14 August 2018

Namibia: Safety Concerns At Walvis Bay Airport

The emergency warning system at the Walvis Bay airport has been out of order for a year now, potentially jeopardising the safety of passengers.

The system, which is called the passenger amenities system, falls under the airport's compliance and safety measures. It was installed by Connect24 on 22 July 2016, but stopped working by 12 July 2017.

Namibia Airports Company (NAC) spokesperson Dan Kamati confirmed that the system has not been working due to an electronic fault which had caused damage to a component.

He said the NAC has initiated processes to remedy the situation, but these have not been finalised.

Kamati said a new tender was issued in February this year, and in the process, Connect24 had been requested to submit mandatory documentation. But they did not comply, and the tender process was thus halted.

"We foresee the process being finalised as soon as all the necessary documentation has been made available. The estimated cost is approximately N$45 000, inclusive of value added tax," he added.

Connect24 chief executive officer Tiaan van Niekerk said they issued three quotations to the NAC this year for the repair of the system.

He said the first quotation was not accepted, and on the second one, the NAC did not get back to them. The third one is still with the NAC for consideration. Van Niekerk added that in the past, there had been issues with the NAC paying them late. They have now thus requested that for any further work done, payment be made upfront. Asked about the importance of the system, Van Niekerk said it was vital to the operations of the airport.

"It is a great danger" to operate without it, and in cases of emergencies such as fires, passengers would not be warned in advance, he stressed. Kamati said passengers would still be warned through automated messages.

"The PA system is connected to the fire alarm, not emergency services. In the event of a possible fire within the terminal building, an automated voice message thus requests passengers and staff to evacuate the terminal building," he noted. In addition to the automated voice messages, Kamati said they would also make use of the airport's fire and rescue services' response team and a secondary communications system, such as VHF radios, in the event of an emergency.

"Within the terminal building, there are numerous evacuation signs and routes to follow. Identified assembly points are established, and people are ushered to these points during an emergency or perceived emergency," he continued.

Since the emergency warning system forms part of the mandatory compliance and safety measures, sources have asked how the airport was able to get its licence then.

The Namibia Civil Aviation Authority's executive director, Angelina Simana, has not responded to questions sent to her a week ago.

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