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Bahrain Aquarium - Mall of Dilmunia: Challenges and Achievements

Rami Sawaya Head of Department- Project Management Bahrain

The Bahrain Aquarium, located in the Mall of Dilmunia, holds the distinction of being the largest cylindrical aquarium within a GCC mall. The Dilmunia Mall Development Company enlisted DG Jones and Partners (DGJ) as the project and cost manager for this significant undertaking, involving DGJ from the initial concept design through to the testing and commissioning stages.

The Australian firm, Aquatic Environmental Systems (AES), was tasked by the client to develop the conceptual design of the aquarium and recommend the optimal size. AES also played a key role in selecting specialized contractors capable of executing the project, in addition to overseeing the ongoing monitoring of both the execution and commissioning processes.

Once the design was finalized and the dimensions set at 17 meters in length and 7 meters in diameter for cost-efficiency, DGJ segmented the tender into two parts:

- Package 1: Included the life support system, artificial reefs, lighting, fish supply, and operational aspects.
- Package 2: Focused on acrylic work and waterproofing.

DGJ launched a design and build tender that attracted several international contractors recommended by AES. Managing the tender involved negotiating with these contractors, organizing online meetings between bidders, the designer, and the client, and evaluating the diverse qualifications of the tender submissions.

DGJ's adept management culminated in securing the contract for the aquarium build at BD1.7 million, significantly under the projected BD2.5 million budget. Clax Italia, a leading global manufacturer of aquarium acrylics, won the first package, while ELSS, a specialist aquarium contractor based in Northern Ireland, secured the second package.

Throughout the project, DGJ faced numerous logistical and design challenges, crucially ensuring that design and material selections were finalized promptly to the highest standards. ELSS managed these elements effectively, under DGJ’s vigilant supervision, coordinating closely with all project stakeholders. The project team meticulously monitored every phase, from advancing the life-support system designs to finalizing the selections of fish, reefs, and lighting systems, while also considering potential entertainment activities.

A significant decision was made regarding the method for bonding the aquarium’s acrylic—opting to complete this at the factory to minimize on-site dust and sand contamination, reduce assembly time, and ensure safer and quicker installation. Nevertheless, this decision introduced new logistical challenges, particularly in transporting the large-sized aquarium from Italy to Bahrain. Clax Italia ensured the cylinder was adequately supported during transit and coordinated with a suitable ship for transport to Bahrain Port. DGJ managed the complex logistics, including coordinating with traffic authorities to ensure a smooth overnight transport to the mall.

This project marked a noteworthy and successful venture for DGJ Bahrain, significantly enhancing its portfolio and expertise. The success of the Bahrain Aquarium project was a testament to DGJ's meticulous planning, daily coordination, and the robust teamwork among all stakeholders involved.