The Cayman Islands Airports Authority is seeking a $12.4 million loan to fund additional upgrades to the airside area of the Owen Roberts International Airport.

Work to expand the runway and the current perimeter of the airport has been ongoing.

The multi-million-dollar project, which was announced last year, has been broken up into smaller sub-projects.

The Airports Authority issued a request for proposal inviting companies to submit bids for airside upgrade project financing of $12.4 million over a maximum of 10 years.

The RFP, which was posted on Tuesday, contains two categories – an overdraft facility of $8.5 million and a fixed loan facility of $12.4 million.

The tender period closes on 14 Feb. The proposed loan follows government’s announcement in its 2020/2021 budget that there would be new borrowings from the Airports Authority in 2020 to assist with extending the airport runway and completing other airside works.

The airfield upgrade work originally consisted of five sub-projects: milling and repaving the existing runway surface, a runway extension of 124 metres (400 feet), filling ponds within the airfield perimeter, establishing a robust airfield perimeter road and expanding the international ramp eastward.

According to CIAA marketing manager Rhonda Verhoeven, the loan is required to help pay for three additional sub-projects.

These upgrades comprise increasing ramp space at the General Aviation Terminal to accommodate demands for additional aircraft parking; a parallel taxiway from runway 27 to taxiway Delta to improve efficiencies of the runway for takeoff and landing and to provide a much quicker turnaround process for aircraft; and an extension to the commercial ramp to provide more parking pits for aircraft.

Verhoeven said the additional work was laid out in the master plan for the airside upgrade, but it was planned that this work would start at a later date, in 2023 or 2024, and hence, had not been included in the original budget.

“However, due to increased aircraft activity at the airport, we decided to move these projects forward at this time period. A loan is being sought to complete these works and will be covered by the Passenger Facility Charges collected,” she said.

The Airports Authority began its pond-filling project last month “with the successful removal and relocation of dozens of wildlife from ponds within the airfield perimeter at ORIA. The project forms part of the CIAA’s Airfield Upgrade Project to improve operations and safety standards at the airport.”

Airports Authority staff and local volunteers relocated hickatees, tarpon, mosquito fish, crusted goby and tilapia, and other wildlife that reside in the ponds west of the runway.

The airfield upgrade project is expected to be completed in August 2020, according to the latest Airports Authority statement, issued this week. Last October, the authority and IDL Projects Joint Venture signed a $30 million contract for airfield upgrade work.

IDL is a three-company partnership comprising local businesses Island Paving and Dart company DECCO, and Canadian-based firm IDL Projects, which specialises in airports and infrastructure.