Construction of the Hoima-based Kabaale International Airport will be completed in 16 months from now. The contractor-SBC and Uganda Refinery Holding Company say slightly above 30 percent of the work is yet to be done.
The Uganda Refinery Holding Company is part of the business arms of Uganda National Oil Company that is spearheading the airport construction. Construction of the airport begun on 18th April 2018.
It should have been completed by April 2022 but the contractor was granted a ten-month extension by the Ministry of Works and Transport. According to the revised plan, completion has been scheduled for 17th February 2023.
The General Manager, Uganda Refinery Holding Company, Dr. Michael Nkambo Mugerwa said despite some emerging challenges, the project will be delivered on time.
The airport is part of the crucial infrastructure needed for Uganda to begin extracting is vast oil resources. It is expected to airlift some of the cargo for construction of the crude oil refinery as part of the Kabaale Industrial park.
So far, the airport has been designed to handle the Boeing 747 and the Antenove 124- the largest cargo plane of the planet. The airport Kabaale airport will have a 3.5 kilometer runway while the one at Entebbe has 3.7 kilometer runway.
“It should be able to bring in very heavy oil and gas industrial equipment for construction. And that is one of the main purpose of the airport initially” said Mugerwa
“Of course once we are done with construction, it is going to support the industrial park, agriculture and generally development of this part of the country” he said
So far, 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil has been discovered in the Albertine Graben, out of which, 1.4 billion barrels are projected to be recoverable. The refinery will process 60,000 barrels of Uganda’s medium sweet crude oil per par day. Construction of the airport was originally estimated to cost 19 million dollars to cover initial.
Change of Air Control Tower
Further works at the airport are likely to be affected by international Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) directive to have aspects of the airport changed. Dr. Mugerwa revealed that ICAO has urged against the use of a mobile control tower at the facility.
“In the original contract was a mobile control tower but the need has been realized that the International Civil Aviation Organisation-(ICAO) wants a fixed one to enable this airport wants a fixed one enable this airport to be operational. So there is a change inside the original scope of the project” said Mugerwa
He did not explain why ICAO wants a fixed control tower instead of a mobile one. Air Control towers are instrumental in ensuring the safety of aircraft, pilots, flight attendants, and the airline passengers. They to provide for a safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of traffic on and in the vicinity of an airport.
Apart from the air control tower, the airport requires a constant electricity supply using underground voltage power supply.
Mugerwa said negotiation with Uganda Electricity Transmission Company are ongoing to have a high voltage power station to serve the airport and the industrial park at Kabaale.
“That will be rated at 240 megawatts. That will be one of the largest in this country. I think Kampala has something like that at Queensway. Otherwise that is the power need we will need for this industrial park.” Said Mugerwa The government has so far extended high-voltage power from Kasese through Fort Portal to Kabaale in Hoima.
The airport and the industrial park is located fifty meters away from the Nkenda line running along the Kaiso-Tonya highway.
“So UECTL will provide an underground line to connect to this high voltage station. unground because of the airport. So it will be the longest underground high voltage cable. The longest we have now is on Queensway. But this will be longer and it is quite expensive” further explained Michael Mugerwa
Initially some of the upstream oil and gas projects are expected to produce power which will be converted to high voltage and fed into the national grid. But an engineer at UECTL who asked for anonymity told URN that after sometime, the national grid will have to supply power to the industrial park.
Pending Critical Issues At The Airport
The construction is being undertaken by SBC(Uganda), a Joint venture of SB international Holdings And Colas UK. SBC manager at the project, Anurag Kalva said some of the pending issues include; civil aviation Authority housing arrangement whose designs are yet to be finalized for approval by NEMA. He said an additional budget for construction of works is needed.
The budget requirement has to be drawn by the ministry of works to UKEF and Standard Chartered bank a supplementary budget for loan agreement and additional funding.
The project is 85% financed by UK Export Finance (UKEF) and 15% by Commercial Source of Standard Chartered Bank. So far, over EUR 309,100, 259 or 1,276,357,100,000 Ugandan Shillings has been disbursed .