The multimillion dollars New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA) is going to bring about major changes in the regional civil aviation.

Being part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the New Gwadar International Airport is to complete by 2018.

Documents available with The Nation suggest that the state of the state-of-the-art project is being financed through Chinese grant which means it is yet another gift to Pakistan from China. These documents revealed that the governments of Pakistan and China have agreed to include NGIA as an early harvest project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the 6th Joint Coordination Committee meeting recently held in Beijing.

The Chinese government is processing the grant amount so that ongoing work on the New Gwadar Airport Project is expedited and completed within the stipulated time. Initially, China is releasing US $260 million to undertake work on the key components of the project.

The revised project is proposed to be executed on turnkey / EPC basis through Chinese loan which would be arranged by the GoP under China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC). The new airport will operate under the open skies policy.

To be established over revised area of 4,300 acres of land, 26km northeast of the existing airport in Gwadar, would be capable of handling the largest of passenger planes, including the A380 Boeing Jet.

The new airport aerodrome reference code would be C (having a runway width of 45m and length of 10,000 ft, suitable for B-737, Airbus 320 etc). It would rapidly change the civil aviation dynamics in the region. It is expected to compete with regional aviation hubs such as the Dubai international Airport, UAE.

Apart from catering to the passengers, it will also have special facility for the air cargo services. The airport would initially handle aircraft up to code C but would be extended in length and shoulders for aircraft up to code E in future as and when required without major disruptions to operations.

The scope of work includes construction of main runway (3,050m + 305m stop ways each end, X45m) with the provision of 2nd runway (3,658 m X 60 m) along with taxiways and expansion of other airside and landside facilities, 2 link taxiways, apron, visual aids, navigational aids, ATC tower and one and half level Passenger Terminal Buildings having a total covered area of 39,600sqm.

The scope of work also includes construction of a cargo terminal, access and internal road network, parking lot for approximately 300 cars, CAA administration building, CAA rest house, mosque, radio building, fuel farm, ASF Camp, residential facilities for CAA's airport operations staff and utility network etc.

The original project was approved by the Ecnec in its meeting held on January 21, 2010 at a cost of Rs7.675 billion including an Omani Grant of $17.50 million, subject to the condition that no fundamental changes would be made in the original design and flight operations would not be compromised. It was also decided that out of the total cost, 10% (Rs 767.5 million) will be borne by CAA, 20% (Rs 1.535 billion) from Omani Grant and the remaining 70% (Rs 5.372.5 billion) by the Federal Government through PSDP as an exceptional case.

In order to secure the airport property/land, works for erecting a fence and construction of watch towers and a road for security patrolling along the 18km-long boundary fencing were awarded in 2009 at a cost of Rs 680 million. These site protection works were completed in 2014. Out of the total amount of Rs 829.404 million incurred on the project so far, a Rs 345.979 million came from PSDP, Rs 276.649 million from Omani Grant and Rs 206.776 million from CAA funds.

Plans are also afoot to make the existing Gwadar port as a supporting facility to the New Gwadar International airport. The existing Gwadar airport in Balochistan is operating to cater mainly to the residents of Gwadar.

Pakistan International Airlines, the main airline flying out of the airport, connects Gwadar to Karachi, Turbat and Muscat, while other airlines had launched their flights to Gwadar. These included Oman Air, which flew to Muscat using ATR 42 aircraft, and Airblue, which carries out two daily flights to Karachi through its joint venture partner JS Air.