Vanuatu airport runway gets a 12 month reprieve
Following emergency repairs to the runway at Vanuatu's main international airport, Bauerfield, the World Bank says the runway is safe for jet planes to arrive for the next 12 months.
Following emergency repairs to the runway at Vanuatu's main international airport, Bauerfield, the World Bank says the runway is safe for jet planes to arrive for the next twelve months.
Short-term repair work was carried out after safety concerns about the runway in January led to the suspension of all Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand flights.
The Bank has made available a $US 59 million loan to cover the short term and long-term upgrades of the runway.
However, Air New Zealand recently said it would not be resuming flights to Port Vila until proposals for a long term runway upgrade were finalised and a contractor engaged for the project.
The World Bank's country director for the Pacific, Franz Drees-Gross, is in Vanuatu where he has inspected the repairs carried out.
He spoke to Johnny Blades
FRANZ DREES-GROSS: What this does, this repair, it basically makes the runway useful again. Useable for another 12 months, so it's a temporary fix. It buys us some time to do the major repairs but at least it makes the runway useable.
JOHNNY BLADES: And when you say useable, you are talking about international jet planes?
FDG: That's correct, that's correct. The planes that fly there right now are all code C aircraft, so basically 737s and other similar size aircraft, so jet aircraft, yes.
JB: There is a bit of an issue here with Air New Zealand, you are no doubt aware, saying its not going to resume flights, even with the temporary work that's been done that you have just monitored. Do we know what standard they are alluding to when they say it is not up to scratch?
FDG: I don't know and I think individual airlines will have to look at the emergency repairs that have been done and come to their own conclusions and we respect that. We're fully cognisant of the fact that this is an emergency repair. What it does is that it eliminates the foreign object debris risk in the short term. The long term or the medium term response beyond 12 months, will be a full scale rehabilitation of the whole 2600 metre runway.
JB: Fulton Hogan did this emergency repair work.
FDG: Fulton Hogan was the contractor that did the emergency repairs and there's a company called Tonkin Taylor that actually does the designs. They're an engineering company that does designs, bidding documents and the like and they are working on that next step which is the full blown rehabilitation of the full 2600 metre runway.
JB: It sounds like things are going pretty much to the plan which you told us about back in late January which the World Bank and Vanuatu were looking at, is that right? Things are pretty much going to that plan?
FDG: That's right. So I think emergency repairs have been done quite expeditiously and quite well. So I think that part of the plan is well under way and we are just here in these days finalising discussions with the government about the exact scope of the full scale rehabilitation.
JB: And the World Bank aviation or at least runway experts, they are satisfied with where this runway, Bauerfield runway, is at?
FDG: That's right. We've been monitoring progress and it's my understanding that emergency repairs have been well done. Look we are looking forward to making this work. We realise this buys us 12 months of time but just finalising the designs, bidding it out and getting a contractor on the ground and mobilised, that will take the better part of a year. We know we are still running against the clock. We need and the government needs to remain focussed on this just to get the full blown rehabilitation under way and not lose this 12 month window that they have now opened for themselves.
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