The Namibian government and the Namibia Airport Company (NAC) have committed $17,3 million to upgrade the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) into a modern travel hub within Southern Africa Development Communtity (SADC).NAC board chairman Leaka Hangala said on Wednesday that together with the government and other stakeholders, the company is working hard to ensure that the airport passes the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) security audit between 18-28 November 2018.
Hangala was appointed last month to help sort out security challenges at the national airport outside Windhoek.
Poor security aviation at the airport including inadequate fire safety has been a source of concern at the airport located 30km east of the capital Windhoek.
This has heightened fear that ICAO might downgrade the country, a situation which will spell doom for the local economy especially tourism.
In case of downgrade, like happened in 2014, major planes like Airbus A330 will not be allowed to take-off and land at the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
“Namibia’s key entry point for international tourism and business, our flagship airport, Hosea Kutako International Airport, is in an unacceptable state.
“The airport has reached its limit concerning capacity and therefore requires urgent expansion and upgrading to meet the demands of increasing aircraft and passenger numbers, as well as more stringent international security and safety requirements” Hangala told journalists.
“Different and sometimes non-aligned role players that an arriving guest meets, in addition to long queues exacerbate the challenges on the ground,” Hangala added.
The airport has been a source for anxiety for travellers, who in many cases have to endure long hours in queues.
Hangala acknowledged that the current terminal building was constructed in 1985 to handle 250 000 passengers per year.
At present, the airport handles nearly a million passengers per annum, as the popularity of Namibia as a tourist and business destination continues to rise for which we are extremely excited and proud of.
“NAC takes note of the frustrations and anger from stakeholders in this regard, especially our tourist and business travellers. We would like to apologise to all and sundry for any inconvenience and suffering caused. We accept that the current state of affairs is making it difficult for the country’s largest airport to comply with all Standards and Recommended Practices of ICAO,” he said.
“The HKIA immigration access was also limited as there were only two security checkpoints, which resulted in congestion and long queues at times. Outside the airport, terminal long queues often form when two or three large airlines arrive at the same time, while the baggage collections section currently only has two carousels, these will all be improved in the envisaged project that we are presently busy with”.
ICAO has introduced new standards under amendment 16 to Annex 17 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which will become applicable on 16th November 2018.
This will thus make Namibia the first country to be audited against these new standards.
The NAC chairman said the upgrading project will include the revamp and modernizing of the check-in and departure halls, security screening point, arrivals hall and the luggage handling areas.
“Installation of a CCTV and intrusion detection system at HKIA has already commenced. We will also take advantage of the upgrading to introduce latest advance technologies and software systems related to self-check-ins and screening for both passengers and luggage,” he said.