Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Banjul International Airport - the one and only international airport in The Gambia – is to be upgraded and positioned as a regional hub that will link the West African sub-region with the rest of the world, the Director General of Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Mr. Fansu Bojang revealed on Wednesday while submitting the activity report of the Authority at the National Assembly.
“The GCAA is vigorously working towards achieving this objective,” he told the Lawmakers. “The Authority has put in place various incentives to encourage the creation of a home-based airline, a key requirement for the realization of a hub-and-spoke system. Running parallel with this, the Authority is also actively and progressively pursuing other existing major carriers with the view of luring them into Banjul.”
He said The Gambia has signed an Open Skies Agreement with the United States of America, and Banjul International Airport (BIA) has approved to serve as a Last Point of Departure for flights into the United States of America.
“In addition, it is hoped that major in-roads would be made in convincing major carriers, such as Delta Airlines and Ethopians Airlines, into serving Banjul as a destination in the very near future,” he said.
Mr. Bojang further said works that were executed in 2009, particularly within the context of BIA, continued to address the infrastructure requirements necessary for the realization of this goal.
“Now that the industry is breathing a bit of fresh air, following what was arguably, a financially suffocating period; the GCAA will continue to pursue discussions with government leading to the restoration of airport tariff to their pre-June 2007 levels as well as the introduction of, at least, the Airport Development Fee (ADF) in the fee structure of BIA,” he said.
He added that investments being made by the government in terms of expanding and renewing airport infrastructure and facilities make the generation of revenue through the introduction of a development levy compelling case.
He continued: “This will literally subsidize the cost of operating the Airport in order to maintain the desired level of international standards. This resulted in huge financial burden on the Authority while at the same time not achieving its anticipated result of attracting more carriers into BIA. Hence lifting of the hold would see the Authority gradually ease back onto a sound financial footing while maintaining international standards and continuing to reinvest into major developmental areas for the continued modernization of BIA.”
He explained that Phase 1 of the Banjul International Airport Improvement Project is nearing completion. To this end, he said the GCAA through the Gambia Government secured additional funding from international funding agencies; in particular the Kuwait Fund, Saudi Fund and OPEC Fund for International Development for the implementation of Phase II of the Project.
“This Phase shall include works for the expansion of the current apron, construction of an ultra-modern fire and rescue service station, replacement of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) as well as refurbishment and possible expansion of the existing Passenger Terminal Building. This Phase will automatically kick-in following the completion of Phase I, and it will also cater for the infrastructural needs of the Authority for the foreseeable future and thus putting BIA on a competitive footing in attracting major carriers into the country” he noted.