Uganda in plans to relaunch national carrier, upgrade Entebbe airport

Saturday August 13 2016

Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority says its

Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority says its plans to revive national carrier Uganda Airlines are on course. The airline was liquidated in 2001. PHOTO | FILE 

By TAMALE RAYMOND

Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority says its plans to revive national carrier Uganda Airlines are on course. The airline was liquidated in 2001.

Armed with a $200 million loan from China’s Exim Bank, the CAA says it will deliver the first phase of the expansion of passenger and cargo handling facilities at Entebbe International Airport.

The works were commissioned on January 29.

A 20-year civil aviation masterplan covers the construction of a new cargo centre, a new passenger terminal, a domestic operations terminal, and multistoried parking.

Other actions include the relocation of the fuel farm, and construction of an aircraft maintenance centre and facilities for handling Airbus 380 aircraft. The current passenger terminal building will be expanded to provide better facilities.

Chinese firm Communications Construction Company is undertaking the works, according to CCA’s public relations manager Ignie Igundura.

A proposal to revive Uganda Airlines is currently being discussed at ministerial level; at least $300 million is required.

Uganda lost ground to Kenya and Ethiopia following the grounding of its national carrier, and opinion is divided on whether the revival serves sentimental or business interests.

Daniel Kiyimba, an engineer with the CAA, said, “The first phase of the upgrade and expansion will be done between 2016 and 2017, and will include construction of a new 100,000-tonne cargo terminal with cooling facilities on 10,000 square metres, an aircraft parking apron, landslide and air side access road, construction of a 20,000 square-metre extension of the passenger terminal building, expansion and building of the main apron, repair and strengthening of the main runway with a new asphalt overlay, strengthening and repair of taxiways A, B, C, D and E,  and strengthening of Apron 4 at a cost $45 million.”

In 2015, the Entebbe airport cargo centre was able to handle 5,000 tonnes of cargo and 1.4 million passengers, said Mr Igundura.

In 2004, there were 446,748 passengers; this figure had increased to 1.3 million by 2013. The increased numbers has led to less efficient passenger handling, which leads to crowding at the airport. The new centre will be able to handle 3.3 million passengers by 2023.

Over the years, the aviation industry has faced challenges like war, terrorism and intermittent fuel prices.

Nonetheless, global air traffic continues to register positive growth. In 2014, the average annual growth in traffic was 3.8 per cent. Passenger traffic hit 3.3 billion.

Projections for 2015 put the global passenger figure at 3.5 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association, IATA.

The top four countries that contributed to passenger growth were China (758 million new passengers) India (275 million), Indonesia (132 million) and Brazil (104 million).

The fastest growing markets in Africa are the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Sierra Leone. These markets are projected to register growth between seven and eight per cent each year, over the next 20 years.

Due to the growing numbers of passengers and increased competition in the region, aviation authorities are upgrading their airports. Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is being expanded at a cost of $653 million for a new passenger terminal to handle 20 million passengers and a new cargo centre to handle up to 300,000 tonnes of cargo. The first terminal is set to be completed this year.

Ethiopian Airlines has begun the expansion of its cargo terminal in Addis Ababa. The new terminal and cargo centre, built at a cost of $98 million, will handle 600,000 tonnes of cargo. The next phase will increase capacity to 1.2 million tonnes of cargo, making it one of the largest cargo centres in Africa.

Work on the terminal will start with an expansion, worth $300 million, to increase the handling capacity to 20 million passengers a year. By 2025, Ethiopian plans to have grown cargo to 800,000 tonnes a year by operating over 37 freight destinations across five continents using 20 dedicated cargo aircraft.