R400m EL airport upgrade

Renovations and developments valued at more than R400-million are on the cards for the East London Airport, creating hundreds of jobs and extra electricity for locals.

The company’s 10-year plans were revealed at a media breakfast at the airport yesterday by the senior manager of corporate affairs for regional airports, Senzeni Ndebele, and East London Airport manager Michael Kernekamp.

The East London AirportPicture: SARAH KINGON

Ndebele said plans were also on the cards to boost Mthatha Airport and it was hoped more airlines would have more routes to and from the growing airport.

The award-winning East London Airport, recognised as Africa’s best-improved airport in 2014, has increased its passenger numbers by more than 9.1% to 790000 this year and aims to expand and redevelop the airport to accommodate more passengers and encourage them to travel to East London.

Ndebele said the R400-million investment in East London Airport would see it aligned with some of the top airports in the country in the years ahead.

“The many projects we have will leave many locals employed, firstly around the airport precinct and also in Buffalo City Metro, because it’s a prerequisite for the big contractors to work with smaller contractors and SMMEs to give them jobs and promote skills transfer and skills development,” he said.

“This process allows for locals to gain experience and have skills which they can also share with others and equip them for other projects that may come their way.”

Kernekamp said one of the most immediate projects from the 10-year plan was the replacement of 14km of security fencing at a cost of R43-million.

“The fencing is going to be very labour intensive and is going to rely on physical labour, which guarantees many locals being employed for the 12-month project.

“It is scheduled to start next week, when our recently appointed contractors will be doing their first site visit.

“More jobs may be created later in the year with the building of our 750kW solar plant, which will see solar panels positioned on the west of the terminal.

“This project is estimated to cost R47-million with the production of the photovoltaic plant.”

“This project is estimated to cost R47-million with the production of the photovoltaic plant.”

Kernekamp said they were still engaging with consultants, but the airport was expected to be off the power grid by March next year, as had happened at the airports in George, Upington and Kimberley.

Ndebele said the power they would save would be redirected to the community surrounding the airport.

“We want to save electricity for the communities surrounding the airport who may be suffering power outages, while others are not connected at all. That power must go to those people.”

Kernekamp said in the longer term, the airport was looking to develop a multi-storey parking lot by 2022 to accommodate 1500 parking bays at a cost of more than R215-million.

Congestion in the departure lounge had also drawn attention to the need to expand the lounge at a cost of R72-million.

“R27-million will also be invested in the establishment of a Code C apron for one of the biggest aeroplanes like a B737-800.

By Mbali Tanana – DispatchLIVE

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