Monday, July 24, 2017

New airport taking off

Incheon airport officials will arrive in Myanmar later this month from South Korea to negotiate the development of Hanthawaddy International Airport, a Korean embassy official said last week.

Incheon International Airport-led consortium was announced by Myanmar state media on August 10 as preferred bidder to build the airport, which is slated to become the country’s largest with a possible price tag of US$1.1 billion.

Negotiations between Incheon officials and Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation are to begin at the end of August and may take two or three months to complete. Discussions will encompass areas such as traveler capacity, infrastructure connections, and the relative roles of Yangon and Hanthawaddy airports, said Korean embassy counselor and deputy chief of mission Park Jae-kyung.

Myanmar tourism insiders say existing airport facilities are rapidly approaching capacity of about three million passengers, requiring either an expansion of Yangon International or construction of a new one.

“Adding together international and domestic traffic, [Yangon airport] is reaching that ceiling,” said U Phyo Wai Yar Zar, managing director of All Asia Exclusive Travel Company. “The airport project is very important for the direction of tourism in Myanmar.”

Although the Hanthawaddy site is farther from Yangon than the existing airport, requiring up to an hour and a half of travel time on current roads, constructing a highway could reduce that time significantly, he said.

With a capacity of up to 12 million passengers annually, Hanthawaddy will ultimately be larger than Yangon International, according to a statement from Korea’s ministry of transport. U Phyo Wai Yar Zar said both airports could serve as international gateways, rather than one for domestic and the other for international flights.

Yangon International could be run more efficiently to alleviate short-term capacity problems, he added.

The Incheon consortium includes South Korea firms Halla Engineering and Construction, Kumho Industrial, Lotte Engineering and Construction and POSCO ICT, according to Korea’s ministry of transport

The airport will be developed under a build-operate-transfer agreement that will see it handed over in 2067, it said. Construction began at Hanthawaddy in 1993 but ceased in 2004. The back-up tenderer is comprised of a consortium of Yongnam Holdings Limited and Changi Airport Planners and Engineers, both of Singapore, and Japan’s JGC Corporation.