Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Northern Emirates airport chiefs seek partners to help lift volumes

'The demand is incessant. It’s a good problem to have, but there’s a lot of investment and a lot of capex involved in keeping this growing. Our present capacity is not good enough to cope with this.'
Above, the new Dh500 million runway at Sharjah International Airport. Passenger numbers are expected to hit 9.6 million at Sharjah this year. Wam
Above, the new Dh500 million runway at Sharjah International Airport. Passenger numbers are expected to hit 9.6 million at Sharjah this year. Wam

Directors from three of the airports within the Northern Emirates set out expansion plans at the UAE’s inaugural Aviation Investment Summit held in Dubai on Monday.

Heads from Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah airports also courted investment from the international community to help boost their offerings in services such as MRO (maintenance, repairs and operations), cargo handling and personnel training.

Donald D’Souza, commercial director of Sharjah International Airport, said that it is seeking investors to help expand all areas of its operations, including new passenger and cargo terminal facilities. Passenger numbers are expected to hit 9.6 million at Sharjah this year, up from 6.3 million in 2010. Moreover, current growth projections will result in this increasing to 11.3 million by 2019.

“The demand is incessant,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have, but there’s a lot of investment and a lot of capex involved in keeping this growing. Our present capacity is not good enough to cope with this.”

The airport appointed the construction company Bechtel to draw up a new master plan for a phased expansion of the airport last year, and a new Dh500 million runway opened last year capable of handling Airbus A380s and major cargo planes.

“We’re happy to talk to any entities who want to share in this success – both passenger and cargo. The vehicle of this investment could be which ever that would suit you, be it a build, operate, transfer, be it a JV [joint venture] concept or a PPP [public private partnership] for the passenger terminal. We’re willing to look at all options,” Mr D’Souza said.

Meanwhile, the Ras Al Khaimah Airport chief executive Mohammed Qazi said the fourth phase of its expansion of passenger terminals – a new building linking the departure and arrival terminals – is set to complete in the first quarter of 2016, as will a new terminal being developed in conjunction with cargo partner SKA Group. Designs have also recently been completed for a new VIP terminal, scheduled to be built by the first quarter of 2017.

Mr Qazi said that aircraft movements at the airport increased by 65 per cent last year and passenger movements were 78 per cent higher. Cargo volumes increased by 220 per cent.

Davor Jurisic, Dubai-based SKA Group’s director of logistics, said it had built a major fuel terminal at RAK airport which was commissioned last year and is currently in the process of refurbishing existing cargo buildings, in a project involving 1,000 square metres of temperature-controlled cargo buildings.

“In the long term, our strategy is to build a 10,000 sq metre cargo centre,” Mr Jurisic said.

He added that it planned a series of other facilities at the airport, which “will probably become our largest investment in the Middle East and North Africa over the next few years”.

Meanwhile, Charles Hajdu, the acting general manager of Fujairah Airport, said that it was focusing on attracting cargo and MRO operators for its growth, especially those looking to service the nearby Indian market.

“We’re concentrating on India and bringing that business to the UAE, because they recognise they can carry out that business in the UAE more easily than in India,” he said. “There are financial and regulatory issues [in India] that make it quite difficult from a bureaucratic point of view.”

Fujairah Airport currently operates from a single runway, but is in the process of building a new taxiway that will serve as a contingency runway.

“This is in construction right now. It is part of a fairly major investment indicating a great deal of confidence in the future,” said Mr Hajdu.

Once complete, this will allow the airport to close its existing, 30-year-old runway to allow for resurfacing and widening, he added.

It will also lengthen a section to move take-off paths farther away from nearby mountains to allow for improved performance by way of allowing bigger payloads.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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Updated: November 9, 2015 04:00 AM

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