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Revealing the full scale of Saudi mega-yard IMI

The sheer scale of the new joint venture shipyard complex now under construction in Ras Al Khair on Saudi Arabia’s Gulf coast was revealed to Seatrade Maritime News this week during interviews in Dammam.

Partners in the joint venture are all leaders in their field: Saudi Aramco (51.1%) is the world’s largest energy company. Bahri, with 19.9% controls the largest VLCC fleet. Lamprell (20%) is the region’s leading rig builder and Hyundai Heavy Industries (10%) builds more ships than any other shipyard group. The newly established International Marine Industries (IMI) will operate the shipyard complex.

The new facility, due to come on stream in phases between 2019 and 2021, will have four zones for activities covering the maintenance, repair and overhaul of rigs and ships; the construction of offshore support vessels OSVs; the building of merchant vessels; and the fabrication of jack-up rigs. It will have a range of docks for rigs and ships, the largest rig repair dock measuring 490m by 90m and the longest shipbuilding dock with a length of 550m. A two-crane combination over this dock will provide a lifting capacity of 2,150 tonnes.

The first of the four zones to come on stream in 2019 will be the rig-building facility, with capacity to build four jack-up rigs each year. In 2020, the ship construction zone will be commissioned, with capacity to construct three VLCCs and 15 other commercial vessels annually.

The other two zones – new OSVs (15 a year) and rig and ship repair and maintenance – will open for business in 2021. The size of a town, the shipyard complex will have residential accommodation for 18,000 workers as well as all of the other facilities associated with a modern shipbuilding facility.

Automation and digitalisation are a key focus and since there is currently no steel building facility in Saudi Arabia, a new mill is to be built adjacent to the complex. The shipyard facility will create a total of 80,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 and is likely to make a $17bn impact on the economy. A major recruitment drive is underway in which young Saudis – men and women – are high priorities. This reflects a major societal shift which lies at the heart of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans for the country as set out in his reformist Vision 2030 programme.

Although shipyard executives across the region are not saying much publicly, they have good reason to be concerned. IMI already has orders in hand and around 30% of capacity will be accounted for by shareholders. That leaves no less than 70% available for third-party marine and offshore customers.

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