Apr 26, 2012 News
By Kristen Macklingam
“We had to enter into an agreement because we had a very narrow window in
September where a Chinese Vice Premier came to the Caribbean with several billion dollars to fund projects and it was the only opportunity we had then to fund this undertaking.
“It was the only undertaking then and we had a particular line of documentation and information ready. We were able to take advantage and make use of that funding which would have gone elsewhere if we had not done what we had to do,”
Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Robeson Benn, made these comments while explaining the expansion of the runway of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the construction of a new terminal.
His comments came as the airport was observing its 10th anniversary since it became a Corporation.
He explained that some time last year, discussions had been in place with a large contracting company working on airport and other infrastructural facilities in the Caribbean.
“We had discussions with China Harbours and with some other providers; we had proposals, we had many, many rounds and months of negotiations and there were several iterations as to what costs would be… Ultimately we had a signing for a contract for the construction of a new airport building and also for the extension of the runway by just over 1,000 metres.”
He said that his government was caught on the back foot with the announcement of the contract signing for the project.
The announcement appeared in the Jamaica media even as the contract was being signed in his office and before the matter could be taken to Cabinet.
There have been objections to the project, least among them being the cost. But Minister Benn justified the project by contending that there is a growing influx of passengers using the terminal and that the government needed to look ahead to as far as 50 years ahead.
The anniversary was being observed under the theme “Proud of Our Past, Excited about our Future, and a Decade of Solid Achievements”.
During a simple ceremony Ramesh Ghir, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CJIAC, stated that the transformation of the airport began in 2001 when the Government through a US$30M loan from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) sought to reform the then Timehri International Airport.
As part of that project, the airport was required to establish a new organization structure. At that time there was a limited number of staff doing book-keeping.
From this period to date, there has always been an upward trend in the operations at the CJIAC, Ghir noted.
According to the CEO, in 2003 works were done to resurface and groove the Main Runway along its entire length.
The presence of water on this runway was a threatening situation which could have caused a loss of control by the pilot during landing and takeoff.
When this initiative was implemented there was also the installation of a new runway lighting system for the said runway, Ghir said.
The CJIAC staff also saw new additions such as the X-Ray Machine Walk thru Metal Detectors, Baggage Scanners, CCTV Security Monitoring System, the introduction of a computerized identification card system and there was the construction of a new sewerage treatment plant.
The constant aircraft landings affected the sewer and at one stage the sewer became ineffective to the point that if many were in use at the same time there was a back-up.
In 2005 and 2006 there was the rehabilitation of the arrival terminal building, the development of the airport’s website, a fence around the executive park installation of taxiway lights and the establishment of the Roraima’s executive lounge among more.
Meanwhile, in January 2007, runway end identifier lights (reils) were installed at both ends of the Main Runway. Computerized immigration booths were also added to the Arrivals and Departures Halls at the CJIAC.
Delta Airlines commenced operations on the New York- Georgetown route at the airport on June 1, 2008 and three years later (in 2011) the CJIAC saw the arrival of the REDJET airlines and the EZjet Airlines in its market.
Ghir explained that the passenger arrival records reveal that in 2002 there were 186,673 persons who landed in Guyana. This figure increased slightly in 2003 when 188,421 passengers visited the country.
However, during 2004 the numbers increased to 206,616. The increase continued. In 2008 there was an increase to 206,327 passengers while 216,064 persons came to Guyana in 2009.
In 2010, records showed that 220,957 passengers landed at the CJIA and in 2011 there were 236,344 passengers recorded.
Revenue also grew. In 2002, the collection was $258M. Last year revenue collection was $748M.
Ghir added that the profits which the CJIAC usually receives from its operations on a yearly basis are spent on further developments at the airport.
This is necessary if the airport is to continue to have successful expansions and meet the international standards which are required, he added.
Minister Robeson Benn, said that there has been a significant decade in terms of the development of the airport with a dramatic improvement in its services and operations. This has also added to the recognition that the country continues to receive.
“We have perhaps exceeded our expectations and I think that is important that perhaps sometimes we have too low expectations of ourselves that we are unable sometimes to realize our full potential. And to set the bar high enough so that our people can be challenged and here it is that the bar has been set high and it is an international facility, an international airport and in fact best described as one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.”
He stated that the main focus of the CJIAC is now to go forward and discussions are ongoing as to how to resolve the known capacity constraints at the airport, the growth in international travel, tourism in the country and more.
According to Minister Benn, these goals can only be achieved if there is the new airport terminal building and an extension of the runway. This, he says, is the “only way it can be done” and plays a part in ensuring continued development and sustainability.
Minister Benn said that the present departure terminal has already become too small.
Kaieteur News understands that this will allow for the opportunity of the tourism sector to go beyond the traditional market in terms of air transport to Guyana.
This will help develop the South American and South African markets and further appeal to Singapore, China, Indonesia and India since the East-West links are developing rapidly, Benn said.
Minister Benn continued that much work is yet to be done and Government seeks to take advantage of opportunities that will benefit the nation and the tourism sector for the country.
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