The Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), Wil Bako Freeman, has disclosed that the US$50 million terminal project at the Roberts International Airport will be ready for use by the end of this year.
Mr. Freeman made the disclosure on Tuesday, September 11, 2017 in an interview with the Daily Observer.
Construction of the new terminal began in 2017 under the terms of a loan agreement the Liberian Government under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed with the People’s Republic of China.
The $50 million is a concessionary loan that Liberia will pay with interest within 25 years.
The terminal has been erected and contractors are working daily to ensure that it is ready as promised. The two boarding bridges from the building to the turn pad have been connected as engineering while pavement is also ongoing around the terminal. At the same time, construction work is taking place on a water treatment plant and a standby power house.
According to Mr. Freeman, the terminal is expandable and may be expanded in the future if Liberia begins to attract a greater flow of passengers.
When completed and dedicated, the new terminal will be the first up to date modern terminal ever at the RIA since the construction of that airport in the 1940s during the Second World War.
Areas currently used for passengers are medium sized buildings which also host authorities of the airport. The boarding rooms are so congested that each can barely host 100 passengers.
According to the LAA MD, upon completion, most of the buildings, including those used as terminals, will be demolished to create space for entry to the new terminal. He said they are also contemplating improving the human resource capacity of the airport to meet conventional acceptance in dealing with passengers at arrival and departure.
There will also be restaurant and other business areas and, Mr. Freeman said, the management will soon publish a bidding advertisement for Liberian businesses and others to compete.
On the other hand, the RIA Managing Director also spoke of an US$11 million concession agreement between RIA and GLS-NAS to build a cargo terminal and operate it at the airport. This, he said, will take a year to complete and will put Liberia in competition with other countries that are attracting huge flow of passengers and other businesses in the region. He noted that because Liberia does not have such a facility in the air transport business, it charges a ton of cargo as low as US6 cents.
One challenging situation that caused Liberia to lose business with some airlines, including Air France, was the dilapidated condition of the runway.
A $30 million loan from the Saudi Group and Arab Bank for Africa has also helped to address the runway and it now has the best led light which, the MD said, is the first he knows in Africa.
He said the runway in air transport business is very essential in attracting airlines because it is the main area of operation for the airplane.
Also to be completed shortly is the old terminal building that is undergoing renovation. According to Freeman, when completed, the building will host the offices of the Liberia Airport Authority.
Anthony P. Togba II, Project Manager at the RIA, said the terminal is the first of its kind here in Liberia and meets all the requirements of a modern terminal.
He described it as a “Steel structure building with a glass window curtain,” also disclosing that materials inside the building are aluminum steel. He said they also used concrete pile underneath with steel for the foundation, which accordingly guarantees the durability of the building.
Meanwhile, there are currently 10 airlines operating in Liberia, and chief among them are Kenya Airways, KLM, Royal Air Maroc and Brussels Airlines.
LAA Managing Director Freeman said they are also working on the active resumption of domestic air transport and, toward this end, some airstrips including those in Sasstown, Tappita and Rivercess are undergoing repair for this purpose.