Liberia is set to have a new passenger terminal building and a rehabilitated runaway at the Roberts International Airport following a groundbreaking ceremony by the country's president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
President Sirleaf expressed joy for the ground breaking of the airport, noting that Liberians could be sure that their airport would be up to standard.
“I'm so glad that finally we can get our airport up to standard; finally that shame – we do feel shame when we land at the airport, we feel shame because we have strangers in the plane, and they all look and say ‘Oh! My goodness when will Liberia come of age',” President Sirleaf said.
President Sirleaf pointed to resources constraint, type of weather and competing priorities such as health and education the government was confronted with as reasons for which it could not rehabilitate the airport.
“But you know there were many priorities in priorities, the resources constraints, the type of weather that we have to work under, certain time of the year it is very difficult to get infrastructures project [done]. We are going to see the airport get to a place where we can all feel proud about it,” President said.
The Liberia Airport Authority Board Chairman, Gbezhongar Findley, said Liberia's economic growth and development greatly depended on the entry points of the country.
“Today is a great day for Liberia, our economic growth and development greatly depends on the entry point of our country,” Findley said. Findley said the construction of the airport comes at a critical point of President Sirleaf's administration.
“The projects represent the beginning to the end of her Excellency's tenure and what a better time to do that Madam President?
Today we can say to you, your efforts your time you have put into this project to make it a success, we are here today as the champion of this project we want to congratulate you,” Findley added.
Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Yue said the project is financed by China Exim Bank in the amount of $50 million through a concessional loan. He noted that the run way is funded by the Saudi Fund and the Arab Bank and supported by the United States Government.
He said both projects will be respectively implemented by the China Harbor and Sino Hydro. Ambassador Zhang Yue explained that the new terminal will cover an area of more than 5000-Square meters and designed for an average annual passenger volume approximately 320,000 persons.
Ambassador Yue said this is the first time that China has offered a concessional loan to the Liberia. He furthered that the new terminal building is also a China-Liberia bilateral project while the entire airport project constitutes an outcome of multi-stakeholders cooperation.
He said from now on, we expect to see Chinese-led speed and quality. “I am confident that China Harbor will present Liberia a state of the art new terminal building”, he told the gathering.
The runaway rehabilitation project involves the excavation of significant sections Runaway 04-22, and asphalt pavement of these sections, rehabilitation of parts of the taxiways, airside geometric improvements including a new turn pad at the runaway end.
Citizens who turnout to witness the ground breaking ceremony could not hold their joy as people were seen expressing their smiles as they watched. Moses Besolow of Harbel has left his office to attend the ground breaking program; he described the development at the airport as internationally recognized, saying, development is gradually returning to Liberia.
“At least we are getting there; our country will one day be on the map again in Africa." "We feel so terrible when we leave our country and see other international airports around Africa and the world at large,” he noted.
Majay Kollie, a bystander who lives in airport's vicinity thanked the government of Liberia for their interest in developing the airport.
She said she was grateful to hear that Liberia was getting on par with other countries in Africa. “We are glad that our airport will now be modernized like other airports in the region.”
The airport was built in the Second World War by the United States Government to serve as a base for its military activities.
After the war and until 1985, the airport was administered by Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) and the airport was a key link in the African network of Pan Am. When Pan Am ceased operations, the Government of Liberia assumed responsibilities for the operations of the airport.
The Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), which was established by the Liberia Airport Authority Act of 2009, is responsible for the managerial and operational control of all airports within the Republic of Liberia. Roberts International Airport (RIA) is the largest and busiest airport in Liberia.
The terminal project involves the construction of a brand new Passenger Terminal building at RIA. The new terminal layout will be arranged in one and a half floors. The project is financed by a US$50 million loan from the China Exim Bank and the contractor is China Harbor Engineering Company.
The first floor includes check-in hall, inspection area, waiting area, arrival hall, baggage claim, baggage handling rooms, equipment rooms and other offices.
The second floor includes waiting and departure area, commercial area, etc. After check-in, immigration, security screening on the first floor, passengers will arrive to their waiting area on the second floor by escalators, elevators and stairs.
The second floor is also for departure, divided into waiting area and commercial service areas. The waiting hall is arranged in linear so that after security screening, passengers will approach to the waiting area through the commercial area, to increase the potential airport business revenue. For each boarding gate, nursing room, smoking room, business center, shopping center, and other service or consumption functions should be considered.
Inside the terminal, it is designed to make the vision clear with no obstruction, and a transparent space is provided. The whole layout is compact, partition-free, to pursue the maximum efficiency and benefits.
The project will commence immediately after the official groundbreaking on November 21, 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in 22 months.
The runway rehabilitation project involves the excavation of significant sections of Runway 04-22, and asphalt pavement of these sections, rehabilitation of parts of the taxiways, airside geometric improvements including a new turn-pad at runway end 04, widening of taxiway fillets, grading of the runway strip, storm-water drainage improvements, runway and taxiway marking, rehabilitation of the Aeronautical Ground Lighting (AGL) system, amongst other things.
The last overlay of the runway was done in 1978. The project is financed through loans totaling $30 million from The Saudi Fund, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and the Government of Liberia.
The contractor selected through a competitive bidding process is Sinohydro Corporation Ltd. The contract was signed on September 5, 2016 and duration is estimated at 10 months from date of commencement in September.
The expected outcome will be a fully rehabilitated runway at RIA, which will increase airline confidence as a safe airport for their flights. It is also intended to make Liberia fully and unconditionally compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.