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Uganda First Oil 2025: Kabaale International Airport Takes Shape

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Construction of the airport began on April 18 2018. It should have been completed by April, 2022 but the contractor was granted a 10-month extension by the Ministry of Works and Transport. According to the revised plan, completion has been scheduled for February 17, 2023.
05 Oct 2021 10:48
L-R Directorate of Petroleum Director , Honey Malinga , Dr Michael Mugerwa and UNOC worker hoding the Kabale Industrial park drawing

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 Construction of the Hoima-based Kabaale International Airport will be completed 16 months from now. The contractors SBC and Uganda Refinery Holding Company Uganda National Oil Company say slightly above 30 per cent of the work is yet to be done. 

The Uganda Refinery Holding Company is part of the business arms of Uganda National Oil Company that is spearheading the airport construction. Construction of the airport began on April 18, 2018.

It should have been completed by April 2022 but the contractor was granted a ten-month extension by the Ministry of Works and Transport. According to the revised plan, completion has been scheduled for 17th February 2023.

The General Manager, Uganda Refinery Holding Company, Dr Michael Nkambo Mugerwa said despite some emerging challenges, the project will be delivered on time.

The airport is part of the crucial infrastructure needed for Uganda to begin extracting its vast oil resources. It is expected to airlift some of the cargo for construction of the crude oil refinery as part of the Kabaale Industrial park.

So far, the airport has been designed to handle the Boeing 747 and the Antenove 124- the largest cargo plane on the planet.  The airport Kabaale airport will have a 3.5-kilometre runway while the one at Entebbe has a 3.7-kilometre runway.

“It should be able to bring in very heavy oil and gas industrial equipment for construction. And that is one of the main purposes of the airport initially” said Mugerwa. “Of course once we are done with construction, it is going to support the industrial park, agriculture and general development of this part of the country,” he said

So far, 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil has been discovered in the Albertine Graben, out of which, 1.4 billion barrels are projected to be recoverable. The refinery will process 60,000 barrels of Uganda’s medium sweet crude oil per par day. Construction of the airport was originally estimated to cost 19 million dollars to cover initially.

Change of Air Control Tower  

Further works at the airport are likely to be affected by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) directive to have aspects of the airport changed. Dr Mugerwa revealed that ICAO has urged against the use of a mobile control tower at the facility.  

“In the original contract was a mobile control tower but the need has been realized that the International Civil Aviation Organisation-(ICAO) wants a fixed one to enable this airport to be operational. So there is a change inside the original scope of the project” said Mugerwa 

 

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He did not explain why ICAO wants a fixed control tower instead of a mobile one. Air Control towers are instrumental in ensuring the safety of aircraft, pilots, flight attendants, and airline passengers. They to provide for a safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of traffic on and in the vicinity of an airport. 

Apart from the air control tower, the airport requires a constant electricity supply using an underground voltage power supply. Mugerwa said negotiation with Uganda Electricity Transmission Company are ongoing to have a high voltage power station to serve the airport and the industrial park at Kabaale.  

  

“That will be rated at 240 megawatts. That will be one of the largest in this country. I think Kampala has something like that at Queensway. Otherwise, that is the power need we will need for this industrial park.” Said Mugerwa   The government has so far extended high-voltage power from Kasese through Fort Portal to Kabaale in Hoima.

The airport and the industrial park is located fifty meters away from the Nkenda line running along the Kaiso-Tonya highway.  

“So UECTL will provide an underground line to connect to this high voltage station. underground because of the airport. So it will be the longest underground high voltage cable. The longest we have now is on Queen's Way.  But this will be longer and it is quite expensive” further explained Michael Mugerwa

Initially, some of the upstream oil and gas projects are expected to produce power which will be converted to high voltage and fed into the national grid. But an engineer at UECTL who asked for anonymity told URN that after some time, the national grid will have to supply power to the industrial park.  

Pending Critical Issues At The Airport  


The construction is being undertaken by SBC(Uganda), a Joint venture of SB international Holdings And Colas UK. SBC manager at the project, Anurag Kalva said some of the pending issues include; civil aviation Authority housing arrangement whose designs are yet to be finalized for approval by NEMA. He said an additional budget for the construction of works is needed.

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The budget requirement has to be drawn by the ministry of works to UKEF and Standard Chartered bank a supplementary budget for loan agreement and additional funding.  

The project is 85 per cent financed by UK Export Finance (UKEF) and 15 per cent by Commercial Source of Standard Chartered Bank. So far, over EUR 309,00,000 (1.2 trillion Shillings) has been disbursed