The Transportation Ministry has invited local and international contractors to bid by 2 October for the contract to build a greenfield international airport near Najaf. The proposed airport will have capacity of about 2.5 million passengers and 5,000 tonnes a year of cargo (MEED 5:8:05).

The contract will be awarded on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis with a 15-year concession. Total project costs are estimated at about $300 million. The ministry is also looking for potential investors to help finance the project.

The scope of works includes construction of a 4-kilometre concrete runway with a width of 60 metres, a concrete taxiway with a width of 45 metres, an apron for at least 10 aircraft, a two-storey terminal with six passenger bridges, an air traffic control tower, various administrative buildings, a hotel, aircraft hangers and infrastructure work. The contract will also entail the supply and installation of all electrical and mechanical systems.

Plans are also moving ahead to transform Najaf’s existing military airport at Al-Hamza into the Al-Imam Ali passenger airport. The Najaf governorate awarded in mid-September a company identified as Fahd Albasraan estimated $75 million contract to renovate the airport.

The contract follows an agreement signed with Iran in August, whereby Tehran will provide an estimated $25 million concessionary loan to finance the project, which could take as little as four months to complete.

The decision to develop Najaf’s air infrastructure aims to serve religious pilgrims travelling to and from Iran. Until now, Shia pilgrims have been forced to travel along highways in predominantly Sunni areas near the Baghdad airport and between the capital and Najaf. The area, which is 90 miles south of Baghdad and near to Karbala, is home to several Shia shrines.