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Sierra Leone commissions new Freetown International Airport as air links across Africa improve

The new terminal has the capacity for up to one million passengers annually, almost five times the airport’s pre-existing terminal. The country is hoping that the new facility will allow the country to tap into a post-pandemic surge in tourism and air transport across the continent

Freetown, Sierra Leone | BIRD AGENCY | Sierra Leone has officially opened its new US$270 million passenger terminal at Freetown International Airport in Lungi, some 12 km north of Freetown.

The 14,000 square metre terminal can accommodate up to 1 million passengers a year, up from the current airport terminal’s 227,000 passengers, and is three times the size of the existing facility, situated on the southern side of the new runway.

Other new features include; a presidential and VIP terminal; an air traffic control tower with ultramodern equipment, ICT infrastructure, and radiotelephony; an apron area that accommodates at least eight large aircraft; and a firefighting facility.

A 1.5-megawatt solar farm, powering all of its needs, makes it the first fully green terminal facility in West Africa.

Speaking at the ceremony, President Julius Maada Bio said the airport had “been built with zero cents in debt.”

Turkish construction company, Summa, built the new terminal under a ‘build, operate, and transfer’ contract, which will see it operate the airport for 25 years before handing it over to the Sierra Leone government.

This is the first international terminal to be built in Sierra Leone since it gained independence in 1961 and is Summa Group’s largest single infrastructural accomplishment in Africa.

President Bio said the airport is now “safer, modern, and very comfortable.”

“I am therefore very proud to commission the new Freetown International Airport – a sustainable and modern airport that will generate economic growth and national development,” he concluded.

Africa Young Voices (AYV) TV, a local television, reports that other notable features of the facility include a quay space, cranes, airfield ramp access, temporary storage sheds, customs offices, transport services, and clearing and forwarding services.

Besides facilitating an increase in passenger traffic, the airport’s runway has also been widened – from 45 metres to 60 metres, to host more aircraft.

Official operations at the terminal come just a few weeks after the Sierra Leone parliament ratified eight bilateral service agreements with other African nations.

The government agreed to international commercial air transport services between Sierra Leone and Tanzania, the Czech Republic, Mozambique, Kenya, Niger and Iceland.

The terminal opening comes at a time when the air transport industry in Africa is seeing a surge in interest and investment. Seventeen African nations are testing the African Union Single African Air Transport Market between their territories, fully opening their skies to each other as part of a pilot to create a unified air transport market in Africa. Tourism numbers, too, are up significantly over previous year, though they are not yet at pre-covid levels.

Sierra Leone is hoping to see an increase in carriers, tourists, and businesses thanks to the new facility.


SOURCE: bird story agency


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