Chinese companies operating in Saudi Arabia are widely lauded by the local community for their efforts to maintain strict containment measures amid COVID-19, advance construction and protect local environment.
CCCC Dredging, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company is one that has gained reputation. The company is currently building an artificial island in the Berri field in Jubail, eastern Saudi Arabia, to help the field expand crude production capacity.
At CCCC Dredging’s project site around 10 nautical miles from Jubail Industrial Port on the Persian Gulf, a cutter suction dredger named Lilong which means a “powerful dragon” was pouring sand and stones into the sea with its arm stretching out. The machine is able to make a two-meter-high cushion that covers an area of a standard football pitch in just an hour.
Over the past ten years, CCCC Dredging has reclaimed a total land area of 30.35 million square meters using more than 160 million cubic meters of sand.
A large percentage of land in Saudi Arabia is covered by desert, which makes land reclamation from the sea a major way for the country to expand development space. The Berri artificial island is a typical project under such development strategy.
Partnering with the Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco, Chinese companies including CCCC Dredging have constantly strengthened prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Chinese companies quickly responded to the pandemic, adopted comprehensive measures, and learned from the effective practices of China in curbing the virus, in an effort to push ahead with the project,” said Abdullah A. Al-Abdali, Industrial Investments Development Coordinator of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY).
He introduced that the three projects surrounding the Berri artificial island participated by CCCC Dredging created an output of nearly $30 million amidst the pandemic, adding that Chinese companies have made constructive contribution to Saudi Arabia’s containment efforts and production.
The Chinese companies also pledged not to impose negative impacts on local environment during construction.
They set up floating barriers stretching 2,000 meters from the coastline to collect pollutants. Besides, they also placed anti-pollutant nets under the floating barriers to stop the mud from escaping and polluting the environment.
“The anti-pollutant nets we use are tough, adaptive and stable. They can prevent 90 percent of the pollutants,” said project manager Mohammed Ali.
To assess the environmental impact of the project on marine environment, the Saudi Arabian environmental authorities entrusted a team of frogmen to collect samples under the project on a regular basis.
“The Chinese companies have done a good job in environmental protection, which is proved by the video I’ve just filmed,” said the team leader surnamed Salih who dived 15 meters deep and filmed a video clip. In the video, the water is crystal clear in which fishes swim through the gently swaying colorful corals.
Salih said the video will be used as a reference for the environmental authorities when they access environmental impact.
According to a senior engineer of the project surnamed Mohammed, the Chinese companies attach high importance to environmental protection during construction, and he was quite impressed by their proposal to avoid impacts on the sea turtles laying eggs and the growth of seagrasses.
“The coastal landscape has been improved a lot with the water and the beach getting cleaner,” said Alabdali, adding that the environmental protection measures taken by the Chinese companies bear huge significance to the construction of the whole industrial zone, and have improved the awareness of local enterprises about environmental protection.
The CCCC Dredging has also promoted international cooperation by contracting the southern part of Berri artificial island to Dutch builder Boskalis. Helios, a cutter suction dredger owned by the Dutch sub-contractor, works at a construction site 2,000 meters south of Lilong.
Prior to the pandemic, Chinese staff on Lilong would pick up foreign staff on Helios on the way back during which they communicated with each other over the work. Now, due to the pandemic, they meet less often, but they’ve built a chat group on social media so that they can talk at anytime and anywhere.
“We have complementary advantages and share a broad prospect of cooperation,” said an engineer with Boskalis. He introduced that about 20 percent of the land in Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea over the last few hundred years, adding that Dutch companies are experienced and familiar with the hydrogeological conditions of major ports on the Persian Gulf and in Saudi Arabia. Besides, the Boskalis company also has large cutter suction dredgers deployed in these regions.
“Our participation in the project as a sub-contractor reduces costs and creates win-win results,” he said.
Captain of cutter suction dredger Lilong teaches a foreign assistant driver how to operate the machine. Photo by Qu Xiangyu, People’s Daily