President George Weah said his government is prepared to make the Roberts International Airport (RIA) regain its rightful place as cargo and aviation hub in West Africa.
In his remarks during the dedication of the new RIA passenger’ terminal, runway and the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA)’s office complex on Thursday July 25, 2019 at the RIA in Margibi County, President Weah said his government will expand the airport’s facilities and capacity, including the construction of the new terminal ‘B.’
He expressed gratitude to former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf under whose leadership the project commenced, as well as members of the 53rd Legislature that ratified the financing agreement for the project.
President Weah also expressed gratitude that Liberia now has a “new airport,” while calling on Liberians to be proud of the new face of the country. He indicated that Liberia now has a talking airport.
“My sincere gratitude to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for making the dream come true. Our bilateral friendship, which is based on the one China policy, remains strong and it is a win-win for both countries,” President Weah said.
Meanwhile, the President has warned the management of LAA not to misuse the facilities, but to keep the them clean at all times.
“I will be watching, inspecting, because this is a facelift of the country. I will come here any time to check on the facilities without further announcement,” President Weah said.
The project is financed by China Exim Bank in the amount of US$50 million through a concessional loan.
John Allan Klayee, LAA managing director, lauded President Weah for his “timeless engagement and effort toward the progress of the airport.”
“As we strive to execute our mandate and make our contribution to the success of the Pro-poor Agenda to which you gave birth, we can also recall with deep gratitude the tremendous stride of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, particularly the Ministry of Public Works contractors from the project implementation unit and those institutions and persons of goodwill that identified with the project,” Klayee said.
He said the three landmark projects, which began in 2017 have all been successfully completed.
He said of the projects, the runway was the first to be completed with the latest technological equipment in place, including modern landing and lighting systems, which have made it easier for pilots to land and takeoff at ease without complaining of poor visibility.
The new terminal has two jet bridges, two escalators, two elevators, a remote gate, baggage carrot cells, 10-check-in counters, a flight information display system, eight stores, a restaurant, four Boeing gates, business class lounge, spacious immigration facility and tour gate. The terminal also contains a water treatment plant, and pilot substation outside.
The terminal is expected to process about 350,000 to 500,000 passengers per year; a major breakaway from the past in terms of space.
Klayee said while everyone is excited about the new terminal and its beauty, the management is equally concerned about its maintenance and has assured the senators of doing all possible to keep the structures clean and functional at all times.
He said the management has begun in-house training program with the help of some partners to ensure a total Liberian ownership in the coming years.
Mr. Klayee said the training is geared towards expanding the capacities of LAA’s staff in technical services, operations and administration, as well as provide maintenance and repair services on one hand and to provide new customer service culture, which will resonate with LAA’s customers and the clients.
He said the LAA’s authorities have been making a business case by negotiating with airlines to increase the traffic and the process is on course.
Zhou Yuxiao, Chinese Ambassador for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Affairs, said the new terminal demonstrates the relations between the two countries and a shining example of China-Africa cooperation, while expressing honored to be back in Liberia to attend the dedication of the RIA new terminal. Amb. Zhou served as Ambassador of China to Liberia from June 2007 to April 2011 before being reassigned to Zambia from 2011 to 2014.
Amb. Zhou lauded the government and people of Liberia for the successful completion of the projects, thus expressing gratitude to the Liberian contractors.
“The RIA’s new terminal plays a pivotal role in the economy and social development; a job beautifully done by China engineering company. This modern terminal with advanced equipment and completed functions will become an important facility for the airport,” Amb. Zhou said.
He said new terminal will provide passengers with high quality services remarkably improved airport transportation efficiency and raised Liberia’s stature in West Africa.
The terminal, Zhou said, will also contribute to the single airport transport market and strengthen flight connectivity between Africa and the regional belt.
He added, “This new terminal was constructed with a concessional loan from China, which was also attached with great importance from the Chinese and Liberian governments.”
LAA’s Board Chairman Musa Shannon said the historical significance of the project brings back memories of excitement and prosperous times in Liberia’s aviation history. He recalled that in 1974, the last new terminal building was opened and, “for the first time in nearly 30 years, we have the opportunity to re-brand and re-establish ourselves globally, regionally and continentally.”
He said it is imperative for Liberian visions, policies and strategies, include industries best standards, high safety and security standards and professional work ethics that will make RIA one of the best airports in the region, stating that “Liberians should be proud of this achievement.”
He lauded former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the former managing director Bako Freeman for their pivotal roles played, as well as the Chinese Government in making the dream a reality for all Liberians.
Mr. Shannon described the new RIA terminal as the new face of Liberia, adding: “This nation must no longer take itself for granted, but continue to strive for greatness.”