Kuwait seeks interest for major metro project

Kuwait's Partnerships Technical Bureau (PTB) has invited firms to submit expression of interest (EoI) to invest in an Integrated Rolling Stock and Systems Co being developed as part of the country's first metro project. The project comprises 69 stations (16% of which will be underground) with total length of 160 km. PTB is currently focusing on delivering phase 1 of the project which will include the construction network of roughly 50 km, with 28 new stations, 30% of which will be underground. All eligible private sector companies can download the Request for Expression of Interest form from the PTB website. Source: AME Info

Qatar Airways eyes major new route expansion

Qatar Airways has announced further expansion of its international network with five new passenger routes, more cargo services and capacity increases to a number of destinations. Iraq, Tanzania, Serbia and Myanmar are featured in the passenger route expansion program over a six-month period starting in May. New freighter services will be introduced to Korea, Pakistan, South Africa and Oman, while frequency of passenger flights will be stepped up to destinations in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker announced the expansion at ITB Berlin, the world's largest travel show taking place in the German capital this week. Two destinations in Iraq - the northern city of Erbil and capital Baghdad - will be introduced to the carrier's Middle East network in May and June respectively. Qatar Airways will induct a second Tanzanian point to its African map with the launch of flights to Kilimanjaro. The Serbian capital Belgrade becomes the newest addition to the carrier's European portfolio in September and the airline returns to Myanmar, serving the capital city Yangon from October after a four-year absence. The announcement follows previously announced start-ups to a number of other international destinations during 2012, including the Rwandan capital Kigali, Zagreb, Perth, Mombasa, Helsinki, and Gassim in Saudi Arabia. In addition, Qatar Airways announced an expansion to its dedicated freighter services with four new routes - Karachi (Pakistan), Seoul (Korea), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Muscat (Oman), to be phased in from March 26. The carrier currently operates a fleet of six freighters to 33 destinations worldwide. Qatar Airways said it is also stepping up the number of flights across its network in phases from March 25. In Asia, the Kuala Lumpur route will be expanded from double daily to 17 services each week, while the daily Jakarta service will gain three additional flights taking capacity up to 10-a-week. In Europe, a fifth daily flight will be introduced on the Doha-London Heathrow route while flights to Milan will be stepped up from 11 flights each week to double daily. In North Africa, services to Algiers will increase from seven to 11 services each week, while the Egyptian capital Cairo will have an additional three flights taking frequency up to 12 a week. Three destinations in the Gulf will be boosted with additional capacity. The Kuwait route will have 13 additional flights taking frequency up from 42 to 55 flights a week, while frequency to the Omani capital of Muscat will be stepped up from 24 to 31 services each week. Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates, will secure an additional daily flight, seeing capacity rise from 35 to 42 flights every week (six daily). "Today's announcement reflects the importance Qatar Airways places on expanding its portfolio of passenger and cargo destinations, and offer more frequency on existing routes to provide more choice, more flexibility and more options," said Al Baker. "We are entering new passenger and cargo markets where we see a need for more air services, particularly where such markets are under served and in need for extra capacity. "This year alone will see Qatar Airways take delivery of one new aircraft every 15 days, so as we bring them in, they will quickly be inducted into service and we will continue to look at new opportunities." Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of 105 aircraft to 112 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America. Source: Arabian Business

Rising oil prices to curb airline profits in 2012, says IATA

The International Air Transport Association has cut its global profit estimate for the industry to $3bn from $3.5bn due to rising oil prices, but raised its forecast for Middle Eastern carriers as regional differences widen. In its previous forecast last December, IATA had cited the European debt crisis as the main risk to the industry, but it now regards oil prices as a greater threat to the sector's profitability. Following a recent surge in oil prices, IATA has raised its average fuel price estimate for 2012 to $115 a barrel, up from $99 a barrel. This increase will push fuel to 34% of average operating costs and see the overall industry fuel bill rise to $213bn. Political tensions in the Gulf heighten the risk of significantly higher oil prices, the implications of which could put the industry into losses, IATA warned. The industry body said several factors prevented it from lowering its global profitability estimate further, including the avoidance of a significant worsening of the Eurozone crisis; improvement in the US economy; cargo market stabilization; and slower than expected capacity expansion. "2012 continues to be a challenging year for airlines. The risk of a worsening Eurozone crisis has been replaced by an equally toxic risk—rising oil prices. Already the damage is being felt with a downgrade in industry profits to $3bn,'' said Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and CEO. Airline performance is closely tied to global GDP growth, IATA said, noting that when GDP growth drops below 2%, the global airline industry typically returns a collective loss. "With GDP growth projections now at 2.0% and an anemic margin of 0.5%, it will not take much of a shock to push the industry into the red for 2012," said Tyler. The outlook is brighter for carriers in the Middle East, as long haul markets have been relatively robust and load factors have risen in recent months thanks to a slowdown in the introduction of new capacity, IATA. As a result, the industry body has raised its profit forecast for the region to $500m, up from the previously forecast $300m. By contrast, European carriers by far face the most difficult situation among the regions. Although the outlook remains unchanged from December with the expectation of a $600m net loss, many European economies are in deep recession, which will lead to continued weakness in both the cargo and passenger business. At the same time air travel in Europe is being hit by taxation and the cost of the EU carbon tax, IATA said. With all regions forecast to see reduced profitability in 2012 compared to 2011I, the industry body called for governments to take a more strategic approach to the aviation industry. "Airlines are buffeted by many forces beyond their control. Today's forecast demonstrates just how quickly the operating environment can change. Four months ago the biggest worry was a European financial disaster; today it is rapidly rising oil prices. Nimbleness and operating efficiency are critical to maintaining competitiveness and managing through such dramatic shifts," said Tyler. Source: AME Info

Dubai International passengers exceed 4.5 million in February

Dubai International Airport's monthly passenger traffic exceeded the 4.5 million mark for the second consecutive month in February, according to figures released on Tuesday. Freight volumes also witnessed an upturn after months of flat growth, according to operator Dubai Airports. Passenger traffic surged 19 percent in February - a 16 month high - to reach 4,561,147 passengers compared to 3,831,385 recorded in the same month in 2011. This follows the airport's record traffic of over 4.8 million passengers in January, propelling the year to date passenger traffic by 16.4 percent to 9,413,286. The GCC continued to top the list of regions with the largest increase in total passenger numbers in February, followed by the Indian subcontinent, Western Europe and Africa. The downward trend on Middle Eastern routes continued in February because of the instability in the region, Dubai Airports said. In terms of percentage passenger growth, South America remained the strongest market due to Emirates Airline's new routes to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, followed by Russia and CIS mainly due to the expansion of flydubai operations. Dubai International recorded a total of 27,058 aircraft movements during February, up 9.8 percent compared to 24,646 last February. After months of weak performance, cargo volumes surged 6.5 percent to 157,492 tons compared to 147,937 tons in February last year. "February marks the twelfth consecutive month with passenger traffic exceeding the four million mark, and with the growth expected to maintain momentum in the coming months we are well on track to achieve the targeted 56.5 million passenger traffic for 2012," said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports. "The completion of the Concourse 3 project by the end of 2012 is in line with this forecast and will expand Dubai International's capacity at the right time, ensuring that our growth continues unhindered." The airport currently has an annual capacity of 60 million passengers, increasing to 75 million passengers by next year with the opening of Concourse 3, the world's first A380 facility dedicated for use by Emirates Airline. Dubai International is the fourth-busiest airport worldwide for international passenger and cargo traffic. Source: Arabian Business

Abu Dhabi Ship Building to boost MRO focus

Abu Dhabi Ship Building, a leading shipbuilder and naval support services provider and a strategic affiliate of Mubadala, is stepping up its focus on maintenance, repairs and overhauling (MRO) services. Abu Dhabi Ship Building is currently showcasing its advanced MRO capabilities at the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition & Conference (Dimidex), a specialized maritime defense exhibition in the Middle East being held from March 26 to 28 at the Qatar National Convention Centre. “We are keen on leveraging our vast expertise in MRO services with the increased focus on this domain. Our world-class shipbuilding and repair facility has given us a significant competitive edge in the regional market, as we are able to undertake new construction projects in steel, aluminum alloy or composite materials,” said Mohamed Salem Al Junaibi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Ship Building. “During the ongoing Dimidex exhibition we are targeting long-term contracts and strategic partnerships, taking advantage of the growing demand for specialized naval support services in the region. The event also serves as an important venue to showcase our unique capabilities, adding momentum to our growth plans in the region.” Each year Abu Dhabi Ship Building handles approximately 300 repair and upgrade projects for vessels like tugs, barges, landing craft, dredgers, work boats, crew boats, diving vessels, supply and safety vessels and anchor handling tug boats. Most of these jobs involve dry docking, although some are carried out afloat and offsite. Abu Dhabi Ship Building carries out daily maintenance and repair tasks for military clients in the UAE as well as foreign navies. It has fleet maintenance contracts with the UAE Navy, UAE Coast Guard and the recently established Critical National Infrastructure Authority. It also has long-term fleet maintenance contracts with leading offshore fleet operators. During Dimidex, Abu Dhabi Ship Building also announced that the first and second vessels of the Baynunah Corvette Class Program will be delivered to the UAE Navy by the end of summer, while also highlighting the capabilities of the other vessels under construction, including the fourth vessel of the Baynunah project named “Mezyad” that was recently launched. Other high-profile projects of the company include the 34 high-speed interceptor vessels for the Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA), and a project with the UAE Navy to build 12 and upgrade another 12 Ghanatha brand boats each measuring 27 meters. Abu Dhabi Ship Building recently completed upgrade programs at the company’s facility, including the extension of the quay wall by about 155 meters, and the completion of a new pontoon and an electrical substation. The expansion program enables the company to accommodate more vessels for fit outs, tests and trials. Source: TradeArabia News Service