in Features / Airports

A Bole new world…

Posted 2 November 2017 · Add Comment

Addis Ababa Bole International Airport – Ethiopia's main hub – handles more than 300 daily departures and close to 10 million passengers per annum. But soon that won't be enough, which is why the facility is getting a $345 million upgrade. Kaleyesus Bekele reports on the reasons behind the move and the latest progress.

As Ethiopia’s aviation industry is growing steadily, Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is becoming more and more congested.
The national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has grown fast in the last decade. It is acquiring new and more modern aircraft and is expanding its passenger and cargo destinations in all over the world. According to IATA, Ethiopian became the largest carrier in Africa in 2014, overtaking South African Airways and EgyptAir. The airline grew fivefold in seven years. Today it operates 90 aircraft and serves 105 international destinations in five continents.
General aviation in Ethiopia is also growing. Charter flight operators and pilot training schools are being established and all of them are based in Addis Ababa.
The Addis Ababa airport was first built in its current location in the 1960s, when Ethiopian Airlines joined the jet age by introducing the B720 jetliner in Africa.
In 2003, the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE) inaugurated terminal II, which has a design capacity of handling six million passengers a year, and dedicated terminal I for domestic flights. At that time, the terminal was pronounced as a white elephant project and critics commented that it was too big for a poor country. They claimed that there was not enough traffic to fill the terminal.
However, to the surprise of many, the terminal became full only 10 years after its inauguration. EAE CEO, Tewodros Dawit, said the design capacity of the terminal was six million but it is now handling more than nine million passengers annually. “When it was built, we believed that the terminal would be adequate for 20 years,” Dawit revealed.
Ethiopian Airlines transports more than eight million passengers yearly and 70% of the passenger traffic to Addis Ababa is on transit. The airline, which styles itself as the ‘New Spirit of Africa’, has 55 destinations in Africa.
A large number of passengers from all corners of Africa transit through Addis Ababa en route to Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America.
Dawit said the main contributing factor for the quick increase in passenger traffic was the unpredicted growth of Ethiopian Airlines in the past few years. “No one forecast that the national airline would grow at this pace. The Ethiopian economy, too, has been growing in double digits in the past 10 years. This is also one of the contributing factors for the surge in passenger traffic.”
To mitigate the problem, the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise, which aspires to become the best airport service provider in Africa by 2025, launched a $345 million terminal expansion project in 2015. EAE hired China Construction and Communication Company (CCCC) to undertake the project, which comprises of three main components – the expansion of terminal 2, terminal 1, and the construction of a new VIP terminal.
Priority was given to the expansion of terminal 2, which handles all the international flights.
Work on phase one of the terminal 2 expansion project began in January 2015. A Singapore airport design company, CPG, conducted the design of all the expansion work.
The Ethiopian Government secured the project finance from the EXIM Bank of China.
Supervision work is being carried out by a French consulting firm, ADPI and the project is slated for completion in January 2018.
Hailu Lemmu, chief site engineer for the project, said the passenger terminal expansion work includes the construction of a new building on both the left and right wing of the existing terminal II, with a floor area of 74,000sqm. The existing terminal floor area is 48,000sqm.
The new terminal will have a vast commercial area for duty free shops, restaurants and cafes. It will have two escalators and eight elevators, which can shuttle 218 passengers at a time.
The terminal will have a three-level access way, arrival and departure levels. It will be connected with the domestic terminal, allowing passengers coming from international flights to have smooth transfer to domestic flights.
Lemmu said that a state-of-the-art baggage-handling system, security control and fire control system had been purchased.
Elevators, escalators and other airport-specialised equipment are being manufactured and assembled in both China and Europe. The new terminal will have four new boarding bridges to add to the existing five.
The expansion project includes the construction of a 560-metre access bridge to the terminal, which will be 13 metres high. Vehicle scanning machines will be installed at the bridge gate. Lemmu said 80% of the work on the bridge is complete.
A vast parking area, which can accommodate more than 2,500 vehicles, will also be built.
A five-floor parking building will be constructed in the future in a separate development project.
According to the chief engineer, 52% of the expansion work is complete. However, the January 2018 completion could be pushed back by around eights month.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, confirmed that the expansion project was delayed but, as of late, was progressing well.
“Our Addis Ababa Airport hub is competing with Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and other hubs in the region. Competition is not only in the air but it is also on the ground. We have to bring our airport facilities and services up to the global standards,” he said.
According to Lemmu, the delay has been caused by the challenging work of relocating all the electric, telephone, water pipe and sewerage lines. “We are undertaking the expansion work without interrupting the regular operation of the airport and that is very challenging,” he commented. “Procurement of different equipment and machines with the international standards set by CPG was also time taking,” he added.
EAE will soon embark on phase two of the expansion project, the construction of the VIP terminal and expansion of terminal one, which accommodates domestic and regional flights. The VIP terminal would serve senior government officials, diplomatic corps and heads of states.
Addis Ababa is often referred to as the political capital of Africa as it is the seat of the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission and other major international and regional organisations. Since the city hosts major international conferences the Ethiopian Government believed that the airport needed to have a dedicated terminal to VIPs.
Due to budget constraints the government decided first to build the regular passenger terminal. But, after securing additional funding from EXIM Bank of China, it decided to construct the VIP terminal.
EAE recently signed the agreement with the contractor, CCCC, for the construction of the VIP terminal on the left wing of the passenger terminal. Originally, the VIP terminal was planned to be on the right of terminal 2, next to the domestic terminal. However, since the domestic terminal will also expand, the plot of land would not be adequate for the VIP facility.
Lemmu said the final design of the VIP terminal is complete and EAE is handing over the site to the contractor.
He added that construction work on the VIP terminal was scheduled to begin as this edition of African Aerospace was going to press, and would be completed in two years.
The VIP terminal will have two levels. VIPs enter the terminal on the ground floor and then use elevators to access the second floor and board their aircraft. There will be three different access ways for diplomats, senior government officials and heads of states.
The terminal, among other things, will have various saloons, a press briefing room, conference room, restaurants, and a cocktail ballroom. A separate parking area will also be developed for the new terminal.
The VIP facility, together with the expansion of the domestic terminal, will cost $120 million.
“When the expansion project is complete, Addis Ababa Airport will be one of the best airport hubs in Africa,” s said. According to him, the expansion project will mitigate the existing congestion problem and will enable the airport company to upgrade its services to global standards.
The Ethiopian Government is also planning to develop an airport city outside of Addis Ababa. EAE, in collaboration with ADPI, is undertaking a study on possible sites.

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