press relations company Action Impact, to manage a larger event and attract speakers, delegates and exhibitors from across the world. "It is commendable that within such a short period of time the Society of Engineers - UAE has hosted the ATC event to highlight the field of tunnelling and sustainable underground space utilisation, and will bid for the World Tunnelling Congress in 2018," said Søren Eskesen, President of the International Tunnelling Association (ITA) during his opening address. In response, Al Maidoor said, "The inaugural ATC event demonstrates that the UAE engineering community and ecosystem is ready to host a global event that highlights the importance of underground space utilisation for above-the-ground transportation systems, and energy, water and telecommunication services."
Held in association with the ITA (International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association), and supported by the Kuwait Society of Engineers, the ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) and the UK Institution of Civil Engineers, the inaugural ATC explored the theme of Sustainable Tunnelling in the GCC, Challenges and Opportunities and had more than 70 papers presented during the two days of technical sessions and an additional 10 poster session papers. Many explored opportunities and focused on the challenges associated with sustainable underground space utilisation particularly for transportation and public services within the GCC and neighbouring Arab countries.
Among the keynote speakers from Dubai were Eng Abdul Redha Hussain Abul Hassan, Director of Rail Planning & Projects Development, RTA; Eng Abdullah Saeed Ali Obaidullah, Executive Vice President of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Water & Civil Engineering Division; Eng Zahra Salman Al Aboodi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works; and Eng Pramod Challa, Chief Engineering Dubai Civil Defence.
Other papers were presented by visiting members of the ITA Executive Committee including Jenny Yan of China, Nikolaos Kazilis of Greece, Davorin Kolić of Croatia, Tarcisio Celestino of Brazil, Alexandre Gomes of Chile and Felix Amberg of Switzerland.
Among notable papers presented was detail of the geological investigations for tunnels on the Etihad Railway project through the Hajar Mountains; an introduction of Earth Friendly Concrete from Australia as a sustainable option for tunnels requiring high durability; advanced planning for the Cairo Metro Line 4 Phase 1; and a critical review of spay-applied membranes in the field of tunnelling in comparison to sheet membranes.
ITA Lifetime Achievement Awards
Mohamed Salam Lifetime achievement award

Mohamed Salam Lifetime achievement award

Part of the proceedings was to present to Mohamed Elhosseiny Abdel Salam of Egypt his Lifetime Achievement Award for stewardship of the Egypt Tunnelling Society since its start in the early 1970s, for his work and continuing support of the Cairo Metro development and of the tunnelling industry in Egypt, and for his long association as the representative of member nation Egypt on the ITA General Assembly.
Mohamed with colleagues from Egypt

Mohamed with colleagues from Egypt

  • Jenny Yan of China

    Jenny Yan of China

  • Robbins presentation to a packed hall

    Robbins presentation to a packed hall

  • A critical spray-membrane review

    A critical spray-membrane review

Held also as part of the event was a full day Student Programme at which 150 students from national and international engineering universities, a large percentage of them women, were the audience for presentations about the particular tunnelling needs for the Middle East region. These included a perspective of mechanised tunnelling for urban transportation development; sprayed concrete and its application in the Middle East; and design of conventional tunnels in shallow and poor ground.
Table 1. Exhibitor List
Hotlinks to our regular advertisers' website
Amberg Engineering
BASF Chemicals
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority
Dr. Fadil Basyyoni Consilting firm (DFB)
Elastoplastic Concrete (Europe)
Gulf Rock Engineering Group
HBI Haerter
Mapei - Underground Technology Team
NYX Hemera
Obayashi Corporation
Powerking Corporation
Sika UAE
Technical Tunneling Components
The Robbins Company
Exhibition opening

Exhibition opening

Greeting the Gulf Rock team

Greeting the Gulf Rock team

The exhibition hall was populated with leading companies and suppliers of the industry including event Gold Sponsors SIKA and Mapei Underground Technology Team; Silver Sponsors Gulf Rock Engineering Group and Dr Fadil Basyyoni Consultancy Firm (DFB), and the event Strategic Partner the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. Robbins, Terratec and Herrenknecht were major TBM suppliers represented, with Robbins and Herrenknecht presenting papers and CEO Martin Herrnknecht a delegate of the sessions on the second day.
TunnelTalk was the only technical trade magazine represented at the conference at which more than 500 copies of its Annual Review print magazine for 2010, 2011 and 2012 were distributed freely to delegates. The ATC is the 14th conference attended by TunnelTalk in 2013 and the Annual Review printed magazine of events and developments recorded by TunnelTalk on the web magazine for 2013 is in production for distribution at all major tunnelling events in 2014 including the WTC in Brazil at Iguassu Falls in May and the NAT conference in Los Angeles, USA in June.
  • A meeting of minds

    A meeting of minds

  • Exhibitors were pleased with the arrangements...

    Exhibitors were pleased with the arrangements...

  • ...and interest of the visiting delegates

    ...and interest of the visiting delegates

As the last major conference of the 2013 session, the ATC gave a firm indication of the underground work and civil engineering projects being planned for construction in the next wave of tremendous development in the Arabian Gulf region and once the current impact of the weak international economy passes.
Doing business at WTC Bangkok - TunnelTalk, June 2012
Dubai Metro opens its doors for service - TunnelTalk, September 2009
Reviving the Saudi trans-peninsula rail link - TunnelTalk, September 2013
Qatar RFQs for 113km IDRIS sewerage project - TunnelTalk, May 2013
Qatar begins Doha metro tunnel awards - TunnelTalk, April 2013
Cairo metro reaches TBM milestone - TunnelTalk, June 2013

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