The contractors of Uganda’s second international airport, Kabaale International Airport, also known as Hoima Oil City International Airport, say the airport is due for completion in February 2023.
SBC Uganda Ltd is in charge of the construction work, which it began in 2018.The airport is 200 kilometres by air from Entebbe International Airport, and 33 kilometres by road from Hoima City. The most immediate objective of the Kabaale airport is to transport shipped-in equipment for the construction of different oil projects.
The airport is designed to handle the largest cargo planes in the industry. According to SBC, the apron can host four of such aircraft at once and the first phase ended in April 2022. From the onset of Covid-19, which slowed down the work, it was discovered that there were other issues, including the terrain and other factors that challenged the project. According to SBC Uganda Ltd, these delay factors had not been anticipated during the contract-awarding process.
However, Amos Muriisa, the spokesperson of SBC Uganda Ltd, says the project will be completed by February 2023. The government set the new deadline through the Petroleum Authority of Uganda.
The completion of the first phase of the project is expected to pave way for the importation of the heavy equipment, materials and machinery by the oil and gas companies, which are in the initial stages of developing their projects.
These include: field flow pipelines, feeder pipelines, the central processing facilities in the fields and at Kabaale Industrial Park, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline and later the refinery and equipment for related industries expected to be borne out of the oil industry.
The second phase will then include an expanded passenger terminal, which will boost tourism and activities that will lead to bigger passenger numbers and the construction of the runway, which is 3.5km long and 45 meters wide. That is 95 per cent complete.
The cargo terminal building, the limited-capacity passenger terminal building, the air rescue fire-fighting houses, and the air-ground lighting system are all-around 78 per cent complete, according to SBC Uganda Limited.
According to Muriisa, the construction for housing airport operators and the start and finish of the control tower shall also be done in the next four months. However, there is fear for hundreds of Ugandans, including several locals from surrounding communities, who will soon lose employment when the project is completed.
Muriisa also adds that those who will be laid off are being advised to adjust so that they are taken up by other construction projects expected in the area. The oil and gas processing facilities, the EACOP, the refinery and the airport, are expected to create new jobs, which will help the laid-off workers have other employment opportunities.
After four years of participating in the airport construction project, the workers have developed enough capacity to take up opportunities in other projects, private or government-owned, Muriisa said.
At the start of the project, SBC Uganda Ltd was accused of employing more foreigners and Ugandans from outside the Albertine region, which allegedly was a violation of the National and Local Content Policy.
However, Muriisa defends SBC by saying that it was hard to find people from the local communities who had the specific skills required by the magnitude and complexity of the work. He says that with help from technical training institutes in the area, many had their skills upgraded and got employed.