Mar 24, 2013 News
-current terminal building to remain
-Chinese contractor insists it is capability
By Leonard Gildarie
Government yesterday turned the sod for a US$150M expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) with officials signaling intentions to no longer pursue plans to demolish the current terminal building.
The building was constructed almost 12 years ago during a US$30M major reform of the Timehri International Airport, as it was known then. It was renamed CJIA then.
The terminal building, which airline officials have been saying has become too small amidst significant passengers’ growth, will be used for cargo handling, storage and a host of other services.
Under the 2011 contract with the Chinese contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) under the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, the terminal building was set to be demolished by CJIA, at its own cost. But the building has remained in excellent condition and a decision was taken not to raze it.
An entire new terminal building, immediately south of the current one will now be built to the tune of US$47M, said Transport Minister, Robeson Benn yesterday during a sod turning ceremony at CJIA. Another US$58M will be spent to extend the main runway.
With preliminary works underway, construction is expected to start as early as May.
The event is part of the ongoing celebrations of 100 years of aviation in Guyana. Also there were President Donald Ramotar; CJIA’s Chief Chief Executive Officer; Ramesh Ghir, and Chairman, Ramesh Dookhoo; CHEC’s General Manager, Zhong Dong Tang; Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Zhang Li Min, along with several airport officials and Government Ministers.
Also commissioned yesterday were new navigational and communication equipment at the airport’s Control Tower, which within recent years saw almost $1.1B spent to replace and upgrade aging systems critical to landing and take-off of aircrafts.
According to the Chief Executive Officer, since first flights back in 1913, the airport has grown in leaps and bounds, handling 4,000 international flights and 600,000 passengers, annually. The Control Tower last year would have been regulating 61,000 flights with 10,000 persons directly and indirectly depending on the facilities for a living.
In the next 20 years, current growth rates are suggesting passengers could very well double in numbers. The indications also are that aircraft makers will have to increase its production as more persons start flying.
The expansion will see a new terminal building that will include eight jet bridges and an extension of the current runway by another 1,000 meters. It will boast a bigger apron for planes, bigger parking lot, enhanced security features and concessions space for businesses.
New airlines are reluctant to come with their bigger wide-body Boeing 747 planes because of the short runway, said Ghir.
While CJIA was making a loss 10 years ago, expansions and reforms have seen income tripling its expenditure in recent years.
CHEC’s General Manager, Zhong Dong Tang, whose company initially had come in for criticisms, insisted that the company has successfully undertaken major infrastructural projects in Hong Kong and in Macau, China, and has been engaged in major contracts globally and in the Caribbean and South America.
In making his case for CHEC’s capacity, he listed contracts in Mexico and even in neighbouring Brazil.
Tang made it clear that CHEC is looking for more projects in Guyana.
Minister Benn, in making his case for a new airport, admitted that the criticisms have been many but the fact remains that several CARICOM countries have recognized the importance of an airport expansion. Barbados and The Bahamas are classical examples.
Compared to the rest, and with Guyana’s strategic geographical position at northern tip of the Southern America continent, the investments are “modest”, he said.
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Li Min in plugging Guyana and China’s growing relations, assured that CHEC will be delivering quality work. He promised that the standard set by CHEC will be one to be followed by other Chinese companies coming to Guyana.
According to President Ramotar, the financial crisis in North America and Europe has seen the development of the “south-south” relationship with ties being born with the emerging power countries including Brazil, China and India.
Plugging the US$840M Amaila Falls hydro power project, another Chinese contracted project, the official stressed that it will move Guyana from an agro-producing nation to being one of agro-processors.
The time will come when Guyanese abroad will be clamoring to come back.
Noting the contributions of the Chinese in Guyana, the President acknowledged the emerging sectors of the economy which also include tourism.
He too was convinced that Guyana’s strategic location in South America makes it an ideal spot to attract flights from China (Asia) and Africa.
Earlier yesterday, President Ramotar also inspected a recently installed, new body scanner at the Departure area of the airport.
CHEC’s US$138M contract will see it building the new terminal and lengthening the runway.
Government has signed an agreement for financing with China for a loan to the tune of US$130M. Government has since said it will be plugging another US$20M or so for the expansion.
The project had generated controversy in 2011 when a Jamaica newspaper broke the news that the Guyana Government signed a deal with CHEC. CHEC has an office in Jamaica.
Government later said that it was about to announce the signing when the news was prematurely leaked.
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