December 5, 2020

AIRPORT DELAYS

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New plan needs to raise money, say Canadians

The head of the Canadian company looking at modernising Owen Roberts Airport said yesterday it could begin work on the three-year project almost immediately, but would only focus on improving retail profits.

Any long-term redevelopment is contingent upon shorter-term changes to make the airport a viable business, attractive to investors who will fund greater expansion, accommodating long-haul traffic from Europe and Asia.

Don OIsen, director of business development, sales and contract structuring for the Ottawa-based Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), Canada’s official contracting agency, said Cayman’s Civil Aviation Authority was pondering the group’s proposals, made after months of study.

“The authority board is meeting, and based on the outcome of that meeting, will decide the way forward,” he told iNews Cayman yesterday. “We did a lot of work, and the board is reflecting” on the proposals.

He said the project most immediately involved “expansion and rehabilitation of all the buildings, modernising the terminal block so that it would attract more airlines, and getting more stores to help support the airport with revenues.”

Surprisingly, CCC proposals did not address long-standing calls to expand Owen Robert’s 7,000-foot runway, instead seeking to boost the airport’s commercial operations, ultimately drawing further investment in “airside” — as opposed to “landside” retail – operations.

“That’s another step, beyond CCC,” Mr Olsen said. CCC would likely be involved with the wider redevelopment, based on global experience building airports, but any decision would come later.

If the board accepts CCC proposals, he said, the next step ‘would be to set up a date to come down to meet all the contractual needs, legal and financing”.

Moves could start as quickly as “the end of the fiscal year,” he said, “getting the legal and financing systems”, reviewing blueprints and designs, although he was careful to say that timing remained speculative and “could be shortened or expanded”.

When work began, he said it would take between 24 months and 30 months, and cost between $215 million and $230 million.

“That’s actually quite quick,” he said, and the price “quite reasonable. A lot of modernisation needs to be done”, but the tower, terminal and even the runway “were in good shape. The aviation authority has kept the runway in pretty good shape and the staff has been very professional.”

Edward Jerrard, Island Air executive and UCCI lecturer in air transport studies explained the complexity: “A private company is not going to put in any investment until there is a revenue stream in place. You don’t want to do anything until you get a business proposal, and a private company needs revenues.”

Making Owen Roberts profitable is likely to require an overhaul of its operations — including general aviation, airport handling and concessions – followed by development of a marketing and business plan.

“You would put in a managerial team, a marketing team and a business team,“ he said, “and it would take 18 months, and then you could decide what you need and what you want to build, then take it to banks, to investors.”

Following those decisions, Mr Jerrard sad, “you need to bring in planners to design the social, and business environment.”

In a surprise statement, however, Airport Authority chairman Dick Arch, while otherwise tight-lipped, said yesterday that the board had met on Wednesday, but still had not seen CCC plans.

“The meeting was a full quorum, everyone was there, and there was very little mention made of the CCC,” he said. “The reason for the mention was to remind our directors that the memorandum of understanding that we signed on 1 August last year was due to expire on 1 February. Up until yesterday, we had heard nothing from them.”

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