Address by Honourable Ghishma Barry, MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, at the visit to East London Airport
8 Oct 2009
Executive Mayor of Buffalo City, Councillor Zukiswa Faku
Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), Ms Monhla Hlahla
Superintendent-General and management of the Department of Transport
Representatives of the business fraternity
Ladies and gentlemen
It is indeed a great honour for me to grace this occasion, when we showcase the progress that we have made to reposition this airport as a gateway to our province, especially the Buffalo City municipality including Bhisho, the headquarters of the provincial government and the East London industrial development zone.
As we celebrate the 2009 October Transport Month, it is important to demonstrate our ability as a province to improve accessibility and mobility of our people and all those who would like to do business in our province through ensuring that this airport plays a pivotal role in the economic development of the region as a whole.
On behalf of provincial government, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) for continuously improving the capacity of the Port Elizabeth International Airport and the East London Airport as both airports are currently undergoing major infrastructural developments.
Port Elizabeth International Airport’s terminal building was upgraded and expanded about three years ago. Two months ago, runway refurbishment works worth R68 million were completed. We appreciate ACSA’s plan to build a new airport hotel at the Port Elizabeth Airport, which will be completed before the 2010 World Cup.
Since the introduction of low cost airlines, East London Airport experienced phenomenal double digit passenger traffic growth and continues to grow. This growth is in line with the region’s economic performance as passenger traffic has doubled over the past ten years to more than 700 000 per year, thus putting pressure on airport infrastructure.
Furthermore, traffic is projected to reach 1,4 million passengers per year by 2015. In order to accommodate this growing passenger traffic, ACSA embarked on various projects, to improve facilities such as public parking, car rental and terminal building. Once complete, this airport’s R98 million worth of developments will increase passenger handling capacity to 1,5 million passengers a year and include:
* Terminal building upgrade, which will be completed by March 2010 with Premier lounge and very important person (VIP) facility, food and beverage facilities, ramp handlers building
* New car rental building, which has been completed and operational boasting seven car rental companies compared to three previous operators
* Roads reconfiguration and car park expansion
* Apron reconfiguration and flood light replacement to improve safety of apron operations, which includes the process of passenger embarking and disembarking
* Perimeter intrusion detection system to protect sensitive navigational equipment and infrastructure against vandalism and crime.
This means that three of our airports, including Bhisho Airport, are now ready to contribute to the provincial growth and development plan. Detailed designs have been completed for the Mthatha Airport and we will appoint contractors before the end of this month to commence the upgrade. The remaining challenge is to make sure that all these four airports complement each other as there is no significant international aviation node in the province. East London, Mthatha and Port Elizabeth regional airports are currently unable to accommodate big aircraft like the Boeing 747.
Presently, the East London Airport receives 200 tons of cargo per month and we have a growing industrial development zone next door, which will need cargo facilities in the near future. How do we utilise what we already have in terms of airports infrastructure?
Perhaps we need to collectively embark on a robust and progressive engagement on how we turn one of our airports into a logistics hub that supports both industrial development zones of our province, including Coega, and the automotive industry, which has been the pillar of the provincial economy. As we do that, we further need to take into account the necessity to provide space for small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) wishing to participate in freight logistics handling business and to support our industrial nodes.
We strongly believe that investors and traders are only going to develop an appetite for such an initiative if a pilot could be launched successfully. We invite industrial development zones to come on board as co-partners in that integrated development initiative. Discussions are underway with various airlines to ensure that some of our airports are economically active.
We would like to have an airline between Cape Town and Mthatha via Bhisho.
An important goal is to link Port Elizabeth to Mthatha via Bhisho with the service geared for faster movement between these three areas. East London can be included in some of these routes if that would be economically viable.
In conclusion, I would like to once more express my sincere gratitude to all of you for joining us and ACSA in this brief official visit to this airport. I strongly believe that working together we can be able to make maximum utilisation of our resources as government and the private sector for the benefit of all our people.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Transport, Eastern Cape Provincial Government
8 October 2009
Issued by: Eastern Cape Provincial Government
8 Oct 2009
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