Pres Sirleaf Prededicates US$50 Million RIA New Terminal

UNIFICATION TOWN, Margibi- President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on Monday, November 18, pre-dedicated a new terminal at the Roberts International Airport in Unification Town, Margibi at the cost of US$50 million.

Prior to the pre-dedication of the new terminal, President Sirleaf also cut the ribbon to pre-dedicate the rehabilitated runway which will cost US$30 million. The runway has been in deplorable condition over the years.

Works are still ongoing at both the internal and external sections of the new terminal.

The internal of the new prededicated Roberts International Airport Photo Zeze Ballah

Sirleaf said the opening of the new state of the art passenger terminal would give RIA a fresh face and put Liberia on par with other international airports on the African continent and the world over.

In 2006, Sirleaf recalled that when she assumed the leadership of Liberia, the country was faced with several hard choices, noting “one of such choices was the rehabilitation of the RIA.”

“Today, we are proud to have a new and modern state of the art passenger terminal,” she said.

She added that Liberians are aware of the devastating effects of the country civil conflict on all facets of its infrastructure, pointing out that “our only international airport sustained extensive destruction of its key facilities and amenities”.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Photo: Zeze Ballah

“Today, coupled with the completion of rehabilitation works on a once unsafe runway, this modern terminal will contribute immensely to an increase in traffic volumes and the overall passenger travel experiences at the RIA,” Sirleaf asserted.

Sirleaf indicated that Liberia continues to strengthen its excellent and cordial bilateral relationship with the People’s Republic of China. She added, “I want to use this occasion to again extend special thanks and the deepest of our appreciation to Zhang Yue, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China for his steadfast leadership and intervention on this project.”

According to Yue, the project is financed by China Exim Bank to the tune of US$50 million through a concessional loan, adding “this is the first time China has offered a concessional loan to Liberia.”

Yue said the rehabilitated runway is funded by the Saudi Fund and the Arab Bank and supported by the United States government.

China Ambassador to Liberia Zhang Yue Photo Zeze Ballah

He explained that the new terminal covers an area of more than 5000-square meters and designed for an average annual passenger volume of approximately 320,000 persons.

For his part, Wil Bako Freeman, managing director of Liberia Airport Authority expressed gratitude to China Harbour Engineering Company for the tremendous work, time and effort in bringing the new terminal project thus far.

“We are deeply impressed with their level of organization and execution,” Freeman said.

According to Freeman, the historic pre-dedication begins the process leading to the formal opening and operation of the RIA new passenger terminal and will significantly boost the chances of regaining the country’s pre-war status as a regional hub in West Africa and a destination of choice for travelers.

The RIA managing director noted that Liberia’s main and only international airport became a major hub in the West African sub-region in pre-war Liberia and played home to key international air carriers.  “The new passenger terminals’ importance cannot be overemphasized because the 1989 to 2003 civil crisis seriously affected the gains that were made on the airport’s infrastructure,” he added.

Wil Bako Freeman, Managing Director of Liberia Airport Authority Photo Zeze Ballah

Freeman said the RIA had managed its terminal and passenger operations through the old cargo facility (terminal A), which was converted to a terminal as a result of the burning down of the pre-war terminal, and the old KLM terminal, refurbished in 2010 (now terminal B).

In 2014, Freeman said the Ebola crisis also had a devastating impact on the airport’s operations, reducing the number of international and sub-regional carriers from nine to two airlines, adding that “as the Ebola crisis ended, the country’s economy steadily grew and RIA also began to experience an increase in traffic. The increase was due to the return of some of the major carriers with added frequencies thereby putting pressure on the current infrastructure and facilities, especially the terminals.”

He mentioned that the situation gave rise to the need for the new terminal upgrade and expansion project.

In line with the airport master plan, Freeman said the pre-dedication marks the first phase of the expansion project, pointing out that “the terminal meets International Air Transport Association regulations of class D service standards.”

According to Freeman, the pre-dedication of the new passenger terminal certainly put Liberia on the map of economic recovery.

The rehabilitation project involved the excavation of significant sections of the runway, asphalt pavement, rehabilitation of parts of the taxiways, and airside geometric improvements that include a new turn pad at the end of the runaway.

Rehabilitated runway at the Roberts International Airport Photo Zeze Ballah

The new passenger terminal building consists of two floors. The first floor includes check-in hall, inspection area, waiting area, arrival hall, baggage claim, baggage handling rooms, equipment rooms and other offices.

The second floor includes a waiting and departure area, commercial area and immigration section. After security screening on the first floor, passengers will arrive in their waiting area on the second floor by elevators or stairs.

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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