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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

INDO-CHINESE TRADE: Airport upgrade stalled by security ‘paranoia’!

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Vinay Kumar, The Hindu / NEW DELHI, July 31, 2011.

A file photo of an aerobridge at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
A file photo of an aerobridge at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

Home Ministry sees threat in Chinese aerobridges, yet to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to imports
The installation of aerobridges at modern airports is a routine affair, not normally associated with security threats. Except in India, that is. With the government taking up modernisation of metro airports like Chennai and Kolkata, and non-metro airports, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) wants to install aerobridges to allow passengers a smooth entry and exit from their aircraft. Unfortunately, the ones it has zeroed in on are made by Chinese firms and the absence of security clearance means its plans have hit a roadblock.
Even after one-and-a-half years, AAI has not yet received the green signal from the Union Home Ministry to place an order for nearly 40 aerobridges which it needs, causing considerable delay in the modernisation projects of airports.
“Clarifications from the Home Ministry have not come for one-and-a-half-years now. There has been considerable delay. The Ministry has not communicated either ‘yes' or ‘no' to us,” official sources said.
The difference in prices between aerobridges produced by Chinese firms and those from the West was said to be substantial. While the cost of an aerobridge produced in Europe or the U.S. is about Rs. 6 crore, it was Rs. 2 crore for those from China, sources said.
“This issue of clearance from the Home Ministry has to be sorted out soon as this will impact the deadline of the ongoing modernisation projects at Chennai and Kolkata airports,” the sources said.
While Kolkata airport should be ready by March next year, Chennai's modernisation is expected to be completed by December-end.
Due to the absence of clearance, aerobridges have also not been installed at airports in Bhopal and Indore, even though provisions for erecting them have been made, the sources said. While the new terminal at Indore airport is to be made operational in the first week of August, the one at Lucknow would be operationalised in September, with Raipur following closely, the sources said.

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