The multi-million dollar expansion of Owen Roberts International Airport will triple the terminal building from its current 69,000 square feet to that of 205,000, and is to be done while the airport is fully operational.
This was announced by Minister responsible for Aviation Charles Clifford at a Cabinet press briefing on Friday.
‘This announcement is the culmination of a number of years of planning and design work on the project to update the current terminal facilities in order to meet projected air passenger numbers for Cayman for the coming decades,’ he said.
The building and construction work is expected to take two years to complete and will be done around an actual working terminal and airport.
Acknowledging the huge challenge this presents, Mr. Clifford commented, ‘One of the consultants actually made the comment that this would be like ‘open heart surgery on a patient that is walking around’.’
Plans for airport expansion were first formally announced under the previous government back in May 2005, and planning permission was granted in January 2006. Since then the plans have been revised through many talks with the Cayman Islands’ Airports Authorities partners such as airlines and Immigration officials, explained CIAA Senior Manager Engineering and Projects Brian Tomlinson.
One of the main reasons such time has been taken on this planning and revising the plans is because the airport is to be fully operational during the expansion process.
‘It’s for this reason that a great deal of planning and forethought has gone into this project to ensure decisions were made so that those using the terminal will be inconvenienced as little as possible,’ Minister Clifford said.
David Frederick CEO of CIAA also admitted that the difficult part is going to be trying to keep the airport working while construction takes place.
He explained how this process is to take place.
‘We can build portions of it, move into that portion and free up some of the existing portions for construction.’
The terminal expansion will be completed in three phases. The first phase will include expansion of the ticket hall, the construction of the domestic service passenger area and the new immigration and baggage reclaim area – expected to be complete in November 2008.
Phase two is the construction of the boarding bridge connections, meeter/greeter hall and the international departures lounge and concession areas which is projected for completion in August 2009.
Phase three will see the renovation of the remaining interior spaces, with the entire project scheduled for completion in June 2010.
Mr. Frederick noted that phase three will be the biggest challenge, where existing buildings will be torn out and sub-divided up into the new various entities. ‘For instance the current departure hall, portions of that will become the new immigration hall and in the existing departures we’ll build a domestic departure onto the end of the building for domestic passengers. The main departure hall then goes upstairs to the second floor.’
Preliminary work on the project has already commenced with the clearing and filling of land for the development of the new staff parking lot and new roads and infrastructure are being built. ‘These early site works are strategically critical to the entire project and should be complete by the end of this year,’ Mr. Frederick said.
Mr. Clifford declined to comment on what the budget for the project is as it would put them at a disadvantage to announce this before going out to bid on the major portion of the project, he said.
The airport currently serves approximately 800,000 passengers annually through arrivals and departures. The new expanded facility is being designed to facilitate and process 1.25 million passengers per year, which is what numbers are anticipated to increase to over the next 20 years, said the Minister.
The new design will also ensure it is well planned for the future and remains adaptable to growth and change beyond the next 20 years, he added.
Among the key objectives, the expansion will separate both arriving and departing passengers, as well as domestic and international passengers.
The terminal will see a significant increase in retail, food and beverage outlets, as well as an additional two large baggage claim carousels and increased immigration and customs bays.
The expansion will feature wider aprons, as well as increased public safety and security systems. The project will also leave way for the runway to be extended in the future, said the Minister.
The apron is also being expanded to accommodate at least two more 737-class jets which will bring the number of airport parking positions to ten, of which four will feature boarding bridges.
Mr. Frederick explained why this expansion is critical. ‘On Saturday and Sundays all lines are outside the airport. People are totally inconvenienced with the size of the facility so our main effort now is to sort that out, and added benefits will bring that we’ll have additional space where we can encourage our airlines to service the destination.’
Financing for the airport terminal expansion project will be the responsibility of CIAA and not Central Government, the Minister noted, and initial works already being undertaken are being financed by CIAA from its operating revenue.
‘The CIAA will be responsible for raising additional finance in the private sector for the completion of the works,’ he said, noting that several local lending institutions have expressed interest in providing financing for the project.
Finalisation of the financing arrangement is expected in the second quarter of this year.
The intention is to include the Little Cayman airport project within the financing arrangements and for that project to be developed concurrently with the ORIA project. Plans are being developed for a new runway and small terminal facility in Little Cayman.
Local architects CGMJ Ltd., who were the designers of the original ORIA terminal building, are lead consultants for the terminal expansion project, and are working together with sub-consultant Reynolds Smith and Hills Inc., an American firm and leader in design and development in the aviation industry.