Kuwait inaugurated one of the world’s longest sea bridges on Wednesday, shaving an hour off the drive from the Gulf country's capital to an uninhabited area set to become the country’s major free trade zone.
The Sheikh Jaber Causeway, named after the late Sheikh Jaber Al Sabah who reigned during the Gulf War, is 36 kilometres long – making it the fourth longest bridge in the world.
Approximately 80 per cent of the bridge is over water and will connect Kuwait City to Subiya, where a 100-billion dollar mega-city is being built. The bridge also makes Kuwait’s largest island 30 minutes from the Gulf state’s capital, having previously been a near two-hour drive.
The $3.6 billion causeway, designed by Paris-based engineering and consulting group Systra, took a consortium led by South Korea's Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. along with Kuwait's Combined Group Contracting Co four years to build.
The project is Kuwait’s largest construction feat to date and kicks off the country’s economic reform measures titled Kuwait 2035.
In addition to a free zone and port, Silk City envisions an airport, an Olympic stadium, a tower taller than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s highest, and housing for up to 700,000 people.
However, some members of Kuwait’s democratically elected parliament have opposed what they say are laws that will allow the Silk City to function as a “state within a state”.
Some of Kuwait's top parliamentarians have expressed fears over how the project could fall outside of their jurisdiction, claiming that the laws governing Silk City could be completely different to those followed in the country.
The Silk City project is being led by the Emir Nasser Al Sabah, the deputy prime minister, and will see Kuwait partner with China to build the zone.
The opening ceremony was attended by Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed along with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon and the leader of the French senate, Gerard Larcher.
World's longest sea bridge connects Hong Kong, Macau and China
The Minister of Public Works and Minister State for Housing, Jenan Boushiri was also present, saying the bridge’s inauguration marks the first step towards Kuwait’s future away from an exclusively oil-dependent economy.
"We are beginning a new era in building Kuwait 2035, under the vision of your noble Highness and your high guidance, bearing in mind the aspirations of citizens and their aspirations for a better life committed to building a better tomorrow for the future of our generations,” she told reporters.
Mr Nak-yeon said Wednesday the causeway would establish Kuwait as an international trade centre connecting the Middle East with the rest of Asia.