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Design flaws stall Sylhet airport expansion, causing costs, time overruns

In October 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated a megaproject to upgrade Osmani International Airport in Sylhet. But construction stalled after only 22% progress following the detection of “major flaws” in the design.

The project was scheduled to conclude this year, but officials now estimate it will take an additional two years to complete after the redesign. This will also increase the cost.

According to project sources, a joint venture of Korean companies, Yooshin Engineering Corporation and Heerim Architects and Planners, prepared the original design for the project.

In May 2020, China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) entered into an agreement for the Tk2,309 crore megaproject based on the design.

When asked, Osmani International Airport Director Hafiz Ahmed told that whether action will be taken against the Korean companies for the design defect is a matter for the higher government authorities to decide.

Expansion plans

The mega project primarily consists of a two-story international passenger terminal building, boarding bridges, check-in counters with conveyor belts, passport control counters, escalators, elevators, baggage conveyor belts, a cargo building, a jet fuel depot, and a control tower.

Officials at the airport say once the megaproject is implemented, direct flights from Sylhet to various countries will increase, and the passenger handling capacity will increase fourfold from the current five lakh annually.

Design flaws

Officials have stated that the design for the terminal building is riddled with flaws. Implementing the project with this flawed design would lead to a reduction in the airport’s capacity. Additionally, complications in the transportation of goods could result in various inconveniences for passengers.

The boarding bridges were initially designed for small aircraft suitable for domestic flights. They now need modifications to accommodate international routes. Consequently, the Civil Aviation Authority is planning a new design.

Work progress

Officials involved with the project say the piling for the terminal building has almost been completed. The piling for the cargo terminal building and the administrative building is finished.

Project Director Shah Zulfikar Haider said there will be no need to knock down these piles in the new design.

He said the Korean companies that designed the expansion project made some flaws in the design, which has stalled the project.

He mentioned that the draft of the revised design has been submitted and is currently under scrutiny. Once the necessary corrections are made, it will be finalised.

Changes in design

Project Director Shah Zulfikar Haider said the new design will involve a slightly increased workload. Previously, separate boarding bridges were designated for small and large aircraft, but in the new design, all boarding bridges will be constructed for larger aircraft. Several other adjustments will also be implemented.

He said the process to finalise the changed design is underway.

The project director stated that the work cannot be completed within the stipulated period and will require an extension. The duration of the extension will be determined through collaboration between the design consultant and the contractor.

After the original deadline expired in May this year, the Civil Aviation Authority extended the time frame until next December.