Indications have emerged that the new passenger terminal at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), which was pre-dedicated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday, will increase passenger volume and provide better services comparable elsewhere in the world.
The opening of the new state of the art passenger terminal, according to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will give RIA a new face and put Liberia on par with sister international airports in the West African sub-region, the rest of the African continent and the world at large.
President Sirleaf recalled that in 2006, when she assumed the leadership of the country, Liberia was faced with several hard choices; one of those hard choices is the Robert International Airport and today “we are proud to have a new and modern state of the art passenger terminal.”
The new passenger terminal building is arranged in two floors. The first floor includes check-in hall, inspection area, waiting area, arrival hall, baggage claim, baggage handling rooms, equipment rooms and other offices.
The second floor includes waiting and departure area, commercial area, etc. after check-in, immigration, and after security screening on the first floor, passengers will arrive in their waiting area on the second floor by elevators and stairs.
“We are all aware of the devastating effects of Liberia’s civil conflict on all facets of the country’s infrastructure. Our only international airport sustained extensive destruction of its key facilities and amenities,” the President said.
“Today, coupled with the completion of rehabilitation works on a once unsafe runway, this modern terminal will contribute immensely to an increase in traffic volumes and the overall passenger travel experiences at the RIA.”
Madam Sirleaf stated that as Liberia continues to strengthen its excellent and cordial bilateral relationship with the People’s Republic of China, “I want to use this occasion to again extend special thanks and the deepest of our appreciation to His Excellency, Zhang Yue, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China for his steadfast leadership and intervention on this project.”
She said many people and institutions also worked tirelessly to ensure that the project was realized and however used the occasion to blast her critics that those who spew hatred, fake news and misinformation will be blessed by the spirit of Christmas.
Speaking earlier, Wil Bako Freeman, managing director of Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), expressed gratitude to China Harbour Engineering Company for the tremendous work, time and effort in bringing the new terminal project thus far.
“We are deeply expressed with their level of organization and execution. Thanks to our able consultants, WSP. The pre-dedication of the new passenger terminal certainly put Liberia on the map of economic recovery and a big success.
“This historic dedication today begins the process leading to the formal opening and operation of the RIA new passenger terminal and will significantly boost the chances of re-gaining our pre-war status as a regional hub in West Africa and a destination of choice for travelers,” said Mr. Freeman.
WSP is one of Canada’s Leading Engineering Consultants.
Mr. Freeman said the RIA is Liberia’s main and only international airport that became a major hub in the West African sub-region in pre-war Liberia and played home to key international air carriers.
He added that the new passenger terminal’s dedication yesterday cannot be overemphasized because the 1989 to 2003 civil crisis seriously affected the gains that were made on the airport’s infrastructure.
Since then, Freeman said, the RIA has managed its terminal and passenger operations through the old cargo facility (terminal A), which was converted as a result of the burning of the pre-war terminal, and the old KLM terminal, refurbished in 2010 and now terminal B.
He said the Ebola crisis in 2014 also had a devastating impact on the airport operations reducing the number of international and sub-regional carriers from about nine to two airlines.
As the Ebola crisis ended and the Liberian economy steadily grew, RIA also began to experience an increase in traffic due to the return of some of the major carriers with added frequencies thereby putting pressure on the current infrastructure and facilities especially the terminals, giving rise to the need for the new terminal upgrade and expansion project, he added.
“In line with our Airport Master Plan,” Mr. Freeman said “the dedication marks the first phase of the expansion project and the terminal meets International Air Transport Association regulations of class D service standards.
The Liberia Airport Authority Board Chairman, Gbezhongar Findley, said Liberia’s economic growth and development greatly depend on the entry points of the country.
Findley said the construction of the airport comes at a critical point of President Sirleaf’s administration. “Today we can say to you, your efforts, your time you have put into this project to make it a success, we are here today as the champion of this project we want to congratulate you,” Findley told President Sirleaf.
Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Yue said the project is financed by China Exim Bank in the amount of US$50 million through a concessional loan.
He noted that the runway is funded by the Saudi Fund and the Arab Bank and supported by the United States Government.
Ambassador Zhang explained that the new terminal covers an area of more than 5000-Square meters and designed for an average annual passenger volume of approximately 320,000 persons.
He said this is the first time that China has offered a concessional loan to Liberia.
The rehabilitation project involved the excavation of significant sections of the runway, and asphalt pavement, rehabilitation of parts of the taxiways, and airside geometric improvements that include a new turn pad at the end of the runaway.