Escalating construction costs significantly impacted the infrastructure upgrades of the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), and the envisaged spend of R19,3-billion between 2008 and 2012 had already risen by almost 14% to around R22-billion, owing largely to unprecedented inflation in building material costs.

Speaking at a French-South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast in Johannesburg, Acsa CEO Monhla Hlahla stated that Acsa’s 2008 planned infrastructure spend was R3,8-billion for its nine airports in South Africa, but the actual spend would be in the region of R4,4-billion for the year.

The massive R22-billion, five-year spend was further broken down into R19,5-billion for major capacity projects, R1,3-billion for the replacement and refurbishment cycle, R0,94-billion on efficiency and technology investments, and R0,18-billion to be spent of safety and security and regulatory procedures.

Airport by airport, the long-term capital injection was split into R11,4-billion for OR Tambo International Airport, R2,5-billion for Cape Town International Airport (CTI), R6,7-billion would be spent on the Durban/La Mercy Airport, and the remaining R1,3-billion at the other national airports.

The planned spend for 2009 was R4,5-billion.

The huge capital expenditure was to cater for the steadily increasing passenger numbers that would be passing through the airports. Hlahla indicated that passenger numbers at the company’s airports had risen yearly by 8,5%, and that domestic traffic had grown by 11% year-on-year.

These passenger numbers were expected to peak in 2010 with the FIFA World Cup, and 22,1-million passengers were expected at OR Tambo, 9,8-million passengers at CTI, 5,6-million passengers through Durban, and 4,2-million passengers at the other national airports. “We are confident we will achieve these passenger numbers in 2010 – unless there is a major global crisis,” added Hlahla.

“By December 2009 there will be one ‘mega-terminal’ at OR Tambo, where passengers can check-in anywhere thanks to modern IT systems. The central terminal station and the station will be complete to be tested for four months before the World Cup,” said Hlahla of the developments at the international airport in Johannesburg.

She reported that the central terminal building was 80% complete and inside fittings would start to be put in place towards the end of the year.

LA MERCY DEVELOPMENT

Owing to the location of the existing Durban International Airport, expansion opportunities were limited and construction of the entirely new La Mercy Airport in KwaZulu-Natal started in August 2007, after environmental approvals were finally received.

The target for completion of the greenfield project is the first quarter of 2010, and construction was said to be moving ahead at a pace.

Acsa has reported that the piling was completed on the northern elevated roadway ramp in May. The terminal building basement retaining walls have been completed. Concrete slab has been poured for the terminal building arrivals hall. Work has begun on the construction of the northern ramp of the elevated roadway to the departures level. Casting of concrete for the multi-storey parking started, including casting of the retaining walls of the cargo building. Work on the control tower and the lift shaft was in progress. The design and construction of the cargo building was under way. The runways and taxiways were said to be on programme with the road-bed preparation on the shoulders of the taxiways, which had been completed. And the ‘tradezone’ area was being cut-filled with bush-clearing taking place.

Acsa, as well as the Dube TradePort, had a team on site to work with the contractor – the Ilembe Consortium.