There’ll be light at the airport, KAA assures

July 19, 2011
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 19 – The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has announced that it will soon purchase three generators to act as a back-up power solution at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

KAA Managing Director Stephen Gichuki disclosed on Tuesday that the procurement process for the generators that will be used to provide power at the runway, taxiways and control tower has already begun.

“We have begun the procurement process for three additional back-up generators that will be dedicated to providing a fourth back-up power solution to essential JKIA facilities,” the MD stated.

The airport has in the last few days suffered major power blackouts leading to diversion of many flights.

On Monday night, JKIA was in darkness barely 24 hours after another power failure was experienced and which was attributed to an interruption on the main power supply lines.

KAA has come under heavy criticism from stakeholders such as airlines that have suffered heavy losses following the disruption of their flight operations not to mention the inconvenience to their passengers.

A 3.30am Sunday incident for instance saw 14 Kenya Airways international flights directed to Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kigali international Airport in Rwanda and Entebbe International Airport in Uganda and Julius Nyerere International Airport in Tanzania.

In its defence however, KAA continued to hold that it did have the necessary equipment in place but which was affected by an earth fault on a high voltage underground cable.

“We would like to reassure all our stakeholders that indeed JKIA has four back-up generators – two 1,400 KVA generators and two 1,000 KVA  generators – which have the capacity to supply power to the entire JKIA facility for as long as there is no direct power from the Kenya Power grid,” Mr Gichuki insisted.

He was quick to add that the authority would commence a major upgrade of JKIA’s power supply and distribution system in September to cater for the current facilities and the ongoing expansion program.

In the meantime however, together with engineers from Kenya Power- which has also continued to absolve itself from blame over the incident – a team has been deployed on site to monitor the situation and check the high voltage underground cable and harmonise the circuit protection breakers in the JKIA power system.

Stakeholders including Jetlink Managing Director Captain Elly Alluvale however opined that a last solution needs to be found fast as the blackouts were painting the country, which boasts of being a hub in East and Central Africa, in a very bad light.

“They (power failures) paint a negative picture because our airport has been voted number one in Africa and so we something needs to be done so that we don’t have a repeat of this,” Captain Alluvale asserted.

Besides the negative impact on KAA, the disruptions which resulted in delayed flights were also affecting carriers’ on-time performance and hence their service delivery and bottom-lines.

Recognising that this was a matter of concern not only to the airlines and passengers but also to the economy as a whole, the debate found its way to the floor of Parliament which resumed its sittings on Tuesday afternoon.

Rarieda Member of Parliament Nicholas Gumbo sought a clarification on what caused the outages, demanded that a list of all power failures that have hit JKIA in the last one year be provided and an estimated amount that could have been lost during the blackouts.

House Speaker Kenneth Marende held that the issue was serious issue needs not be deal with causally.

“Is the government aware that Kenya’s status as a regional hub is under threat?” Mr Marende posed amid applause from the floor.

However, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government Musalia Mudavadi who was hard pressed to answer appealed for time to look into the matter and pledged that the government would issue a comprehensive statement on Thursday.

“The on goings at the JKIA are very serious indeed and this has happened twice in 36 hours,” he admitted. “But I’m pleading on behalf of the Minister of Transport for one extra day to enable him to bring out a very accurate statement,” Mr Mudavadi pleaded.

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