44.15% construction completed as of 12 September
Civil aviation expects soft launch in October 2023 when 91% of works will be done
Civil aviation state minister ruled out allegations of use of substandard construction materials
Luggage handling job will be given through a competition
The construction of the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka is progressing in full swing, with the implementation of the mega project marginally surpassing the target.
Officials say the soft launch of the much-awaited terminal is expected within October next year.
"As of today, the construction has reached 44.15%, which is 0.2% more than the September target," State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali told journalists during a visit to the project site at Kurmitola in the capital on Monday.
He said the construction will be completed within the stipulated time.
"The gap between work progress and the target has minimised by this time. The rate of progress will increase further compared to the target," he added.
The state minister expressed his hope that the terminal can be inaugurated within the October 2023 deadline and said passengers will enjoy the same quality of services as in other world-class airports.
"There will be no compromise with quality," he said of the project being implemented by Mitsubishi and Fujita of Japan, and Samsung of South Korea.
Regarding allegations about the use of substandard construction materials, Mahbub Ali said there has been no compromise on the quality of work.
"The supplies of only quality products specified in the tender will be accepted for this project, nothing else will be accepted," he added.
Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice-Marshal Mafidur Rahman also rejected the allegations outright, saying materials were bought through a multilayer specification process.
"We have a tripartite mechanism here. No item out of our specification has entered here yet," he added.
He said, "Several attempts have been made but we want to make it clear whether it was done unfairly or not."
Owing to the Covid pandemic, materials could not be brought from specified companies at different times and in such a situation some changes had to be made, said the Caab chairman, adding they ensured the quality of the supplies.
Around 4,000 local and foreign workers are engaged in the project, according to Caab.
Once completed, the terminal can serve twice the number of passengers than the Dhaka airport is handling currently, officials said.
After completion of the project, the airport will be able to provide service to around 22 million passengers every year, according to Caab.
When the third terminal is completed, it will double the airport's annual passenger and cargo handling capacity, the civil aviation authority said.
It will be able to handle five lakh tonnes of cargo compared with the current two lakh tonnes.
Replying to a question on whether luggage handling at the third terminal will remain in the hand of state-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines or whether it will be handed to another organisation, Mahbub Ali said, "There will be an open competition. If Biman can win the competition by maintaining international standards, it can get the job. If Biman can't, then those who are capable will do it."
Asked if there will be a tender, he said, "Many organisations have already expressed interest, which is being measured. Decisions will be made keeping in mind that the quality of service remains intact.
"There are some lapses in our professionalism. So we have arranged training and monitoring," he added.
Pointing out that passengers are also responsible for the disruption of passenger services apart from the airport management, he said, "It cannot be said that every passenger brings goods perfectly."
According to project sources, the terminal is being constructed on 542,000 square metres of land and will have a floor space of 230,000 square metres, 177 check-in counters, 64 departure and 64 arrival immigration desks.
Meanwhile, construction of a high-speed taxiway at the airport is also being done quickly.
On 28 December 2019, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction work of the Tk21,300 crore "Third Terminal of HSIA" in Dhaka aimed at increasing the airport's passenger and cargo capacity.
Of the total cost, the government will provide Tk5,000 crore and the rest will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.