US Ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli (fourth from left) and other US and Bahraini officials begin a $580 million military construction project during a groundbreaking ceremony in Manama. Image Credit: Supplied

Manama: The US has launched a $580 million expansion of its naval facilities in Bahrain in a clear indication of its intention to boost its presence in the region.

The military construction project will develop 70 acres on the waterfront to support US and coalition ships and personnel and will include utilities infrastructure, a consolidated port operations and harbour patrol facility, personnel barracks, administrative buildings, dining facility and a flyover bridge connecting Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain to the new port facilities, the Navy said.

The massive project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

"The presence of the US Navy is important in the region because it provides the needed stability in order for the GCC countries to prosper," Adam Ereli, the US ambassador to Bahrain, said.

"It's also important that our presence remains constant in the region in light of existing threats and if anyone suggests that we are afraid or hesitant to place our mark here, they are wrong and they can just look at this project because it symbolises our intent to expand our presence. We will protect what the US and Bahrain have built and we will ensure that nothing gets in the way of the progress we have made together," Ereli told the media.

Lt. Cmdr. Keith Benson, NSA Bahrain's public works officer, said that the investment in the waterfront construction project would provide a better quality of life for US sailors and coalition partners, "well into the future."

"This project signifies a continuing relationship and the trust, friendship and camaraderie that exists between the US and Bahraini naval forces," he said.

According to Capt. Enrique Sadsad, commanding officer of NSA Bahrain, the expansion project will enhance the US ability to support its tenant commands and their mission, "whether that be logistics, aviation, theatre security, or surface operational support."

"It will also provide the necessary infrastructure to support our service members and their families, including our civilian and contract employees," he said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Construction on the first of the four phases begins immediately. The first phase, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2012, will see the development of site utilities and a utilities building, a perimetre wall and a pass and ID gate. For the second phase, which will begin in autumn and end in the winter of 2012, the port operations and harbour patrol unit facility will be completed, along with a small craft basin.

The third phase will begin in the summer of 2011, and will focus on an administration facility and consolidating 16 commands, personnel barracks and the flyover bridge. The final phase will start in 2012, and will include additional personnel quarters, a dining facility and a recreation centre, the Navy said.  

NSA Bahrain occupies 62 acres of land in Juffair, Manama, and hosts more than 90 tenant commands, including US Naval Forces Central Command/US Fifth Fleet. It is the primary naval base supporting regional maritime operations in the Arabian Gulf.

According to the Navy, planning for the relocation of port operations has been in progress since 2003.

The work is will be executed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.