Jebel Ali Airport will be operational by late 2006

US $272 million airport brought forward by 10 years as the masterplan nears completion

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By  Colin Foreman Published  August 21, 2004

Dubai’s second airport is set to open before the end of 2006, after the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) brought forward its plans for a Jebel Ali airport by at least a decade. Details of the project remain vague as it is still very much in the planning stages. Speaking to Construction Week, Anita Mehra Homayoun, Dubai DCA’s Director, Marketing and Corporate Communications, said: “The Department of Civil Aviation Dubai is currently working on the details of the Jebel Ali airport plans. As soon as we finalise some of the plans, we will announce it. Until then, it would be inaccurate and inappropriate to say anything.” The DCA is working with Dar al-Handasah and Aéroports de Paris on the design of the project’s masterplan, and if the proposed 2006 programme is to be met, it must be well advanced. It is known that the airport will be built near to Dubai Investment Park and will initially only handle freighters and business jets. The first phase of the project will cost US $272 million and will include the construction of a cargo terminal, runway and general air handling facilities. A second phase will be completed at a later date and will cater to charter services and, possibly, low-cost carriers. Freighters It is understood that the airport will initially handle 250 000 to 300 000 t of cargo per year. The new facility will mean that all freighters serving Dubai will fly to Jebel Ali, except for Emirates SkyCargo’s operations, which will remain at Dubai International Airport. The long-talked about project was originally scheduled to open between 2015 and 2020, but the plan has now been brought forward because of the growing traffic levels at Dubai International Airport, which is also undergoing major expansion work. The current airport is expected to hit 50 million passengers a year by 2015, at which point it will be unable to handle any more flights. “When you look at the airport and its existing expansion we are going to reach that number [50 million] very soon,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president, Dubai DCA. Companies operating in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, which is a major redistribution point for goods coming into the Gulf, have welcomed the plan, as it will reduce the delays they face when importing goods. Despite Dubai International Airport being just 25 km from Jebel Ali, it often takes a couple of days to move goods between them, because of the need for forwarders to consolidate loads onto trucks for transportation. There is also extra paperwork to be completed, as goods need to be registered both when they enter at Dubai Aiport Free Zone and the Jebel Ali Free Zone. However, some air cargo professionals question the benefit of the new airport and how it will impact on cargo transiting through Dubai. Many goods are transferred from freighters onto passenger services, and moving them from Jebel Ali to Dubai International could cause extra traffic problems.

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