By Beatrice Thomas
Qatar transport minister was as saying passenger operations will start at the much-delayed $15.5bn Hamad International Airport in January
Qatar’s much-delayed new airport has announced the arrival of its first cargo shipment, as reports suggest passenger operations at the $15.5bn facility could begin next month.
Qatar Airways said on Tuesday that a shipment for Qatar Petroleum was transferred from Europe to Doha at the new Hamad International Airport on December 1.
“Today marks a historic moment not just for Hamad International Airport but also for Qatar Airways Cargo,” a Qatar Airways spokesperson said in a statement.
“The cargo terminal complex at HIA will play a significant role in expanding our global cargo business and propels Doha as the preferred cargo hub in the region, as a result of its sophisticated cargo infrastructure and capacity.”
The new 77,000 square metre, two-level cargo terminal, which is one of the largest in the world, has the capacity to move 5,700 shipments simultaneously and handle 1.4 million tonnes of cargo per annum by 2015 - up 75 percent on capacity at the existing airport.
The statement makes no mention of when passenger operations will begin.
However, Qatar transport minister Jassim Seif Ahmed Al Sulaiti was quoted by the Gulf Times as saying Hamad International Airport will start passenger operations in January.
A ‘soft’ opening of the airport’s passenger operations will see 10 airlines operate out of Concourse B. The airlines include Air Arabia, flydubai and RAK Airways.
In September, Bechtel’s EMEA president, David Welch, claimed the contractor’s work at Hamad International Airport was “virtually complete”.
The project was initially due to open three years ago, but has missed a series of opening dates, with the most recent being April 1 this year.
Recent reports quoted Akbar Al Baker, CEO Qatar Airways and Doha International Airport, as stating that the airport will not begin operations until 2014.
Speaking to Construction Week, Welch said: “It’s going through the certification process with the authorities. The start-up teams are operating, the contractors working on our portion of the scope are finishing up their punch lists very rapidly.
"The client would need to decide when they want to open it but it will be ready any time they wish to do that.”
Al Baker has pointed the finger at contractors working on the job as contributing to delays. Last year, he threatened to bring a lawsuit against Lindner Depa Interiors (LDI), whose $250m contract to fit-out 17 airport lounges was cancelled. Depa responded last week by filing a $250m claim against the airport.
After the April 1 deadline was missed, Al Baker also said Bechtel had been “complacent” in meeting regulatory requirements.