Ajman PlaneStation is put on backburner

UK-based Wiggins Group’s planned US$800 million investment in the PlaneStation airport development project in Ajman is apparently unable to take off.

  • E-Mail
By  Eudore Chand Published  December 30, 2003

UK-based Wiggins Group’s planned US$800 million investment in the PlaneStation airport development project in Ajman is apparently unable to take off. The project was supposed to have gone in for tenders by now, according to the company’s initial plan, which was disclosed to the local media last summer. When contacted company officials could not confirm if the planned project is going to take off in the coming months. Tenders have not yet been invited for the construction of the project, which was supposed to have begun in March 2004. Wiggins Group had undertaken a Dhs367 million build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to construct the terminal and allied infrastructure. Wiggins is currently in the throes of a major financial restructuring to clear debts and provide cash to develop its PlaneStation strategy of regional airports. After suspension of its shares on July 17, it restarted trading on December 10. The group has raised Dhs305 million (UK£47m) through a placing of shares and convertible debt that will provide it with enough working capital for the next couple of years. After the interest-generating announcement, there is no sign of any major progress or movement in recent months. Local media was expecting an announcement during the recent Dubai Air Show, which would have been the perfect platform for an update on the project. Nor has there been any recent mention of the project on Wiggins Group’s web site or in the company’s latest round of communiqués. From the beginning, the project raised eyebrows among industry experts who questioned the logic behind launching a third airport close to the international hubs of Dubai and Sharjah. Ajman forms the greater metropolitan area in the UAE’s northern emirates along with the linked cities of Dubai and Sharjah. Dubai, being the region’s prime aviation hub, has benefited due to wider connectivity and increasingly higher frequency to major destinations. Sharjah has a healthy charter and cargo operations. Given the background, many aviation specialists had raised questions about the sustainability of an international airport in Ajman, especially since Dubai airport is a 30 minute drive from anywhere in Ajman. In an attempt to add value to the Ajman PlaneStation plan, Wiggins Group floated the idea of creating an industrial and tourist neighbourhood around the airport utilising the Ajman beachfront. A design for a township development was reportedly produced, which called for the development of about 8kms of land and involves the construction of 20-30 boutique hotels, resorts, residential and tourism facilities and a commercial and light industrial zone. The combined attraction of holiday resort and business hub, would it was, hoped provide enough traffic to justify the investment. The airport would have a 4000-metre runway and two taxiways. It would cater initially to about 2 million passengers per year and have provision for maintenance hangars and a general and royal lounge. Construction of the first phase of the airport was expected to take about 18 months. Commercial flights were expected to begin by 2006. The facility would cater to international passengers, airfreight and the business jets market. The complex would include a private jet terminal with maintenance facilities and will serve as a complete air service station. However, it appears that Ajman government officials are having second thoughts. They certainly seem to be taking more time to make up their minds. Ajman Government, whose involvement is crucial to the project, is currently expanding the emirate’s civic infrastructure and facilities. It is extending residential and industrial areas and adding new sites. According to the plan, the proposed airport in Ajman would have been part of a growing network of regional airports and airstrips under the Wiggins’ brand name PlaneStation. The PlaneStation project is expected to see 30 airports, with 11 in the Middle East, becoming fully operational and handling millions of passengers by 2007. The concept is to revamp former military and under-performing airports. Apart from Ajman, other proposed PlaneStation locations include two in Egypt and Iran, as well as others in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, UAE and Morocco.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code