Bahrain is planning to build a second airport from scratch on a manmade island off the north coast, to accommodate predicted growth in decades to come.
This airport would be in addition to – and possibly replace at a later stage – Bahrain International Airport, which is undergoing a $1 billion expansion to quadruple capacity from four million passengers per year to 14 million.
The Bahrain government has appointed French consultancy Aéroports de Paris (ADP) Ingénierie and Hill International as lead consultants on the expansion project, and completed final design.
The expansion plans include a new passenger terminal, 24 airport bridges, new arrival and departure lounges and loading bays, scheduled for completion in 2019.
However, in an interview with Arabian Business, Bahrain’s minister of transportation and telecommunications Kamal Bin Ahmed said the kingdom is also progressing plans first mooted in 2010 to build an entirely separate airport on a purpose-built island in the waters off Bahrain.
Ahmed said his ministry had commissioned a technical study to determine the exact location of a second airport – and that this was completed at the end of last year.
The report is not in the public domain and Ahmed did not reveal the exact chosen location, but said it was in the sea north of Bahrain.
“We have done a technical study to inform our decision about possible locations for a future new airport and this was completed last year,” he said.
“We would need to construct a new island, obviously. There is only really one site big enough that is in Bahrain waters.”
However, it is thought that, even with the expansion, the existing airport site will not be big enough to accommodate additional growth in decades to come.
Bahrain International Airport has just one runway and no available land on which to build a second one.
Ahmed said: “According to our growth strategy for the next 20 years we need to expand our airport because it is already over capacity [8.5 million passengers passed through Bahrain International Airport last year, against its 4 million capacity, he said].
“However, most airports take 20 years to build and we cannot wait for that. We need to have a solution now to absorb the growth in airlines while also keeping in mind plans for the future.
“That is why we opted to build a new terminal covering 210,000 square metres – 3.5 times times the size of the existing terminal.
“But we know that, at some stage, maybe 20 years, we will need to move from this platform because one runway will not be enough.
“So we have also identified a location for a brand new future airport. But for now we are concentrating on expanding the existing one.”
The tender for the main contractor was issued in the summer and bids are expected later this month.
Ahmed said, to speed up the process, three contracts for preliminary construction work such as cable relocation and pilling are already on site and nearing completion, “so that the main contractor can get straight on with the job when appointed”.
The expansion is targeted to complete by mid-2019 and is currently on schedule, he added.