Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 July 2009
Issue No. 954
Sky High
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

A new gateway for Alexandria

Egypt's historic Mediterranean city of Alexandria is set to have a unique new airport by the end of this year to serve as the main gateway for the country's second largest city. Amirah Ibrahim visited the almost completed facility

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Soon, Alexandria's aging airport of Al-Nozha will be retired in favour of a new state-of-the-art airport of Borg Al-Arab. Located 40 kilometres southwest of Alexandria, Borg Al-Arab airport, has been upgraded with a Japanese loan of $55 million, in addition to LE35 millions provided by Egyptian banks..

The airport basically served as a military airport for the northern coast area. Ten years ago, civil aviation authorities tended to use its facilities as a substitute for the aging Al-Nozha airport, and to handle part of the growing cargo business that threatened to overwhelm Cairo Airport's capacity at the time. Nevertheless, it remained a secondary airport for Alexandria, even as the main airport, Al-Nozha airport, suffered from deteriorating services and navigation difficulties.

It was only three years ago when aviation authorities received an offer by the Japanese government to provide a soft loan through Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). At an interest rate of 1.5 per cent, the loan receives a seven-year grace period and is payable over a 25-year period.

Last week, Aviation Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, accompanied by his top air transport aids, paid a visit to the facilities currently under construction at Borg Al-Arab scheduled to complete by next October. "For local development priorities in Egypt, it is essential to accelerate the improvement of the transportation infrastructure. In the area of civil aviation, this airport promises to provide the local population as well as foreign tourist visitors and businessmen with a first-class facility in terms of safety, convenience and the volume of passengers and cargoes it is designed to deal with," stated Shafiq.

Figures show that there are 22 regional and international airlines that are operating regular flights to Alexandria at present. This growing demand encouraged aviation authorities to push expansion plans of the new facility of Borg Al-Arab to replace the old one, which does not have enough capacity. The number is expected to increase to 32 airlines operating to Alexandria after expansion works are completed.

"Almost 70 per cent of construction work has been completed in the new terminal which adds a capacity of 1.2 million passengers per annum to the airport, taking its total capacity to 4.5 million," explained Shafiq. "Soon we will have a new facility which is capable to serve exports business not only in Alexandria but also other delta governments," he added.

The fact is that the project adds an upgrade to the airport's passenger and cargo handling capacity which is set to reach 10,000 tons, in response to growing demand by agricultural and industrial development in the northern coastal zone.

The site of the project is also an area where various industries, such as petrochemicals, metal refining, agriculture and tourism have been expanding. Given these developments, the number of air passengers visiting Alexandria and its vicinity is projected to increase from 440,000 in 2002 to one million by 2014.

The expansion project of Borg Al-Arab airport is due to serve the governmental plans to establish a new community at New Alexandria City, located to the west of the old city comprising an area of 389 feddanes. The new city is planned to be linked to the Borg Al-Arab airport through the ring road 30 minutes away.

Designed in a boat shape, the terminal consists of three floors. The ground floor is allocated for checking in and luggage handling. The second floor is allocated for arrivals, both domestic and international, in addition to administrative offices and airlines offices. The third floor is allocated for departures, both domestic and international, immigration procedures and a VIP hall. Commercial activities are spread among the three floors.

"The project involves the construction of a terminal over 22 million metres in area. The terminal building contains shopping areas, a food court, travel offices and other travel services," explained Sayed Hindawi, chairman of the Egyptian Airports Company which controls all Egyptian airports except for Cairo International. "More 10 tarmacs are being constructed, one of which is allocated for freight business."

Hindawi added that the infrastructure works of the project are estimated at LE24 million in addition to constructing a warehouse for storage that costs LE8 million. The project also includes improving and expanding both the main and the narrow runways at a cost estimated by LE23 million.

Four tubes are to be provided to the terminal to serve aircrafts plus a car park for 348 vehicles, a fuel unit, fire fighting station and a control tower.

As for Al-Nozha Airport's future, no decision had been made yet whether to shut down the old airport or allocate it for limited operations. nfortunately, the airport cannot be modernised or expanded to cope with both aviation and tourism ambitious plans in Alexandria.

"The old airport suffers from building violations in the area, which caused the airport to lose two of its navigation passages, and in turn disqualifying the airport from accepting wide-body aircraft," commented Hindawi.

Facilities developed

ï International Passenger Terminal Building with total floor area of 22,000 square metres

ï Cargo Terminal Building of 2,000 square metres

ï Control Tower

ï Administration Building of 3,000 square metres

ï Rescue and Fire Station of 800 square metres

ï Primary Power Station

ï Water Tank

ï Sewage Treatment Plant

ï Taxiways and aprons for 10 aircraft stands

ï Access Road and Car Park

ïCCTV, FIDS, CUTE, Building Monitoring, access control and all necessary systems and equipment

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