In brief:

  • Expo 2020 Dubai will bring together 190 participating countries and millions of visitors at its vast site at Dubai South.
  • Each country is directly responsible for contracting for the civil and infrastructure works of their own pavilions.
  • Although a fantastic opportunity for countries to showcase their architectural and inventive excellence, pavilion construction also has the potential to give rise to disputes and delays, should any of the countries fail to deliver on their commitments. The contracts for these pavilion projects (which in many cases are underway) need to be carefully drafted by front-end specialist UAE construction lawyers.

Background

From 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai will bring together 190 participating countries and millions of visitors at its vast 4.38 sq km site.

The structural work of the Expo project is due for completion by the end of 2019 and infrastructure works for power, water and electrics are now substantially complete at site.

Over 40,000 workers are currently estimated to be on site, with over 100 million working hours having already been expended on its development. The three Thematic Districts; being Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, inspired by typical Arabic neighbourhoods and consisting of numerous pavilions, have now been substantially completed, with the public realm concourses, welcome plazas and landscaping ongoing.

The Construction stage

Each of the 190 participating countries are expected to construct their own pavilions to reflect the culture, diversity and innovations of each respective country. Each country is directly responsible for contracting for the civil and infrastructure works of their own pavilions. This has the potential for delays and disputes should any of the countries fail to deliver on their construction commitments. The contracts for these pavilions (which in many cases are ongoing) will need to be carefully drafted by front-end specialist UAE construction lawyers. Moreover, when construction commences on site for the country pavilions, the consultants employed by Expo 2020 to oversee operations will need to ensure that tasks run smoothly and according to programmed dates, to avoid delay and disruption.

Construction on the scale of Expo 2020 will inevitably result in the need for a large number of variations to original scopes of works, with changes to design being issued to contractors from developers to ensure alignment to the vision of Expo 2020. Under typical construction contracts, this would often result in extension of time claims by contractors and, although there may still be some extension of time claims for certain aspects of these works, given the absolute deadline for the completion of Expo 2020, there is likely to be limited scope for any extensions of works, since these would invariably impact programmed works, and ultimately could lead to missing the ‘hard’ deadline for completion.

Leading up to 20 October 2020, it is clear then that there will be significant pressure for contractors to undertake acceleration measures to successfully achieve their completion dates, particularly given that works at the Expo 2020 site are already taking longer than originally programmed. With acceleration, comes an increase in claims, due to contractors and sub-contractors having to significantly increase manpower on site, and essentially do whatever it takes to meet the deadline.

Conclusion

Given the sheer size of the Expo 2020 project and its immoveable completion date, it is anticipated that there will be a number of potential claims brought to the table by both contractors and developers alike, if indeed not already in process. It is paramount that contracts are carefully prepared by local construction lawyers with experience of the market, as well as with the Expo 2020 project, in order to mitigate potential issues and provide maximum legal protection for stakeholders.