FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

24 July 2014

Liberia: RIA to Hit Modern Standard Soon, New Airport Works Underway

Monrovia — The Roberts International Airport is the largest airport in Liberia and is one of the oldest airports, perhaps in Africa with its origin dating far back in 1942 when the United States signed a defense pact with the country, but the airport has been in ruins for years since some parts were destroyed as a consequence of the Liberian civil wars. Located 35 miles from Monrovia, the airport was built by the US Government in 1943, and was used to support U.S. Air Force activities during World War II.

After the war, the airport served as the principal hub for Pan American Airlines (Pan AM) in Africa. From the end of World War II to 1985, Pan Am managed the airport terminal, which was under contract with the government of Liberia. The RIA served as a major hub for the African region,but during the Liberian civil war, the main terminal building suffered major damage and despite efforts to rehabilitate the airport, it is yet to meet its prewar status.

Late 2013, the government of Liberia and the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) started negotiations and arrangements for the full rehabilitation of the airport, but the entire process was stalled due to an imbroglio involving the former head of the airport authority, Ellen Corkrum. With Corkrum now out of the country and the government pursuing an indictment against her, authorities at the airport are now making headways in restarting rehabilitation works.

Request For An Expression of Interest

The new management of the airport in conjunction with the Airport Authority has been publishing information for Expression of Interest from qualified firms as preparations get underway for works on the airport. FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the current Board management is making a bold play working with stakeholders to fast track a new airport.

Interest to source funding

In some of the publications, the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) is inviting eligible international firms to submit Expressions of Interest to source funding and build a new state-of-the-art Airport Facility, with the potential to become a key hub for air transport in West Africa. The LAA maintains that expression of interest for the new airport should include cargo handling, storage and processing facilities, fuel supply terminals and parking garages to name a few.

Stated the LAA "The LAA is also open to a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) relationship, should the terms and conditions articulated prove feasible. All facilities must meet relevant International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. The interested firms must submit a proposal that includes at a minimum, the following-Technical drawings of the proposed terminal and other ancillary facilities; Technical data on a modern hotel/conference center complex, that are representative of an Airport City; Technical proposal for an airline to use RIA as a hub; Technical proposal for establishing a "free zone" manufacturing complex; Timeline for the construction of the proposed facility; Outline for the Operation of the airport; and Financial Analysis of the associated costs and suggested financing options".

Qualification issues

With performance becoming a problem for some companies contracted for construction works in Liberia, the LAAA insists that it is seeking for qualified firms to perform work on the airport in order to meet international standards and is also requesting technical capacities to design, construct, finance, maintain and/or operate an international airport of a similar size or larger.

As part of the requirements the LAA is requesting that Companies applying to perform work on the airport should have an annual turnover which exceeds $70 million in each of the last three financial years and the firm should supply audited financial statements for the previous three years. The LAA is also requiring that firms will be selected in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission Act of Liberia, indicating that firms may express their intentions singularly, or in a consortium with other firms.

According to the LAA if the expression of interest is from a consortium of firms, information on each of the firms within the consortium is required. The airport utilized both a main and ancillary terminal prior to the war, which were both damaged during the civil crisis.

Additionally, RIA has an asphalt runway measuring 11,000 ft (3,353m), which is being used by international carriers. The runway is shortly to undergo full renovation commencing the latter part of this year. Currently, RIA uses two of its ancillary terminals and its asphalt runway to service international carriers as well as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). UNMIL maintains a helicopter and an airplane facility at the same airport.

The current terminals have the capacity to handle 330 passengers every 30 minutes, and passenger numbers currently stand at 115,800 outbound and 112,500 inbound as of the last operational year. Given the current trajectory, total passenger numbers for RIA are projected to grow to at least 450, 000 over the next few years. The LAA says there is the potential for a further significant increase in both carrier and passenger numbers over this period as investments in Liberia continue to increase, particularly with the discovery of oil.

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