US embassy construction halt

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The controversial and long-delayed construction of a new US Embassy at Huseby on the outskirts of Oslo has ground to a halt after a conflict between two of its main building contractors. About 130 workers were laid off, the threat of litigation looms, and the project risks further delays.

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang (left) and US Ambassador Barry White broke ground this week on a new US Embassy in Oslo after years of delays. PHOTO: US Embassy

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang (left) and former US Ambassador Barry White broke ground in May 2012 on a new US Embassy in Oslo after years of delays. Almost two years later, a contractual stalemate between two of the contractors brought work to a halt, saw 130 workers laid off and raised threats of litigation. PHOTO: US Embassy

The principal contractor Walsh Global LLC and concrete contractor SN Bygg reached a stalemate last month, after SN Bygg stopped work claiming insufficient payment and serious delays, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). SN Bygg argued the delays had cost the company significantly, because it should have finished work on the new embassy building last autumn and moved on to other contracts.

Walsh Global LLC said SN Bygg had breached the contract. SN Brygg threatened to sue over the agreement, worth NOK 162 million (USD 27.2 million). It confirmed 130 workers on the project were laid off, but no local representative was available to comment and General Manager Frode Flom said he was bound by confidentiality clauses. The construction workers’ union confirmed the figures, but had no further details on the conflict. Chicago-based Walsh Global LLC and the US Embassy also declined to comment on Tuesday.

Construction began on the controversial project in 2012, after years of delays, complaints and lawsuits. Opponents argued no impact assessment had been made when considering the Huseby site, alternative locations had not been properly considered, parkland would be lost and it put the community at risk of terror attacks. Security considerations were the reason behind moving the embassy from its downtown Oslo location.

Kim Dubois from the US embassy’s public affairs section told NRK in an email that while as a general practice the embassy does not comment on ongoing negotiations, the new embassy is still expected to be completed on schedule in the spring of 2015. Walsh Global LLC entered into a new agreement with Portugese company Zucotec to take over from SN Bygg.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate