Friday, February 1, 2013

■ LIBERIA: LAA rehabilitating Roberts International as Government plans new $163million airport to transform Monrovia into regional hub.

Liberia Civil Aviation Authority logoThe Liberian Civil Aviation Authority, under the auspices of the Liberian Airports Authority (LAA), has embarked on the renovation of  Monrovia's Roberts International Airport (RIA) as the country moves to renovate its decrepit infrastructure, left to decay during the Civil Wars of 1989 - 1996 and 1999 - 2003.

The first phase involves the rehabilitation of the airport's sole runway 04/22. Repair works to the runway will take up to between six and eight weeks according to the LAA's General Manager Julius Dennis:
"Our immediate goal is to do some immediate rehabilitation on the RIA runway. We have earmarked on other rehabilitation works," said the general manager of the LAA. Speaking further, the LAA general manager said the LAA in collaboration with the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) has also begun the marking of the runway.
Source [Heritage]

Thursday 24 January saw the successful completion of the painting of the airport's entire runway markings done in just 72hours - Operation Runway Miracle - in preparation for a United Nations High-Level panel meeting in Monrovia held on Wednesday 30 January.

Runway 04 before painting
Runway 04 before painting (GlobeSec)
The repairs come after USD10million was allocated to the rehabilitation project in the Liberian 2012/2013 National Fiscal Budget with provision for repairing the airport's ageing runway, Lighting System and Aeronautical Equipment.

Following the end of the country's internal strife and the return of relative calm, RIA's importance as a gateway to the country has grown not only in terms of traffic handled, but also in terms of revenue generated. The airport in 2011 is said to have collected USD54 million from tax on tickets alone and has thus become a veritable "cash cow" for the often hard up LCAA, with the potential to generate more income given proper investment and upgrading.

Last year, Transport Minister Eugene Lenn Nagbe disclosed his intentions of transforming Roberts International Airport into a modern Class A international  airport with the overall aim of creating a regional hub within three years. A Wikileaks communique corroborated Nagbe's vision when US Defense & Security contractor, Lockheed Martin, who manage security protocol at RIA, mentioned plans to market RIA as a regional hub, with Emirates (EK) and Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) said to have then expressed interest in starting flights.

According to the August 2009 classified memo, from Lockheed's point of view, RIA could "become a regional cargo distribution hub supplanting the Freeport of Monrovia as the entry point for capital equipment and vehicles. Cargo storage, aircraft maintenance and the leasing of airport space and storage to other corporate entities are other potential business lines."

With all these possibilities, the Liberian Government has also considered the construction of a brand new airport to replace RIA, now almost 72 years old. The Chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), Musa Bility, in a recent interview said:
"This government is determined to build a new airport. We now have a master plan that will soon be out to the public," the LAA Board Chairman asserted.
Source [The News]

Should RIA be thoroughly renovated and/or a new Monrovia International Airport arise, the airport would face stiff regional competition from the likes of various new West African airports being built, most notably in:
With a planned budget of USD163million, the Liberian government is in talks with an undisclosed Dutch company over the project.