Are Istanbul’s Cargo Hopes in Danger?

The Turkish economy, seen by many as being the upcoming dominant market for the future, seems to be showing cracks, which, if not repaired quickly will put the plans for its new airport and cargo handling facilities in danger.
Turkey’s plans to start construction of its new airport in Istanbul at an estimated cost of Euro €22bn, have suffered a severe setback.

Judges stopped the Black Sea Airport project until further notice / source: Chamber of Environmental Engineers, Turkey
Judges stopped the Black Sea Airport project until further notice / source: Chamber of Environmental Engineers, Turkey

There are conflicting reports from both sides however!
On the one hand the State Airports Authority (DHMI) is reported as saying that the project is continuing as planned.
On the other side, the head of Turkey’s Chamber of Environmental Engineers (CMO) states that the court had halted implementation of a positive environmental impact report; something which is apparently a must before the “green light” can be given.
This “report implementation stoppage” essentially means that other expert reports are being demanded and they seemingly would take between 10-12 months to be layed on the table.

The bid to construct the new airport was won by a consortium of Turkish construction firms in May of 2013 and the Ankara government made it known that it was to be operational by 2018.
The CMO is a professional body that regularly challenges projects which it considers may be risky for the environment.
On the other hand, the DHMI maintains that the suspension is “of a temporary nature only.”
But what’s temporary? Ten to twelve months at first, can easily run into 1-2 years and even longer.
We’ve seen all of that, although for other reasons, during the building phase of the new Berlin (BBI) Airport.

The Turkish consortium made up of the Cengiz, Kolin, Limak, Mapa and Kalyon companies together agreed to invest €22bn into the airport for the “build-operate-transfer” project with a total lease time of 25 years.
They outbid others, including Germany’s Fraport.
It is said in Turkish circles that the companies within the chosen consortium are very close to Mr Erdogan’s government which is being shaken by a corruption inquiry which was made public a few months ago.

The start of the project is anyway already running behind schedule due to misunderstandings with regards to the ownership of the planned construction site which was due to be handed over in January of this year. As it seems, this cannot happen before July at earliest.

The Turkish air cargo community and Turkish Airlines have put great hope in the speedy completion of the new airport which was also to include new, large and state of the art cargo handling facilities, which when up and running would be superior to those of their European counterparts as well as “on-par” to those within the Gulf States.

Turkey, seen last year as “unstoppable,” is now experiencing tough times.
The Turkish Lira is almost in free fall, investors are generally becoming nervous due to the continuing internal political strife as well as corruption allegations on almost a daily basis.

If this project were to be delayed by two, three or four years, then Turkey would certainly miss out on its plans to position Istanbul as (the) most important passenger and air cargo hub in the Orient.

One can’t imagine that the governmental bodies will allow this to happen!

John Mc Donagh