N$245 million rescue plan

Hosea Kutako to get major facelift

08 November 2018 | Transport

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) has unveiled a N$245 million rescue plan for Hosea Kutako International Airport, with the revamp expected to be finalised by October next year.

The project will make Namibia's flagship airport one of the most advanced airports in the region.

The NAC also said yesterday that it was ready for an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) security audit that will take place between 18 and 28 November.

Namibia will be the first country to be audited against the new standards introduced by the ICAO under amendment 16 to annexure 17 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation. The new standards will be in force from 16 November.

Unacceptable state

New NAC board chairperson Leake Hangala said Hosea Kutako was in an unacceptable state.

According to him the airport has reached its capacity limits and requires urgent expansion and upgrading to meet the demands of increasing aircraft and passenger numbers, as well as the more stringent security and safety requirements.

Hangala said the government, as a result of the challenges facing Hosea Kutako, took decisive action to address the situation by appointing a special cabinet committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. It also appointed a technical committee comprised of permanent secretaries, on which the NAC is represented.

“Government also reinforced the board and relaxed procurement procedures to enable the company to urgently address the situation at the main airport.”

Hangala said the NAC and the government have embarked on a N$245 million upgrade project at Hosea Kutako.

The NAC funding is N$95.2 million, while the balance will be provided by the government.

Upgrade details

The upgrade project will include the revamping and modernising of the check-in and departure halls, security screening points, the arrivals hall and the luggage handling areas.

The installation of a CCTV and intrusion detection system at the airport has already started.

“We will also take advantage of the upgrading to introduce the latest advanced technologies and software systems related to self-check-ins and screenings for both passengers and luggage,” said Hangala.

The old terminal, known as Terminal One, which is currently only used by VIPs, will also form part of the upgrade, so there is a dedicated international departure and arrivals terminal, as well as a domestic terminal.

Hangala said immigration access was previously limited as there were only two security checkpoints, which resulted in long queues, while the luggage collection section currently only has two carousels. This will be improved with the envisaged upgrades.

He said the terminal building also does not have a reliable ventilation system, and this will be addressed.

“I would like to assure the nation that funds for the upgrading will be managed in the most accountable and transparent manner.”

Hangala said the work would have a minimal effect on the current airport operations, which would continue as usual.

New design by next month

A local company, Kerry McNamara Architects, has been appointed as the leading consultant that will work on the design of the project.

This design is expected to be finalised by the end of December.

NAC expects to have a contractor on site by March next year and the upgrades are expected to be completed by October 2019.

According to Hangala the current terminal building was constructed in 1985 to handle 250 000 passengers per year and at present the airport handles nearly a million passengers annually.

Hangala said it would only be known after the design is completed how many passengers the airport would be able to accommodate after the upgrade.

Upcoming audit

Hangala said the NAC, together with all stakeholders, had committed to working on issues identified during the 2010 ICAO Security Audit of the State of Namibia, as well as other aviation security issues identified afterwards.

Additionally, Airport Council International (ACI), through the Airport Excellence (APEX) security initiative held in December 2017 at Hosea Kutako, also identified security gaps and areas that needed improvement, which have since formed part of the holistic approach to addressing security matters at the airport.

Hangala said for the ICAO security audit the NAC and other stakeholders have managed to close various security gaps and will continue to address evolving issues, even after the audit.

He said these actions included improving emergency preparedness and reshaping the main passenger screening point to comply with the latest ICAO requirements.

He said appropriate screening methods are needed, which are capable of detecting the presence of explosives carried by passengers on them or in their carry-on luggage. Additional screening machines were also procured and installed to improve the throughput of screening points, and the human capacity of particularly the police and immigration officials has been increased to effectively service passengers.

“We have implemented fast-track lines for crew members, for passengers with reduced mobility and families and children. We will introduce and operationalise the apron buses that were purchased for improved passenger facilitation,” Hangala said.

Retail space has also been reduced at Hosea Kutako to increase screening space in the departure hall.

An additional scanner and immigration counters were installed and more queuing space was created for passengers.

Hangala stressed that there was no link between the upcoming ICAO security audit and an airport downgrading.

“A downgrade can only emanate from a safety audit and going forward our efforts will be dedicated to consolidating and eliminating areas of concern.”

Namibia's next safety audit will be in the first quarter of 2020.

Acting NAC CEO Lot Haifidi said they were ready for the security audit, with several other audits having been held previously to prepare for the ICAO audit this month.

65% for mock audit

One of these was a mock audit by ICAO in March during which Namibia scored 65%. Haifidi pointed out that the global average is 72%.

“We were just 7% below the global average and have since focused on closing security gaps. We will certainly have moved up in percentage.

“The NAC takes note of the frustrations and anger from stakeholders in this regard, especially our tourists and business travellers. We would like to apologise to all for any inconvenience and suffering caused.

“We accept that the current state of affairs is making it difficult for the airport to comply with ICAO standards,” Haifidi added.