Transport, navy clinch U-tapao deal

Construction News

Yet another deal has been signed to turn the U-Tapao Naval Airbase into an actual international airport, able to handle 800,000 passengers by next year. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Transport Ministry and the navy have clinched a deal to develop U-tapao airport in Rayong for commercial purposes.

The memorandum of cooperation (MoC) was signed by Transport Minister Prajin Juntong and navy commander Kraisorn Chansuvanich Wednesday.

The development is in line with Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s “one airport, two missions” directive, under which the navy-operated U-tapao airport would serve both security and commercial missions, ACM Prajin said.

The minister said the development process would comprise three phases, although work under the first phase can begin almost immediately.

The first phase, slated to run from 2015-2017, includes the construction of a new passenger terminal — which is expected to be completed next year – along with taxiways and parking bays.

This phase is expected to increase the airport’s capacity so it can handle three million passengers a year, ACM Prajin said.

The existing terminal can handle 800,000 passengers a year.

The second phase, between 2018-2020, will involve infrastructure development with the approval of the navy, pushing the airport’s capacity to five million passengers a year.

The third phase, from 2020 onwards, will include the development of infrastructure and other amenities to serve the aviation industry into the future.

Three working panels will be established to oversee the development of the airport, the transport minister said.

The first committee, chaired by deputy permanent secretary for transport, Chatchai Thipsunawee, will handle the infrastructure development and transport networks.

Another panel, headed by transport permanent secretary Soithip Traisuth, will be responsible for the airport’s business plan.

The third committee on the public relations campaign will be chaired by deputy permanent secretary for transport Woradej Harnprasert.

The panels will start working from this month, aiming to have a clear work plan drawn up within a couple of months.

“The navy will be responsible for air traffic management and ground operation services, but Thai Airways must be ready to give support if requested,” ACM Prajin said, adding his ministry will handle the transport networks linked to the airport.

“We are confident there will be a surge of scheduled and charter flights at U-tapao airport including airlines flying passengers from Europe, Russia and China.”

The ministry, he said, will work with the navy to proceed with the public relations and promotion campaigns to draw more people to use the airport, including tourists and business people in the eastern provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat.

There is also an urgent need to enhance U-tapao airport’s capacity because parts of Suvarnabhumi airport are slated for repairs, he said.

Adm Kraisorn said the navy will be preparing its best personnel to work with the Transport Ministry to develop the airport.

U-tapao airport director, Rear Admiral Wasinsan Janthawarin, said construction of the new terminal and amenities could be completed by February next year.