Upgrade on Entebbe
With fast-increasing passenger and cargo traffic at Entebbe International Airport, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has embarked on a multi-billion dollar plan to expand the country's only international airport. Muheebwa Hillary reports.
Expansion work has started at Entebbe International Airport with the construction of an expanded passenger terminal.
The work is part of a four-phased airport scheme, which is also part of the 2014-2033 national civil aviation masterplan, which is reviewed and adjusted every five years.
The phases of the airport scheme include the land site expansion, air navigation equipment upgrade, and construction of a modern cargo area.
According to Ignie Igunduura, the CAA public affairs manager: “The plan is guided by statistical studies of cargo and passenger traffic.”
Statistics show that in 1991 Entebbe was handling 118,000 international passengers and 5,200 metric tonnes of cargo per year. By 2015, the airport was handling 1.4 million passengers and 55,000 tonnes of cargo annually. “This has put pressure on existing infrastructure,” said Igunduura.
“The traffic and cargo we are handling right now is the one we had predicted to handle by 2019. Businesswise, this has constrained the airport capabilities,” he added.
CAA annual growth figures project that the passenger traffic is expected to reach 6.1 million in 2033, while cargo traffic is expected to rise to 172,000 tonnes in the same period.
The remodelling and expansion of the departure and arrival terminal is meant to accommodate this growing traffic. This is part of the airport’s land site expansion project.
“The project will cost 42.6 billion Uganda Shillings ($1.5 million). All this money has been internally generated by the aviation authority,” explained Igunduura.
The project, which is expected to be completed by December 2017, will be undertaken by Seyani Brothers (U) Limited, with Sentoogo and Partners as the construction supervising consultants. ArchDesign Ltd is the project designer.
Once completed, the airport’s departures and arrivals terminals will be able to handle 1,750 passengers simultaneously during peak hours.
Igunduura said the overall Entebbe International Airport scheme included the construction of a computerised cargo-handling system, paving of the aircraft parking space and aprons, resurfacing the tarmac and taxiways, and addressing the car parking constraints.
“The taxiways are given a shelf life of 20 years. We have been doing retouches on them, but this time we will totally resurface the paved surface,” he disclosed.
With modern aircraft becoming bigger, the parking space – especially the aprons – becomes constrained during the peak hours, he added, while the cargo is still handled manually.
Construction on some of these renovation and reconstruction projects will be carried out concurrently.
The construction of a new and modern cargo-handling facility will be undertaken in two phases. “The first is the construction of a cargo centre handling 100,000 tonnes up to the year 2023. This will double the current capacity,” said Igunduura.
The second phase will be the expansion of the cargo-handling capacity to 172,000 metric tonnes by the year 2034, he added. This project part of the overall scheme will be financed by a $200 million loan from China’s Export – Import Bank. The China Communication Construction Company will handle the site.
“Beginning in May, the CAA is also starting the installation of a double-form, new baggage conveyer belt. Among the capabilities of this modern and high capacity belt is the ability to track each particular bag, issue bag tags and increase the luggage loading speed,” revealed Igunduura.
The system will be manufactured and installed by Vanderlande Industries BV of the Netherlands. According to the company’s profile, Vanderlande is the global market leader in baggage-handling systems for airports, and sorting systems for parcel and postal services.
Vanderlande’s conveyer belt systems are active in 600 airports, including 17 of the world’s top 25 airports.
This project will cost $4.8 million and money to finance it has also been internally generated by the CAA.
The other aspect of the Entebbe International Airport overall plan is the upgrade of the air navigation equipment. This will be executed by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, under a grant to the Government of Uganda by the Republic of South Korea Government. The grant is worth $9.5 million.
All these construction projects are meant to transform and maintain Entebbe International Airport as an aviation point adhering to international standards.
“Air transport is highly regulated and regularly audited by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” said Igunduura, “so we have to maintain international standards.”
The ICAO can close an airport or ground aircraft if they fail to meet the set minimum international standards, as agreed upon by member states. Uganda is one of the ICAO signatory states.
“For the development of air transport, it is necessary to enlist the commitment of government and other sectors like tourism and industry, to create an international brand for Uganda. This is done by means of diplomatic relations, marketing campaigns and promotion of the country,” according to the Uganda Civil Aviation Master Plan.
“Entebbe is the main point of entry into Uganda by air, and main exit point. It is, therefore, a place where first and last impressions about Uganda are formed,” explained Igunduura.
Uganda was recently named as one of the top ten international tourist destinations at the inaugural Global Tourist Destination Carnival. This means the country has the potential to attract more tourists in the coming years.
Entebbe airport is also the United Nations support base for its operations in the region.
There are four things that influence airlines choice of destination; stability of the nation, economic performance, air traffic available and state of the facilities at the airport.
For Uganda to be marketable globally as a destination choice for investors and tourists, Igunduura said, the country has to set up a standard international airport, with facilities to attract and ease the transit of passengers and cargo.