The Ministry of Works and Transport is eager to have the P433-million expansion project of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport completed in time for FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa next year.
Minister Johnnie Swartz says the government is holding regular meetings with the contractor SinoHydro Corporation, and the consultant NACO-SSI, to ensure that the project is completed within time and cost.
Following a fast-track tender system last year, SinoHydro was given from June 10, 2008 to May 11, 2010 - a period of 23 months - to complete the project.
"We had a briefing from them in January and they said the work was on schedule," Swartz said recently. "We told them we would be coming back to check on them. They said they are slightly behind, especially on the runway because of the rains this year.
However, they are confident that they will finish on time.
"We are talking to them about the quality of the work because these types of projects are huge and complicated. They have told us that quality is their 'trademark' - that they focus on quality and timely project completion. This is in line with the government's policy that all projects should be of quality and delivered within time and budget."
Swartz and senior ministry and aviation officials held another meeting with the project's contractors and consultants earlier this month at which the Minister once again stressed the importance of meeting the 2010 deadline."We are talking here about diversification of Botswana's economy and one thing that will bring this about is tourism," he says.
"Tourists have been complaining that access to the country is a problem. From this expansion, we will talk to the private sector about the construction of more hotels and more facilities to support tourism."
The project consists of the construction of a new state-of-the-art terminal building and the extension of the existing runway compliant with the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) requirements. The two-phase project will see the construction of the new terminal on a separate site between the existing terminal and the aircraft apron and the construction of extensions to the main car park.
The second phase will involve the construction of a new building on the site of the existing terminal
NACO-SSI's Resident Principal, Mark Skelton, says the new terminal is meant to accommodate large bodied aircraft and to increase peak volume arrivals per hour. SSKIA currently accommodates 120 passengers per hour at peak; after May 2010, the expanded airport will be capable of handling up to 870 passengers per hour at peak. Areas have been identified to push this figure even further depending on passenger levels after the year 2025.
"The new and expanded airport will handle substantially more passengers because it is being designed for wide- bodied aircraft which can carry up to 400 people," Skelton says.
The expansion will also see the extension of the concrete runway by one kilometre to four kilometres and the construction of a new parallel asphalt taxiway running for four kilometres. Thirty-three additional hangar plots will also be included. WBHO Construction has been contracted for the runway side of the project.
Skelton says thus far, the challenge to the multimillion-pula project has been time.
"Constructing in time for the 2010 World Cup is a challenge," he says. "We also have the challenge of meeting our budget. But we are happy with the way the project has gone thus far. The decision to expand the airport was taken in April 2007. This was followed by commissioning designs and other tenders."
Another issue involves consulting with stakeholders who will be affected by the project. By dividing construction into two phases, the contractors and consultants are hoping to minimise disruption and keep the existing buildings and facilities fully operational.
"We have to deal with the stakeholders who have their day-to-day business around the airport," says Skelton. "These people have to be taken care of because we are changing their environment." The stakeholders referred to include car rental and tourist companies operating from within the existing terminal building.