Khartoum, Sudan is an extremely challenging place to design and build a U.S. Embassy. When the Sudanese Government detained imported materials at the port of entry and disrupted the issuance of visas for U.S. and third-country workers, the mission became virtually impossible. Through the dedicated work of BLHI’s design and construction team, coupled with the political efforts by the U.S. Department of State, the project was eventually completed, finally putting the Post staff out of harm’s way in a new, secure U.S. Embassy compound.
During the months following contract award, the new Embassy project became a pawn in a political wrangle between the U.S. and Sudan involving the situation in Darfur. The Sudanese Government began to delay and ultimately stopped clearing BLHI’s shipments of imported materials, which were very important for construction due to Sudan’s limited resources. The situation became so dire that the U.S. Department of State directed BLHI to prepare and protect the site for shutdown; including the removal of tower cranes, offices, and other temporary facilities. Despite this direction, work continued at a reduced pace on the concrete structures using mobile cranes, locally-procured reinforcing steel, and site-fabricated formwork materials. At the end of 2007, a contract modification was negotiated whereby BLHI would complete the concrete work, secure the site, and depart Sudan. Once this was done, the original contract was terminated for convenience of the U.S. Government. Many materials awaiting customs clearance in Port Sudan were re-shipped to other BLHI Embassy sites or staged at third-country ports.
In early 2008, the Sudanese Government indicated that they were willing to ease restrictions on the importation of shipping containers, and BLHI provided the U.S. Department of State with a proposal to restart the work. This proposal was accepted and a two-phase restart procedure was implemented between June and September 2008. Materials were re-diverted back to Sudan or re-procured in the U.S. Containers slowly emerged through the customs system, and the project was back on track. Secure materials were shipped, and cleared American tradesmen were scheduled to complete the secure elements of the Chancery. However, the Sudanese then used another ploy to disrupt the work — non-issuance of visas for entry into Sudan.
Through continuous planning and coordination, BLHI was able to staff the project with the required number of cleared American supervisors and tradesmen. Due to the extremely unpredictable visa process, staff members had to be identified and submitted for visas in excess of four months prior to their required mobilization. Once visas were issued, the recipient had to enter the country within 30 days. Through all of this, BLHI was able to keep the project moving, and in the end, turned over a fully accredited U.S. Embassy Compound in Khartoum.