Kuwait International Airport (KIA) once played a central part in Kuwait’s identity as an infrastructural lynchpin for the GCC and the Levant. But the airport, and much of national carrier Kuwait Airways’ fleet, suffered extensive damage during the Iraqi invasion in 1990. Since then the Gulf’s aviation focus has moved south, with the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar all investing heavily in airport development.
Today at KIA airport a much-needed expansion is under way, with a new terminal promised by 2017 that should raise passenger capacity from 7.2m to 20m. Foster and Partners, a UK architectural firm, was awarded the contract to design the terminal, which will be just one aspect of the expected KD1bn ($3.6bn) transformation of KIA into a major multi-modal transport hub, with road and rail connections as well as an expanded cargo facility. The airport upgrade is essential to the overall plan to revitalise Kuwait’s transport sector via the KD30bn ($108bn) 2010 National Development Plan.
The Ministry of Public Works is responsible for the new terminal, while the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will facilitate all other works. The first phase of development, including a taxiway network, a new runway and upgrades to the existing two runways (equipping them to accommodate wide-body aircraft), began in late 2011. Contracts for the second phase of development, which will involve hiring a consultant to design and prepare tender documents for the Cargo City government facilities, are expected by early 2012. A call for tenders for the contract to build the new terminal building is also expected in 2012-13.
In addition to passenger-focused amenities, the airport will also include the large air-freight handling Kuwait Cargo City, which will cover 3 sq km and be the largest of its kind in the Middle East. Part of the facility’s attraction will be an emphasis on an efficient Customs process. The DGCA plans to have shipments cleared on the spot, which is a welcome alternative to maritime and land crossings, which can take over a week.
At present, Kuwait’s air cargo infrastructure is rather minimal. Within Cargo City, the government expects and is actively seeking private companies that specialise in the cargo business to set up shop in the area as part of an attempt to increase the role of the private sector in business and job creation. The government, which will build and maintain the infrastructure, hopes to bring in both domestic and international players, which will pay for the land either through rental fees or royalties. While rental fees at the new airport will be competitive, the main attraction is expected to be the ease of doing business, thanks to newly simplified procedures and centralised Customs clearance.
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