Aviation sector receives critical boost

THE World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors have approved US$14.1 million to enable the expansion of works under the Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project, which is improving air transport safety and infrastructure at the nation’s three main airports.

“The works we are undertaking with the World Bank are critical to ensuring a safe and reliable aviation sector in Vanuatu,” said Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Gaeton Pikioune.

“The government of Vanuatu requested this additional support in order to ensure works can continue, along with expanded upgrades at Bauerfield International Airport to enable larger aircraft to land. We are pleased to strengthen our partnership with the World Bank in aviation.”

The new funding will help the government address pavement deterioration at the airports at Whitegrass in Tanna and Pekoa on Espiritu Santo. At the Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila, expanded runway works will enable the country’s key international airport to accommodate larger Code E aircraft, allowing airlines to fly more passengers from further afield. The upgraded runway at Bauerfield will also ensure large emergency response aircraft can land safely during times of disaster.

The support will also help the Vanuatu government’s Project Management Unit complete these works quickly and effectively, while ensuring existing airport operations are not disrupted over the remaining three years of project works.

“Aviation is absolutely critical to Vanuatu’s economy, providing essential transport links for tourism, trade and disaster response and recovery,” said World Bank Country Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, Michel Kerf.

“This additional funding will enable us to continue supporting the government to make flying safer and more reliable for locals and visitors alike.”

To date, the project has helped deliver emergency runway repair works at Bauerfield in April and September 2016, allowing international jet operations to continue; oversee designs and award contracts for further pavement and light works; award contracts for two new aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicles; purchase aeronautical communications equipment; and improve safety and quality management systems, among other developments.

The Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project is part of the Pacific Aviation Investment Program, which is supporting governments in Kiribati, Tonga and Tuvalu to deliver improvements to aviation safety and reliability.

US$14.1 million in additional financing for the project will be funded through a US$9.5 million credit, and a US$4.6 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries. Total funding for the project, including support from the Government of Australia through the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility, is now at US$73.9 million.