By Adam Lucente for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Frustration builds as Iraq’s airports remain closed amid rising virus cases

When Iraqi aviation authorities first closed airports to commercial passenger flights March 17 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, they only gave about a day’s notice.

With flights already limited regionally, many got stuck.

The first ban was set to end March 24. But it has been continuously extended since.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) awarded dnata the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) Registration in Iraq, following the successful completion of a comprehensive audit of the company and its ground-handling operations at Erbil International Airport (EBL).

Tom Alwyn-Jones, General Manager of dnata Erbil, said:

We are thrilled to mark an important milestone in our ongoing commitment to safety and security by achieving the prestigious ISAGO certification. We constantly invest in training, processes and technology and engage our highly-skilled people at all levels of the organisation to deliver world-class safety for our customers. The successful completion of IATA’s comprehensive audit demonstrates our ability to consistently achieve the highest standards across our operations.

“I thank our skilled team for their hard work and dedication. We continue to go the extra mile to provide service excellence to our customers, every day.

dnata provides ramp, passenger and cargo handling services to more than 40 airlines in Erbil. The company’s customer-oriented team in Iraq consists of over 300 highly-skilled aviation professionals, who assisted 1.8 million passengers and ensured the smooth and safe operations of 10,000 flights in 2019.

ISAGO is an audit program for ground-handling companies serving airlines at airports covering the areas of organization and management, load control, passenger and baggage handling, aircraft handling and loading and aircraft ground movement.

It offers benefits to airlines, ground handlers, regulatory as well as airport authorities. These include safer ground operations, fewer accidents and injuries, elimination of redundant audits, reduced costs, less damage and fewer audits, a uniform audit process and harmonized standards, improved safety oversight, harmonized auditor training and qualifications, improved quality standards, and enhanced understanding of high-risk areas within ground operations.

(Source: dnata)

By John Lee.

Authorities in Baghdad are implementing a series of measures to improve passenger access to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).

The measures include the widening of the main road to the airport, the removal of a number of security barriers and allowing vehicles to reach the departure terminals to drop off passengers.

These measures coincide with the the resumption of flights by major carries to Iraqi airports, and the expansion of Iraqi Airways route network.

The easing of access to Iraq’s main international gateway comes just a few weeks after the Iraqi authorities oversaw the opening of the so called ‘Green Zone’ in central Baghdad to traffic, fulfilling an undertaking by Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and the Iraqi government.

Soon after the defeat of Daesh in Iraq, the Iraqi government began to remove concrete barriers, blast walls and checkpoints, which have been in place for well over a decade,
from other parts of Baghdad and cities across Iraq.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the courier company DHL , in partnership with the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCCC) in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) conducted a workshop on Getting Airports Ready for Disasters (GARD) for the period 14th to 18th Apr.

The workshop aimed to prepare airports personnel to handle the logistical situations in post-disasters. The five-day workshop provided training to 30 staff from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah International airports and employees from relevant government agencies.

The attendees jointly identified the areas that could potentially serve as key locations for disaster logistics operations in the two airports, the workshop also evaluated the airports’ capacities for processing high volumes of passengers, cargos and warehousing relief supplies.

The Director General of KRG Joint Crisis Coordination Centre, Ministry of Interior, Mr. Hoshang Mohamed said:

“We are very pleased with this partnership and we welcome this first-of-its kind initiative of “GARD” as it will further enhance our crisis management capacities to respond to disaster-affected people on time, through expediting and fast-tracking the importation and movement of relief items, and humanitarian assistance as well as the entry and exit of the humanitarian personnel. We extend our thanks to UNDP Iraq and DHL for conducting this programme”.

Vice President, Humanitarian Services of Deutsche Post DHL Group, Mr. Chris Weeks said:

“We at DHL see it over and over again – airports quickly get overwhelmed by the chaos of incoming relief aid, UN and NGO personnel, military organizations and the crowds of people trying to leave. Sometimes, humanitarian aids arrives faster than airport can arrange for it to get out, causing a massive bottleneck in the flow of relief logistics. Timing is critical during disasters and the more efficient an airport is at processing incoming aircraft, the faster aids can get out to those in need. We are really proud to conduct our first GARD workshop in Iraq”.

Officer in Charge of UNDP Iraq Mr. Vakhtang Svanidze stated that:

“The threat of natural disasters remain high. Recently  due to torrential rains, the country continues to witness large scale floods which have claimed lives, displaced people and destroyed properties. The Dam of Mosul poses significant risks to the lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable communities along Tigris flood plain”.

Since 2009 nearly 50 GARD workshops have been held in 24 countries for nearly 1,160 trainees. In the Middle East, workshops were previously held in Tehran (2017), Almaty (2017), Aqaba (2016), Amman (2014), Yerevan (2013) and Beirut (2012). Through the joint work of UNDP and DHL, the GARD workshop is being conducted now in Iraq for the first time.

(Source: UNDP)

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced a new investment opportunity in Iraq:

Due to the historical heritage Thi Qar province enjoys, which goes to thousands of years back and admired by many countries around the world, the need for building the Nasriya International Airport is of great importance in order to open Nasriya to the world.

The NIC announces with coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority the investment opportunity to build Nasriya International Airport according to investment law number 13 for 2006 (amended), and the general, international, technical, and operational requirements to establish civil airports stipulated in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The airport is located to the south – west of Imam Ali (PBUH) air force base in Thi Qar province as shown in chart (1). Area of the Passengers terminal structure is 3000m² as shown in chart (2).

Interested foreign and local companies can apply by filling the investment licenses available on our website and submit all required documents to our email address within 15 days from the date of announcing this advertisement.

For more information, please contact the Civil Aviation Authority head quarter

Baghdad International Airport/ third floor

P.O Box: 23006 BIAP

(Source: National Investment Commission)

(Picture: Business opportunity word cloud, from ibreakstock/Shutterstock)

Kirkuk Airport will open for domestic and international flights in August, an Iraqi official announced on Monday, Anadolu reports.

Rakan al-Jubouri, the governor of Kirkuk, told reporters that experts from the Ministry of Transportation would arrive in Kirkuk shortly to confirm the date of the first landing.

Kirkuk Airport will serve millions of people from Diyala, Saladin, and Mosul,” said al-Jubouri who revealed that the airport would be operated by a French company.

A total of six airports remain operational in cities like Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Mosul and within the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

Kirkuk Airport had been used by the US Air Force as a military airbase since the 2003 US invasion. It was handed over to Iraqi authorities in November 2011.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation in the Kurdistan Region reiterated that the Ministry has not received any formal approval from Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi to lift the ban on international flights from the airports in the region.

Asked whether Baghdad was trying to delay resolving the issue with Erbil, Omed Mohammed said that he has no knowledge why the Federal government has not lifted the ban on the airports after the region had shown commitment to all of the conditions introduced by Iraq.

According to the Kurdish official, the Kurdish Regional Government has already accepted all of the conditions made by the Federal government, but there was no sign from Baghdad’s side to end the punitive measures imposed on the region.

(Source: GardaWorld)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC) has included two airport projects in its list of major strategic projects to be presented during the Kuwait International Conference for Iraq Reconstruction, to be held in Kuwait from 12th to 14th February:

  • Rehabilitation and development of Mosul International Airport.
    • Estimated cost before 2014: 120 billion Iraqi Dinars.
    • Estimated percentage of Damage: over 40% (based on the estimation preformed by specialized committees carried out at the end of 2017).
  • Rehabilitation and development of Nasiriya International Airport, developing the Marshlands, and the Prophet Abraham Shrine.
    • Capacity: around 500 thousand passenger/y
    • Target capacity: 1 million passengers/y
    • Initial estimated cost: $74m
    • Buildings include: passengers terminal, runway, yard, taxi, tower, firefighting center, electricity, air conditioning systems with all devices.

The full 46-page document can be downloaded here.

(Source: NIC)

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Even if it were true that Sumerians built the first airport at Nasiriyah in 5000 BC, as Iraqi Transport Minister Kazem Finjan claimed in October, they would be shocked at the state of Iraqi aviation today.

While Kazem said Iraq’s early settlers used the airport as a base for exploring space, allegedly even discovering Pluto, Iraqis today would be happy to discover planes at their local airport. The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority announced April 12 that a number of the country’s airports will be rehabilitated, but as critics have pointed out, one small problem remains: There are not enough planes to serve them.

After Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the international community imposed an air embargo and other sanctions on the country, which were lifted in 2003 after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein. Provincial and local governments, in an effort to catch up with developments in the global transport sector, sought to establish airports in every city, but with little apparent consideration given to providing the airports with the required equipment, including planes.

The building spree included airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah (2005), Najaf (2008) and Dahuk (2012). On March 6, the Dhi Qar airport in Nasiriyah began weekly flights to Baghdad. Meanwhile, other Iraqi cities are also looking to establish air connections.

A year ago, the Babil governorate signed a memorandum of understanding with a French company for an international airport. A cornerstone for an international airport at Karbala was laid in January, and on April 6 another was laid in Kut. On March 12, the Transport Ministry confirmed that it will turn the military airport at Diwaniyah into a civil facility. Mosul’s airport is reportedly slated for rehabilitation after the city’s liberation from the Islamic State.

By John Lee.

AFP reports that Iraqi officials laid the cornerstone of a new Mid-Euphrates Airport, 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of Karbala.

The $500-million project will be carried out by the UK-based Copperchase, with work supervised by the Khayrat al-Sibtein company, which belongs to the Imam Hussein shrine (pictured).

During the ceremony, Karbala Governor Aqeel al-Turaihi said that Karbala receives millions of pilgrims annually, and building the airport is a necessity.

The first phase will include the construction of a runway, passenger terminal, car park and maintenance facility, with the first flight expected in 18 months.

(Source: AFP)