Windhoek — The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) yesterday assured the nation of no connection between the upcoming security audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), scheduled for 18 to 28 November, and a possible downgrade of any Namibian airport, particularly the country's flagship airport, Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA). This was confirmed during a briefing by the NAC board, led by its chairman Dr Leake Hangala, during which he confirmed that NAC, together with government, has embarked on a N$245 million temporary upgrading of HKIA.
The project, of which N$95.2 million will be funded directly from NAC's coffers and the balance by the state, aims to upgrade the check-in hall, security screening points, arrivals hall, luggage handling areas as well as the installation of a closed-circuit television and intrusion detection systems.
Congestion at the airport has not only been causing discomfort for passengers but was also creating issues pertaining to the compliance of aviation regulations.
"A downgrade can only emanate from a safety audit and in this case our efforts now will indeed consolidate and eliminate any areas of concern, going forward. It is also important [to note] that the upcoming ICAO audit is not a destination for NAC to pass the audit but the beginning of a journey to implement a sustainable healthy safety, security and facilitation system at HKIA," he said.
He reiterated that HKIA has reached its limit regarding passenger capacity and therefore requires urgent expansion and upgrading to meet the demands of increasing aircraft and passenger numbers as well as more stringent international security and safety requirements.
As a result of the numerous challenges facing HKIA, government has appointed a Special Cabinet Committee, led by Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, as well as a Technical Committee to the Special Cabinet Committee comprising of permanent secretaries and the NAC. Government also re-enforced the NAC's Board of Directors and relaxed procurement procedures to enable NAC to urgently address the situation at the country's main airport.
Meanwhile, Hangala noted that ICAO introduced new standards that will become applicable on November 16. This will make Namibia the first country to be audited against the new standards. He added that NAC and relevant stakeholders have managed to close various security gaps and will continue to address evolving issues even after the audit.
The issues that have been addressed thus far include improving emergency preparedness, reshaping the main passenger screening point (to comply with ICAO standards), procuring and installing additional screening machines, increasing human capacity, implementing fast track lanes for crew, passengers with reduced mobility and families with children.
Hangala also revealed that today, NAC will operationalise the apron buses that were purchased for improved passenger facilitation and that retail space has been reduced to increase screening space in the departure hall.
"The HKIA immigration access was also limited as there were only two security checkpoints, which resulted in congestion and long queues at times. Outside the airport, terminal long queues often form when two or three large airlines arrive at the same time, while the baggage collections section currently only has two carousels. These will all be improved in the envisaged project we are currently busy with," said Hangala.
The multi-million dollar upgrading at HKIA is expected to a have a minimal effect on current airport operations, which will continue as usual. Also, the old terminal, known as Terminal One, which is currently used for VIP movements, will also form part of the work to be done.
A local company, Kerry McNamara Architects, have been appointed as the lead consultants to design the temporary upgrade. NAC anticipated that a contractor will commence with the work by March 2019, with the upgrading expected to be done towards the end of next year.