The Roberts International Airport (RIA) is expected to undergo major renovation, including extensive work on the runway and the erection of a new, modern terminal, the Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), Wil Bako Freeman, has told the Daily Observer.
The LAA MD made the disclosure yesterday in an exclusive interview with this newspaper at his RIA office in Margibi County.
He stated that a series of discussions are ongoing with partners to see how best they can help rehabilitate the runway and build a new terminal at the airport.
“There are too many things that need to be done to improve the airport facilities, but right now, we will try to focus on two—the runway and the terminal,” he said.
Freeman, who is an economist and a highly motivated professional, said once the discussions are concluded, the renovation of the runway will immediately take off, hopefully by September or October this year.
According to him, the runway project is being financed by several international banks, to the tune of US$60 million. They include the European Investment Bank, US$27 million; the Saudi Fund, US$20 million; the Arab Bank for Development in Africa, US$10 million; and the government of Liberia, US$3 million. The runway project will take four years to complete.
As for the terminal, discussions are ongoing with the Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC) for the vetting of several international contractors. As soon as they meet the PPCC requirements, the contract will be awarded to the winning bidder. The international contractors include Eiffage, a French company; Lagan, an Irish company; Dawnus, an English company and SINO Hydro, a Chinese company. Once the contract is awarded to the winning bidder, there will be a three-month mobilization period, following which construction work will begin.
Mr. Freeman disclosed that the construction of the new terminal will cost another US$50 million.
According to him, a company has already been identified to design the terminal. That company is called China Harbor. They have been designated by the China Export Import Bank, which is putting up the US$50 million loan to execute the terminal building project.
As for the final approval of the design, the RIA Managing Director said this will be done by the government of Liberia.
“The reason we are trying to undertake these projects at the airport is to ensure that under my administration, RIA becomes one of the best and most modernized airports. Many of us travel every day and see other airports in different countries, we get quite embarrassed, especially when we think of our own back home—the RIA that needs to be improved and standardized,” Freeman said.
While awaiting the construction of the new runway, Mr. Freeman said they have done some emergency work on the existing runway to be able to accommodate in an acceptable manner the aircrafts landing here now.
Prior to being appointed RIA MD, Mr. Freeman served as Director of Operations and Regional Integration; and Director of Corporate Services at the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI), a specialized agency of ECOWAS working towards the realization of a common currency and Central Bank for West Africa.
Before Mr. Freeman joined WAMI, he served as the Program Coordinator (Head) of the Liberia Better Business Forum (LBBF) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.
Prior to IFC/World Bank, Mr. Freeman was a Senior Advisor to the Minister of Commerce in Liberia from October 2006 to September 2007. He earlier served as a Central Banker specializing in Banking Supervision and Market Risk Management with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York City, where he worked for nine years.
The LAA MD has a BA in Economics from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA.
To his further credit, Bako Freeman is also a Commissioned Bank Examiner for the Federal Reserve System in the USA.