A consortium led by South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) has been selected as the preferred bidder to build a new international airport on the outskirts of Yangon, an official announcement said.
The Ministry of Transport has announced that IIAC, which is working in cooperation with South Korean industrial giants Kumho Industrial Co, Halla Engineering and Construction Corp, Lotte Engineering and Construction Co and Posco ICT Co, will build the $1.4-billion airport located at Hanthawaddy, located roughly 80 kilometres northeast of the country’s former capital and commercial hub.
IIAC plans to sign a contract with Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) by the end of this year, with work to be completed by 2018. The maximum lease for the site, which the ministry said will be able to accommodate 12 million passengers per year, is for 50 years.
“The number of arrivals to Myanmar has grown by 30 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year and that trend is likely to continue to grow,” said Marek Lenarcik, product manager at one of Myanmar’s leading tourism agencies, Tour Mandalay.
“There are times when Yangon International Airport [currently located in Mingaladon, north of Yangon] is getting inconveniently crowded. The lines to the immigration posts are considerably longer than they were a year or two ago. We might not need a new airport right now, but it’s good that the construction is starting now and not when it’s already too late,” Lenarcik told Myanmar Business Today.
Other companies vying for the tender included Singapore’s Yongnam Holdings, Japan’s Taisei Corp and France’s Vinci, according to South Korea’s Transport Ministry.
Myanmar has seen a surge of interest in tourism and business arrivals since a quasi-civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, took power in 2011 and began implementing changes aimed at opening the formerly isolated nation up to the international community.
Those changes have seen the EU drop all remaining economic sanctions while the US has temporarily suspended the sanctions it held, resulting in large increases in foreign investment and interest in a country that was previously shunned by the international community.
However, some human rights groups including Human Rights Watch argues that the dropping of sanctions has come too soon, particularly due to human rights abuses in the country’s Rakhine and Kachin states.
The planned Hanthawaddy airport will be on a 41,832 square kilometres site, about nine times the size of Yangon’s current international airport.
“Hanthawaddy will be as important for passengers and cargo in Asia as Changi International Airport in Singapore and Suvarnabhumi International Airport,” an official from DCA said earlier this year.
IIAC operates South Korea’s biggest airport, which handled nearly 40 million passengers last year, making it Asia’s ninth busiest airport in 2012 according to figures from Airports Council International.
The Transport Ministry also announced that Mandalay airport would be upgraded by Japanese company Mitsubishi-Jalux Inc, who are working with Myanmar-based group Serge Pun Associates, and the existing airport at Mingaladon would be developed by local firm Pioneer Aerodrome Services, with plans to reach 6 million capacity by 2017.
Myanmar currently has three international standard airports and 29 regional airports and has this year seen a surge of airlines operating flights from the cities of Mandalay and Yangon.
Total arrivals in Yangon – including both domestic and international passengers – reached 1.53 million in the first half of 2012, more than the number that passed through the airport in the whole of 2008.