Regional

US$40-m renovation for Sangster Intl Airport next year

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, December 28, 2017

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MBJ Airports Limited, operators of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, is to undertake a US$40- million renovation exercise next year.

Chief executive officer of MBJ, Dr Rafael Echevarne, said the airport had forecast a passenger growth of four per cent for the 2017 period.

He said, however, leading up to December, there was an unprecedented growth of eight per cent, which has led to the board approving US$40 million to undertake the renovation project.

“So, as I say, when this happens, things have to happen at the airport to ensure that we can actually welcome passengers and airlines as they should be welcomed in a destination like Jamaica,” said Dr Echevarne, who was just over a week ago addressing the welcome ceremony for the four millionth visitor to the island.

“…and actually, I just got approved two days ago for the US$40 million in investments that are going to come to the airport in 2018,” said Dr Echevarne adding that the project entails maintenance and renovation work among other improvements.

“That involves hard-core maintenance and infrastructure [work] that most people don't get to see. We are actually working on the taxi ways and the aprons (aircraft holding or parking area) which are actually fundamental for safe operations... but also, for things that we are going to all see, for example, the renovation of a ticketing area, which has also been approved, and the commencement of many other projects that we will see the improvement in the arrival area's corridor, the immigration hall, and so on and so forth.”

In August of 2016, Dr Echevarne, while addressing an airport forum at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James, announced a planned US$60-million expansion project, which would entail the extension of the aircraft runway, aircraft apron and vehicle-parking area. That project also included the planned relocation of a petrol station that is currently located at the entrance to the airport.

Dr Echevarne, who at the time did not give a project start up time frame pointed out that when completed by 2035, the airport will have a passenger capacity of seven million, up from a present capacity of 3.8 million per annum and an apron capacity of eight more aircraft.

When contacted over the Christmas holidays, Dr Echevarne pointed out that the US$60-million project announced last year, is separate from the one mentioned a few days ago.

He however declined to give further information on the status of the project announced last year.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has welcomed the US$40-million renovation project, planned for next year.

“Thank you very much for the announcement, Dr Echevarne, about the expansion of this airport. And the Norman Manley Airport is also in the throes of some development changes, as once the divestment is completed and the expansion happens there, Jamaica will now have two major international airports capable of hosting and receiving large numbers of international visitors,” Bartlett said.

The minister said this would allow for travellers to reach their destinations at a shorter time from either airport.

“And what that will mean is that within one and a half hour of transportation activity, you will be able to reach any hotel, any tourism and resort area once you land anywhere in the city of Kingston or Montego Bay,” Bartlett emphasised, adding, “that for me is a big statement to make.”

The Sangster International Airport, which is the busiest and one of the largest in the Caribbean, is operated by MBJ Airports under a concession agreement with the Government of Jamaica for 30 years, beginning in 2003.

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