Works planned for Tokua

The National Airports Corporation (NAC) is planning to have the runway at Tokua Airport, in East New Britain Province fixed by the first quarter of 2024.

This is to ensure the return of jet services by Air Niugini (ANG), as currently the defects on the runway can only allow ANG’s Q400 and Dash 8 aircraft to land.

Apart from Air Niugini, PNG Air’s biggest fleet – ATR, which is similar in size to ANG’s Q400, are using the airport.

NAC Tokua Airport operations manager, Russell Paliai, said there are three phases of work that are planned for the airport, beginning with the post emergency works on the terminal facility.

He said this is to repair damages done after the September break in by a group of armed men.

The post emergency works are being done by three contractors on the security fencing, lighting and replacement of glass panels and doors, as well as the interior part of the terminal building.

These minor works are internally funded by the NAC – valued around K1 million – and are nearing completion.

“After all these minor works are completed, we will have the whole terminal area fenced off. This will see the gate open at 4am in the morning for the first flight and close in the evening after the last flight,” he said.

The major renovation works by the NAC will be on the 300-metre by 12m damaged part (pothole) of the 1,720-metre runway.

The defects on the runway would be undertaken by Hebou Construction Limited, and will cost NAC K12 million.

“Hebou has already commenced site mobilisation. They are clearing and grubbing the area at the airport. They will be shipping asphalt materials from Port Moresby and the asphalt plant and pugmill from Lae. All of the equipment is expected to arrive at Tokua by the end of this month, November,” he said.

Work on the reconstruction of the runway defects should begin by the 15th of January 2024 and is expected to take two months to complete.

In terms of the long-term plan for Tokua’s redevelopment, as one of several Class A airports in the country, Paliai said this is being captured by the PNG and Japanese governments.

He said following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2018 between the PNG Government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), three feasibility studies were undertaken and completed by 2021.

“However, this project is being prolonged due to the fact that the Japanese government has expressed reluctancy in immediately advancing the project to its design stage. This is mainly due to concerns on PNG’s debt to GDP ratio and the impact that the loan will have on the economy. Hence this is why the project is taking this long.”

The PNG government is looking at alternativs, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to source funding for this project.

“But this will be done outside of the current CADIP (Civil Aviation Development Investment Program) 2 funding. No commitment has been given yet, however early activities relating to the project have been undertaken.”

Paliai said the long-term scope of works includes a new terminal building, an extended apron and extended runway, from the current 1,720m to 2,700m in length.

The wideness of the runway will also be expanded to 45m from the present 30m width.

This project is estimated to cost K700 million.

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