Africa experienced air traffic growth in passenger and cargo in recent years with passenger traffic at Entebbe International Airport increasing from 540,000 in 2004 1.34 million in 2013.
At 12.6 % average growth rate, this is more than twice the worldwide average which stands at 5%. At this rate aircraft movement is projected to treble by 2033. With the introduction of several large aircraft such as the A-380 , airports have had to respond accordingly as seen by the recent expansion at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi,Kenya. So said Civil Aviation Authority (C.A.A) Engineer Daniel Kiyimba while making a presentation to industry stakeholders at a briefing held at Imperial Royal Hotel at the end of last week.
This comes as the C.A.A has embarked on an ambitious programme to expand and upgrade facilities at Entebbe International Airport (E.I.A) under the twenty year National Civil Aviation Master-Plan Framework ,2015-2034.
Funded by EXIM Band at a cost of $200 million, works were contracted to China Communications Construction Company Ltd. to include expansion of airports countrywide. So far geothermal and topographical surveys have been completed at the airport including preliminary designs for drainage and utilities and landside earthworks as part of their Construction Environment Plan to mitigate the impact on the environment in accordance with C.A.A. Operation Safety and Security regulations .
Not to be caught napping, C.A.A began damage control engagement targeted at tour operators and the media as part of their risk management system .This shall culminate in a series of meetings to prepare them and their clients in the case of tour operators, for the inconvenience. In the last couple of years since commencement of the project, traffic congestion and diversions exacerbated by road works on the Entebbe Express Highway , security checks and having to walk long distances to the check in terminal are already impacting negatively of the airports rating.
On the implementation of the project C.A.A’s Public Affairs Manager , Igie Igunduura outlined the areas to be covered including upgrading of the car parking Management System facility . When complete the facility shall have multi level parking two levels above and two below ground.
When commissioned in 1974, the existing passenger terminal was initially planned to handle only 250 passengers during peak hours . With arrivals averaging 410 and departures 310 during peak hours , the current capacity falls far short of I.A.T. A (International Air Transport Association) acceptable standards. Landside expansion shall raise the level of service to ‘C’ ( internationally accepted), when the new terminal building is completed. The new terminal shall be constructed adjacent and connected to the existing terminal and aerobridges with a capacity to handle up to 3.3 million projected passengers annually by 2023 .
Installation of 21 new check in counters is ongoing as part of the plan. In addition ,in response to industry demand, a new addition shall be the introduction of C.I.P(Commercially Important Persons )lounge which shall be accessible to passengers who are willing to spend a bit more for V.I.P service .
In anticipation of improvement in the efficiency of the airport , C.A.A ‘s Marketing and Commercial Services Manager Tom Davis Waswa said that plans to revive the defunct national airline are in Cabinet an issue that has left several industry stakeholders divided for and against. Waswa has been shuttling to woo several new carriers at the World Routes Forum and reported success in attracting new entrants within the next two to four years including Air Moroc, Air China,Air Europa, and Air Arabia . ‘Entebbe is four hours to major capitals within the continent which makes it attractive for hub status ‘ ,he added.
On the commercial fold Waswa said that when complete , the airport shall have the capacity to provide more rental space for hotels, tour operators and merchandising outlets to meet the applications piling in his in-tray.
Expansion of the first phase of the cargo terminal is expected to double capacity from 55,000 metric tons to160Million tons by 2020 ,further doubling after completion of the second phase by 2023.
Technical works on the resurfacing of the two runways and taxi ways as well as strengthening and expanding of the aprons shall also provide more parking space for aircraft and quicker turnaround times to handle the anticipated traffic.
The installation of baggage handling was awarded to Vanderlande Industries BV an international Dutch firm which has undertaken similar projects in several international airports. The facility shall have a fully automated baggage ,tagging and security profiling system ,explained Engineer Kiyimba.
He further said that although the C.A.A has experienced delays in procurement ,progress has continued in earnest including the commissioning of the car park which is scheduled for 1st September ,2016. Other upcountry airports have also benefited from the programme with completion of the new passenger terminal at Arua Airport. The Gulu and Kasese airports shall have their firefighting and ware housing facilities expanded .Their runways are to be lengthened from 1.7 to 2.5 kilometres and widened from 30 to 45 metres,pending red tape formalities .
However ,stakeholders still expressed concern over the delays and inadequacy of staff to handle passengers in a more savvy manner, involvement of the communities surrounding the airport including fishing villages , farmers and construction of docks for ferryboats on Lake Victoria as an alternative means of getting to the airport. In response, Igunduura said ,‘ The C.A.A is constantly working with surrounding communities to ensure proper disposal of fish waste by fishermen to keep birds attracted to feed at bay from aircraft and to dissuade farmers from planting crops that attract rodents to the airport ‘.
He said that C.A.A is part of the integrated National Transport Multi-model Master Plan in conjunction with the National Roads Authority and Uganda Railways under which marine transport ,docks,ports and piers fall.
Expansion comes timely with the need to support the newly discovered fortunes in the oil industry as well as a growing number of discerning tourists requiring upgrades at airfields in the national parks such as Lomej in Kidepo and Pakuba in Murchison Falls National Parks.