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flying high

Guyana’s Flagship Airport Embarks On $150 Million Transformation

C

heddi Jagan International Airport is about to undergo a dramatic transformation that will enable Guyana’s flagship airport to receive larger, heavier aircraft — boosting direct passenger traffic to and from Europe and North America.

The $150 million project, to be financed mostly through a $130 million loan from China’s ExportImport Bank, will be finished by 2015. The idea is to turn the airport — located 25 miles south of Georgetown — into a busy regional hub that could eventually link northern Brazil and the Caribbean with Africa. “The biggest challenge we’ve had over the years with CJIA is the length of the runway and the size of our terminal building,” said Ramesh Ghir, CEO of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corp., which oversees CJIA. “If we were to process three flights at the same time, the terminal building would be filled, and we’d have overflows. This leads to inefficiency; you cannot process passengers in a timely manner this way.” In 2012, the airport handled 543,000 passengers, a 16 percent increase over 2011 volumes; this followed a 7 percent increase the year before. That means traffic at CJIA is growing at twice the regional rate of 8 percent a year, and more than three times the worldwide annual growth rate of 5 percent. Much of this jump in air traffic is linked to a boom in the Guyanese gold and diamond mining sector, as well as increasing offshore oil exploration and rising numbers of overseas Guyanese coming to visit friends and relatives back home. In addition, air traffic activities (overflights) have jumped from 40,961 in 2007 to 61,338 four years later — a 49 percent increase. To cope with more demand, CJIA’s runway will be lengthened from the current 7,500 feet to 10,500 feet. Likewise, the new passenger terminal will measure 14,000 square meters, twice the size of the current terminal. It will also have eight boarding bridges to protect passengers from the elements; the current terminal has none. One additional parking position may also be dedicated to cargo. At present, CJIA has five duty-free retail concessions — three shops selling Guyanese rums and liqueurs as well as premium spirits brands, the New Era gift and souvenir shop, and a King’s Jewelry outlet. But that’s likely to double or even triple once the new

An Artist’s rendering of the renovated Cheddi Jagan International Airport which is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

terminal is finished. Other features will include restaurants, escalators, elevators, improved CCTV monitoring and upgraded bathroom facilities. The Cheddi Jagan International Airport project is being carried out by China Harbour Engineering Co., a Beijing-based Ramesh Ghir, CEO of conglomerate whose 8,000 Cheddi Jagan employees operate in more International than 80 countries. The Airport Corp. world-renowned (CJIAC). international contractor is currently involved in projects valued at around $10 billion. The company said it has been “making major strides in its efforts to improve infrastructure development throughout the Caribbean” in recent years. Besides Guyana, it has also secured major contracts in Jamaica, Mexico, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. In April 2010, China Harbour established its regional headquarters in Jamaica, where it’s heavily involved in the $400 million Jamaica Development Infrastructure Program. Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, China Harbour is

building a bridge to link the islands of Little Abaco and North Abaco, as well as a cruise ship port in George Town — capital of the Cayman Islands — and a giant container terminal at the Mexican port of Manzanillo. “China Harbour comes to Guyana with a strong and positive trade record of highquality infrastructure work in Latin America and [has] completed significant airport projects around the world,” said the company’s general manager, Zhongdong Tang, at a recent Photo: Larry Luxner groundbreaking event in Guyana. “Airport safety will be increased. Guyana will become a more viable option for trans-Atlantic flights, leading to great airlift for passengers and cargo,” he added. Guyana has also made significant headway forging stronger air links with the United States. In late March, the country inked an “open skies” air services agreement with Washington. The accord was signed by Brent Hardt, the U.S. ambassador to Guyana, and by Robeson Benn, Guyana’s minister of public works. Open skies agreements allow unrestricted air service by airlines of both countries, between and beyond the other’s territory. They also allow airline

We can become what the Panama Canal did for maritime traffic. Guyana can become a hub, and that’s why investing in this new airport is so critical.

— Mohamed Irfaan Ali, acting minister of tourism, industry and commerce for Guyana

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April • May 2013

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