“The battle is now between the ministry and NAC who feel that they are and should be responsible for the maintence of airports around the country,” he said.
In January last year Gunzel informed the local media that part ofthe runway that needed repair work and that the airport needed a second parking area for the bigger planes while they had to upgrade the one for the smaller aircraft.
“Once completed, the upgraded airport will open direct air links between Walvis Bay and a number of overseas destinations.
“It will serve as a fresh fish export hub, a stop-over for international airlines and a re-fuelling point, which are all downstream business opportunities for the harbour town,” the media quoted him as having said.
However, because of the yearlong power struggle between the ministry and NAC nothing they have not done anything to rectify the substandard work carried out on the runway by the Spanish consortium INEPADE years back.
The Namibian government awarded INEPADE the tender to upgrade the airport but its ownconsulting engineers later found that the surfacing of the runway did not comply with the required specifications.
Namibia wanted to fall back on the guarantees INEPADE gave as part of the tender conditions to have the repair work done, but INEPADE differed with the decision. The cost of the remaining work needed on the runway amounted to about N$35 million, while Government had already paid N$75 million for the work INEPADE had completed.
The two parties referred the matter for arbitration to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and a hearing took place in the last quarter of 2011 in Paris, France.
Government had expected a ruling by March of 2013, but it decided that it should grant a tender for the remedial as well as additional work at the Walvis Bay Airport.
Three Chinese companies tendered for the work including Qingdao Construction Namibia (N$197,506,706), China Jiangxi International joint venture with Babyface Civils (N$295,468,212) and China State Construction Engineering Corporation (N$197,383,849).
Namibia Construction (N$233 412 067) was the only local company that tendered for the repair work at Walvis Bay Airport.
Since the awarding of the tender in 2013, the runway has remained as is, and does not allow for the operation of larger commercial flights as initially planned.
Sources at the airports company said that the tensions between NAC and the Works Ministry over the upgrading of airports does not only apply to Walvis Bay airportbut has been a long-standing problem.
“The initial plan was to use the Walvis Bay model and to do exactly the same for the upgrade of the airport in Katima, and already then NAC had issues with Government running these projects.”
The long –term effects of this power struggle, sources say, has been the loss of potential business for NAC from airlines such as Emirates and Lufthansa that cannot land their large aircraft at Hosea Kutako International.
NAC Communications Officer Dan Kamati could not confirm whether companies like Emirates or Lufthansa had approached with requests to use its facilities, but he didconfirm that NAC had met with a number of airlines but that discussions were still at very early stage.
“I cannot say anything at this point that could jeopardise the ongoing talks with the various airlines, and all I can say is that negotiations are in their initial stages and that this process does take some time,” Kamati said.
He was however, unable to comment on the issue of the power struggle between NAC and the ministry, and said the the relevant persons were not available for consultation
“The airport is in operation at this point and time, and the current terminal building will be upgraded, which in essence entails that the old terminal will be retained at the heart of the project but will be hidden behind a modern concourse expansion.