Government banks on SBI-Colas joint venture to construct Hoima airport

Even with uncertainty on the construction of an oil refinery in Hoima, Uganda is proceeding with plans for the construction of a second international airport.

The government is formalising plans with Colas Ltd, the UK subsidiary of French civil engineering firm, Colas Group, and local construction company SBI for the project.

The Kibaale International airport will be situated adjacent to the site of the proposed oil refinery for which government in 2011 acquired 29 square kilometres of land across 13 villages in Hoima.

Uganda Business News understands that government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Colas and SBI International Holdings AG (U) under a joint venture called SBC to move forward with the project, which is expected to cost Shs700bn.

SBC has since undertaken initial geotechnical investigations at the proposed site, people familiar with the matter said.

If constructed, the airport will facilitate the transportation and movement of logistics and personnel in the oil industry during the upcoming development and production phases.

A local architectural firm, NewPlan Architects, in partnership with Danish engineering firm Ramboll Group A/S, were hired in 2015 to develop the project’s preliminary master plan. This included conducting topography surveys, architectural designs, and geotechnical on-site investigations for the project. The plan was submitted to both the works and energy ministries last year.

Ramboll had been initially hired to conduct “an early phase” detailed route and environmental study for a 210km oil pipeline running from Hoima to a distributions terminal planned at Buloba in Wakiso district.

The Hoima airport is also part of the Civil Aviation Authority master plan – which also includes the development of airports in Arua, Pakuba and Kasese – aimed at stimulating the air transport industry and facilitating travels to support tourism and trade in the country.

The development of the Hoima airport is, however, largely dependent on the government getting a lead investor to finance its ambitious refinery project. Last year, RT Global Resources, a Russia-led consortium, walked away from the project.

The government is currently looking for another lead investor for the refinery, a process said to be in advanced stages. Should it fall through, however, the airport plan may also falter.

The refinery will be developed in two phases, starting with 30,000 barrels-per day (bpd) to allow oil production by 2020. A subsequent phase will be added by 2022.

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