China’s giant air traffic project takes shape in South Sudan

By Tapeng Michael Ohure

It is now two years since a Chinese construction company – China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) began the construction of an Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) facility in South Sudan’s Capital Juba.

China Harbour Engineering Company is the contractor for the project. The ATMS project currently employs hundreds of South Sudanese. It is a government cooperation project between the Chinese and South Sudan’s governments. 

The construction of the facility adjacent to Juba International Airport started in June 2020. 

It will help in the control of South Sudan’s airspace, currently controlled by Sudan. South Sudan will for the first time control its own airspace.

In an interview with Juba Echo at the construction facility in Juba on Friday (today), Chinese Chief Engineer Mr. Wu Ge says the Air Traffic Management System project will be ready by 2023. 

According to the contract, the construction of the ATMS project will last three years, and is expected to be completed before June, 2023.

“Up to now, every part of the project has been progressing steadily and around half of the work has been completed,” he said.

Three construction sites are currently under construction in Juba. The concrete structure of the Juba ATM Center was completed last year. Two of the five sites in other cities are under construction.

He says work in other three cities will also start soon. The ATM equipment is under-manufacturing in the factory and will be shipped into South Sudan early this year. The CHEC official says the general planning for the project started several years ago.

“The planning of the Air Traffic Management System project dates back to 2016 when the firm, China Harbour actively assisted the South Sudan’s Ministry of Transport to undertake the preliminary technical preparations.

Through the years’ effort of all participants, the project officially kicked off in June, 2020, unfortunately the Coronavirus broke out the very year,” Wu Ge explained.

The China Harbour Engineering Company says it continued its construction work despite the challenges posed by covid-19 pandemic.

“Under this circumstance, China Harbour didn’t stop the pace. With the strong support from the government of South Sudan and China, China Harbour worked hard to overcome the challenges and difficulties brought by the pandemic,” Eng Wu Ge said

Composition of the Air Traffic Management facility 

“The project consists of the construction of Juba ATM Center, a new Air-Traffic control tower and operation building, a surveillance system, a navigation system, a communication system, and the civil engineering and supporting facilities required by the equipment, meteorological facilities, calibration flight test, and personnel training,”

According to a South Sudanese senior employee Athuai Deng Akok, the administration of the facility will be divided into two after completion of the work.

“The operation of the ATMS project will be divided into two parts; the new Juba air traffic control tower and operational building will be delivered to the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority and operated by the current team, while the ATM Center will be delivered to a new operation team.” he said.

Athuai said, “In the initial stage of operation, Chinese and South Sudanese personnel will work together. The Chinese personnel will provide on job training for South Sudanese employees during the process. As the skills of local employees will be improving, the number of Chinese employees will gradually reduce until all jobs are handed over to local employees”.

The official says the number of workers is currently under planning with the South Sudan’s Ministry of Transport and the specific number will be determined in future.

He says China Harbour Engineering Company is also doing a lot of social corporate responsibility across the country.

“While actively pushing the construction work forward, China Harbour has always focused on maintaining friendly relations with the employer and local communities. We have carried out some social responsibility activities such as a donation of 20,000 sandbags and three water pumps to Panyagor for flood prevention, and five tons of rice, three tons of cornmeal and the drilling of two wells in Wau communities. We will keep on making contributions to better the lives of local people.” he added.

He said the facilities are designed and constructed in accordance with standards, rules and codes of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

All types of equipment are consistent with the civil aviation management equipment of all countries in the world. The goal of interconnection with all countries will be achieved after completion. 

“By that time, the scope of the equipment will cover the upper civil aviation airspace of South Sudan, and will be able to manage domestic and international civil aviation aircraft,” he said.

Xie Naisi, CHEC marketing officer says once the facility is ready for operation, the number of flights per day will be determined by the local demands at the time.

“The air traffic management equipment will not be the determining factor and there is no doubt that with the development of South Sudan, the number of flights will increase in the future,” Naisi said.

Naisi says the technology being deployed at the facility will be equal to that of the neighbouring countries and can satisfy the role of a civil aviation flight information region in the East African 

Apart from the donations, China Harbour has always been adhering to the development path of localization. In the process of project implementation, it has created a large number of job opportunities for local people and has cultivated a large number of technical talents for the local engineering construction field and civil aviation field in South Sudan.

Khartoum is still responsible for the management of South Sudan’s airspace since the country gained its independence in 2011.

After the completion of this project, South Sudan will have the capacity to manage its own airspace. the Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) Project will help generate non-oil revenues for South Sudan’s government. It says the facility will create job opportunities for local people, hence promoting the economic and social development of South Sudan.

The Chinese government provides a concessional loan for financial support, the South Sudan government represented by the Ministry of Transport is the employer and China Harbour Engineering Company is the Contractor. It is the second project financed by China EXIM Bank to the South Sudan government after the Juba International Airport Project.

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