An acute shortage of cement, and heavy rains during December, has delayed the completion of Phase One of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s expansion plan.
The project was initially set to be to be completed by the end of last month, but heavy demand for cement in the domestic and export markets slowed down progress, causing a three- month delay, according to Kenya Airports Authority managing director George Muhoho.
Demand for cement has been rising due to what industry players attribute to a construction boom, especially in the housing and road sectors.
Contractors at Kenya’s key airport are only using Bamburi Cement, which they say is the only brand that meets purity levels and quality demands of airport construction.
Mr Muhoho said the project consumes an average of 240 tonnes of cement per day, but was receiving deliveries at the rate of only 150 tonnes per day.
To accommodate the weight of the planes that are expected to park at the new apron, contractors are using concrete that will require low maintenance costs, but demand alot of cement during construction.
Construction of aprons is part of the programme, along with the building of a new taxiway that will cater for the new Terminal Four.
Mr Muhoho said heavy rains in December had hampered construction work by making it hard to excavate the black cotton soil that is found in the area.
China Wu Yi Co Limited, an international Chinese construction firm, won the contract for Phase One of the project at a cost of Sh2.6 billion. "Regardless of all the issues of completion of this phase of the project, we are still on budget," Mr Muhoho said.
Built in 1978, JKIA has been unable to meet demands of a growing aviation market, especially in the past six years.
Built to handle 2.5 million passengers per annum, the facility is currently handling more than four million passengers annually.
Airlines have also had to deal with lack of enough parking slots as there are only 11 available for international and nine for domestic airlines.
Increased air capacity has led to demand for more slots, which will be addressed by the end of Phase One.
Additionally, the airport was faced with security issues. To address these issues, KAA embarked on a project to upgrade the facility to be a regional hub that would see it attain United States of America’s Category One status - a move that will open up direct flights to the US.
Initially, the plan was to solve the capacity problem by moving all domestic flights to old Embakasi Airport and converting JKIA’s Terminal Three, which currently handles domestic flights, into an international terminal, at a cost of Sh840 million.
But this was later expanded into a massive overhaul project to be undertaken in four phases, spanning over a period of 15 years. This latter plan increased the cost of the project 10 fold to Sh10.7 billion.
The move raised eyebrows, with critics arguing that the tendering process did not meet the Public Procurement Act requirements, that bind all State corporatons and government departments.
MPs claimed the contracts of the project were void since they were signed by Mr Muhoho, whose tenure of office was officially gazetted last month,despite having been in office since March 2003.
It was, however, confirmed that Mr Muhoho’s appointment to the position was formally gazetted in March 2003. Construction began in October 2006 and the contracted firm has invested Sh700 million.