July 6, 2012

Somaliland: Airports to be Renovated

In a bid to generate economic growth in Somaliland, plans to modernise and improve Hargeisa and Berbera airports are underway, according to officials.

Below is an article published by Sabahi Online:

Renovations and modernising projects under way at the Hargeisa and Berbera airports will spur economic growth and make Somaliland a hub for regional transportation, officials say.

The Kuwaiti government pledged in 2011 to donate $10 million to renovate and modernise Hargeisa Egal International Airport and Berbera Airport.

The money will be used to build new terminals, improve security and ensure the runways can host large carriers, said Somaliland Minister of Civil Aviation and Air Transport Mohamud Hashi Abdi.

This grant is the largest amount allocated to airport improvements in Somaliland in two decades.

A Kuwaiti company has been granted $1 million of the funds for its advisory role in construction matters, Abdi said. The company estimated the cost of the airports' rehabilitation and will also oversee the implementation process, as Somaliland currently lacks such capacity, Abdi told Sabahi.

Abdi said the remaining $9 million has been distributed almost evenly between the Hargeisa and Berbera airports, and construction is expected to be finished in early 2013.

Mineral explorer China Hono Group won the tender for upgrading the Hargeisa airport, and its equipment reached the port in Berbera on June 25th, according to Abdullahi Ahmed Arshe, chief of protocol at the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air Transport in Somaliland.

Workers started transporting the equipment to Hargeisa on June 30th, and work is expected to begin early this month, Arshe told Sabahi.

Renovation of the two airports intends to attract global investors, stimulate economic growth and integrate Somaliland into the region.

"Airports are the gateways to the country," Abdi said. "How they are built and modernised can lead to economic growth as well as regional integration."

Abdi said the investment will ensure the airports can compete with others in the region and the world.

"We are in the process of making the airports become regional feeders," he said. "They will also create an international economic hub in the country, especially for Africa and the Middle East."

Abdi said within a year, the number of small private sector carriers travelling between Hargeisa, Djibouti and Addis Ababa will increase.

The project will expand the existing runway in Hargeisa, construct two new terminals and upgrade security.

"The runway of Hargeisa International Airport, which was 2.4 kilometres, will be surfaced with asphalt, which will strengthen the runway capability. This will ensure large planes can land successfully," Abdi said. "In addition, a 13-kilometre perimeter fence will be constructed to improve security."

Abdi said the plan is to expand the existing runway to 3 kilometres and build a lighting system to guide planes landing at night.

The airport will also be used for generating wind power, Abdi said, with up to $500,000 funded by the US Agency for International Development. "This will enable the Hargeisa International Airport to generate power day and night at no cost," he said.

Renovations at the Berbera airport include the construction of a new state-of-the-art terminal with all the requisite facilities, as well as an 11-kilometre perimeter fence, according to Abdi. Ethiopian company Tekleberhan Ambaye Construction started work in Berbera airport last month.

The two perimeter walls are of utmost importance to security, Abdi said. "[Currently] airports in Somaliland do not meet international standards, as they lack perimeter walls. People and livestock cross [into airport areas] and this puts planes' security at risk," he said.

In April, new security cameras were installed at the two airports, and in June, security equipment donated by the British government was installed to inspect travellers and their possessions, Abdi said.

"The closed-circuit television cameras are used for two main reasons -- preventing and responding to accidents and improving airport security procedures," he said.

While construction on the Hargeisa runway proceeds, aircraft weighing more than 20 tonnes have been rerouted to Berbera airport, according to Hargeisa International Airport manager Ridwan Ahmed Aden.

As a sign of improved security and services, Ethiopian Airlines resumed regular daily flights to Berbera on Sunday [1 July 2012] Flights had been suspended since 2008 due to security concerns.

Somaliland has so far achieved more than 80% of Ethiopian Airlines' requirements regarding airport security, Aden said.