Dar es Salaam — Tanzania will take full control of its airspace in one-and-a-half years following the signing of an agreement for the procurement and installation of four modern surveillance radars.
The government, through the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), yesterday signed a Sh61.3 billion contract in Dar es Salaam with the French firm Thales Air System (SAS),which is expected to install the radar systems at four airports.
Tanzania currently depends on outdated equipment installed at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam in 2002. The country is thus able to monitor only 25 per cent of its aviation airspace, leaving the rest under the watch of neighbouring countries. TCAA director general Hamza Johari signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania, while Thales regional sales manager Abel Carr represented the contractor.
Mr Johari said TCAA would purchase the radars with internally sourced funds, of which 45 per cent would be from the authority's various sources. The government will provide the remaining 55 per cent. He added that the project was part of wider efforts to secure the country's air space, adding that the French firm won the tender through competitive bidding which involved five bidders.
"Airspace security is of paramount importance... with these four radars we will be able to monitor our entire airspace and beyond," Mr Johari said.
The new equipment will be installed at JNIA, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Songwe Airport in Mbeya and Mwanza Airport.
Due to a shortage of the relevant equipment in Tanzania, the eastern triangle portion of the country's airspace is currently being monitored by Kenya.
This has been denying TCAA about Sh 1 billion in fees annually from airlines using that portion of the airspace, according to figures obtained from the authority. TCAA has already written to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao), requesting to be given the mandate of managing the eastern triangle portion. Rwanda is on record as having written to Icao, requesting to be allowed to manage the central and western parts of Tanzania's airspace.
Speaking during yesterday's signing ceremony, the Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Prof Makame Mbarawa, said he was hopeful that the country would be in full control of its entire airspace after the new equipment was commissioned within 18 months.
"The country is looking forward to having adequate capacity to monitor the eastern triangle, thus necessitating the need for the portion to be put under our control. "After getting the area back, Tanzania will be in a position to earn at least Sh1 billion annually, which it currently losses to Kenya," he said. The eastern triangle has been under Kenya's surveillance for the past 39 years.
"With the advanced surveillance system we are putting in place, I'm optimistic the area will be given back to Tanzania because I'm sure we will be able to convince Icao that we will be able to manage it effectively," Prof Mbarawa said.
Earlier this year, TCAA installed a high frequency radio station in Tanga to monitor part of its airspace.
Tanzania Air Operators Association (Taoa) executive secretary Laurence Paul commended the decision to buy the radars, saying the move would draw more airlines to the country's airspace.
"The bold decision to procure four radars could not have come at a better time. We need to convince the international civil aviation industry that our airspace is secure and that we are in full control of it," he said.
TCCA has set aside an unspecified sum for training 33 experts who will be part of the team operating the new radars.