Saturday, February 2, 2013

■ SIERRA LEONE: Government signs $198m deal with China to build new Freetown International Airport.

Sierra LeoneNot to be outdone by its neighbour Liberia, the Sierra Leone Government is to move ahead with the first phase in the construction of a new USD198million Freetown International Airport, following the signing of a contract between the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the China Railway International Company in December last year. Financing is to come from the Chinese Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank).

Lungi & Freetown Locations (Google)
Lungi & Freetown Locations (Google)
With a one year design phase and a three year construction phase, the new airport, to be situated in Mamamah, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Freetown, will replace the current Lungi International Airport, whose inaccessibility has become a major hindrance to the development of the city and country. Located 15km from the city and across 6km of the Sierra Leone River on a separate peninsula, Lungi Airport currently obliges travellers to choose between a four hour road journey to the capital or a trip in the water taxi (45 minutes) using an aged ferry. Helicopter transfers stopped in 2011, four years after 22 people including the Togolese sports minister, died after their chopper crashed and burst into flames shortly after take off. 

The Sierra Leone Government views the added hassle of reaching Freetown as unappealing to tourists and  investors whom it is trying desperately to attract. 

Whilst the Government pins Freetown's hopes on a new airport, it has not neglected Lungi which will continue to serve as the capital's interim airfield whilst the former is constructed. In 2011 the Sierra Leone Airport Authority (SLAA) embarked on an infrastructural development project which encompassed the Lungi International Airport, Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, Port Loko District and the Aberdeen Helipad in Freetown.
"The importance of the airport to attracting more investors could not be overemphasized, given the fact that it is the gateway to our country and the first impression people get about our country starts from what they see with our airport. With the recent signing of a contract between China and Sierra Leone for the construction of a new airport in the Port Loko district, the refurbishment of the current one by THIS government can go a long way in showing how serious we are as a country in rebranding our image both within and out of the country."
Source [Newstimeafrica]

Amongst the infrastructural improvements done to Lungi included:
  • resurfacing of the main bituminous runway 12/30 (3'200m) along with the widening of turning loops and Charlie and Delta taxiway accesses by reconstruction and re-profiling of the existing bituminous shoulders. Aircraft holding positions were also relocated and new runway hold signs and markings provided. Project completed by Ireland's Lagan Construction under World Bank funding.
  • an upgraded ground lighting system,
  • water supply adequate;
  • electricity supply increased to 60% and 70%
  • enhanced security including CCTV, X-Ray machines, Fire Alarms, PA system, full air conditioning,
  • 4 VIP Lounges with Air Conditioning, 
  • 2 Duty Free shops, 
  • 8 airline offices, 
  • Immigration facilities, 
  • security and customs, 
  • 4 boarding gates, 
  • 14 check in counters, 
  • Flight Information Display System, 
  • 3 restaurants, a bar and shops,
  • new baggage conveyors, 
  • fully computerized check in,
  • shatter proof windows
Source [news.sl]

Improved Lungi Airport
Improved Lungi Airport (News.sl)
Under the auspices of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma and a Chinese Consortium; consisting of the China International Fund Limited and again the China Railway Construction Corporation, a new bridge is to be built linking Freetown with Lungi Peninsula. How the bridge will be financed is unknown as it bears a hefty USD900million price tag.

Following the signing of the construction deal with China Railway International Company, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Chidi Vandi Minah made reference to Sierra Leone's ongoing efforts at attracting more foreign carriers a number of bilateral agreements having been signed. The government is said to be in talks with Turkish Airlines (TK), EgyptAir (MS), Emirates (EK) and several undisclosed Caribbean and South American carriers over the possible launch of flights.

In the long run, Minister Minah outlined Lungi's future adding that it would not cease operations but would become a secondary aviation hub, with the new Airport forming the nucleus of an Aviation City. 

Thanks to strong iron ore exports, construction in the once war ravaged West African nation is booming with the economy set to grow by a massive 21% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.