Abuja airport closure: British Airways, others reject Kaduna airport

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  • Imports at US Container Ports to Grow by 4.6 Pct

British Airways says it will not fly to Kaduna International Airport during the period of repair of the runway at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

The airport will close for six weeks, from March 8, to enable repairs while flights for Abuja will reroute to Kaduna airport.

But most airlines have refused to fly to Kaduna.

South African Airways, Lufthansa and now British Airways say they are suspending Abuja flights until the airport reopens.

BA country manager Kola Olayinka said its decision to suspend Abuja flights temporarily was in the interest of its customers.

“Many factors were considered before this decision was reached,” he said.

“Major ones are concerned about the safety and security of our passengers as well as difficulties around some key operational issues. We are currently evaluating all options for our customers planning to travel at that time and we will be reaching out directly to them for information about their trip.”

Olayinka who commended the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika for the planned repair work added that there are no catering services as well as the adequate technology like the Common User Terminal Equipment, among others in Abuja.

Reacting to the development, Secretary of Aviation Roundtable, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said the flight diversion to Kaduna would serve as “windfall” to domestic airlines.

He said, “The domestic airlines need no prompt to know that the exercise is a windfall for those among them that have capacity in terms of fleet, air and ground crew. Those that lack should go source for them through buying, borrowing, hiring or stealing. The exercise provides minimum of 20 extra flights daily to Abuja aside from the normal daily flights.”

In the meantime, imports at US major retail container ports are expected to rise by 4.6 percent during the first half of 2017 over the same period last year, shows the new monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

The increase is ascribed to the improvement of the nation’s economy and further growth of retail sales.

“This is very much in line with what we are forecasting for retail sales and consumer spending this year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.

“Retailers try to balance inventories very carefully with demand. So, when retailers import more merchandise, that’s a pretty good indicator of what they are expecting to happen with sales.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.58 million TEUs in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.8 percent from November as the holiday season came to an end but up 10.2 percent from December 2015. That brought 2016 cargo volume to a total of 18.8 million TEU, up 3.2 percent from 2015, which had grown 5.4 percent from 2014, the report said.

Furthermore, January was estimated at 1.59 million TEU, up 6.6 percent from January 2016. February is forecast at 1.53 million TEU, down 0.6 percent from last year; March at 1.43 million TEU, up 7.8 percent from last year; April at 1.56 million TEU, up 8.2 percent; May at 1.66 million TEU, up 2.3 percent, and June at 1.65 million TEU, up 4.3 percent.

Those numbers would bring the first half of 2017 to 9.4 million TEU, up 4.6 percent from the first half of 2016. That would be almost three times the 1.6 percent growth seen in the first half of 2016 over the same period in 2015.

“The United States is well placed in 2017 and is likely to outperform most of the rest of the developed economies,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.

“If the infrastructure investments promised by the new administration come about, we can expect stronger growth than in 2016, but that assumes good relationships with U.S. trading partners and no recourse to trade barriers that would result in a tit-for-tat response.”

Ships & Ports with additional report from World Maritime News