China State Construction Engineering Corporation(CSCEC) is interested in investing the second largest airport in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
The Beijing-based builder is looking specifically into a USD 500m project which involves the construction of a cargo centre as part of the ongoing expansion of Tuzla International Airport — also the largest low-cost carrier hub in Bosnia, according to a statement from the government of the Tuzla Canton(TK) on Friday.
Tuzla International Airport serves both as a civilian airport and a military airbase in northwest BiH and is owned by the Tuzla Canton government and operated by Bosnia’s Directorate of Civil Aviation.
With only one runway the airport handled 535,834 passengers in 2017, up 70% from a year earlier. A second passenger terminal with a capacity of 700,000 passengers per year is due to be completed by the end of September.
A spokesperson from CSCEC declined to comment, adding that the company has been looking at investments in various overseas countries, the discussions are in its early stages and will not materialise anytime soon.
The recent Chinese interest was in response to the local government’s long-touted plan to grow the airport’s cargo business. In 2016, Turkish Airlines Cargo established a cargo route bound to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport mainly for 15,000 tonnes of fresh meat products imported from BiH with wide-body Airbus 330-200 freighter aircraft. It handled 6,062 tonnes of cargo traffic in 2016, up from 236.246 tonnes YoY.
The Beijing-based builder presented the project designed to help export more halal fresh meat to the regions of Turkey and the rest of Middle East, said Rifet Karasalihovic, Director of Tuzla International Airport. CSCEC was also interested in building a farm and slaughterhouse within the airbase as part of the project.
The cargo business expansion will allow flights from the airport to carry fresh slaughtered meat to any part of Europe or Middle East within five hours, according to the Chinese firm.
The Chinese company also offered to help launch a new airline route to China. “Our goal is to connect this city with other destinations in the world … we are interested in linking this place to other airlines,”CSCEC marketing manager Zuo Bin said.
CSCEC will have intense talks with the governments of the Federation of BiH, TK and the Cantonal Assembly over the project in the coming period, the statement said.
The airport can be linked to Kalesija town to the east and to Zivinice town to the west via a secondary road, from where it will be connected to Sarajevo, the capital city of BiH and Tuzla – the third largest city in Bosnia.
In terms of passenger traffic, Turkey’s Freebird Airlines runs a flight route bound for Turkey’s Antalya Airport, which is a major destination during the European summer leisure season thanks to its situation at the country’s Mediterranean coast. Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air operates routes serving more than a dozen of European cities including Vienna, Berlin,Stockholm and Basel with the four busiest bound for Dortmund, Malmo, Göteborg and Basel. For the first six months of the year, it served a total of 275,360 passengers, up 21.3% YoY.
Last month, a CSCEC delegation to BiH said the Chinese company was considering investing in potential infrastructure projects in the country‘s roads, bridges, airports and ports as well as energy projects, according to a separate government statement.