Proposed Kulim International Airport not to compete with Penang, to focus on dwindling air cargo services, says Mukhriz

Proposed Kulim International Airport not to compete with Penang, to focus on dwindling air cargo services, says Mukhriz
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KUALA LUMPUR (March 9): The proposed Kulim International Airport (KXP) “is not meant to compete with the Penang International Airport” (LTAPP), as the former is intended to cater to the air cargo for industries in the northern corridor, said Pejuang president and Kedah’s former menteri besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

This is opposed to the LTAPP, which focuses on passenger services, Mukhriz said in a statement.

“In line with the LTAPP’s focus on passenger services, technology development such as in the fields of research, design and development must continue in Penang, with the manufacturing industries that require bigger land plots developed in states like Kedah,” Mukhriz said.

In the statement, Mukhriz expressed disappointment towards the announcement by Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Look on the KXP and the Kedah Aerotropolis.

Loke recently said the government had never received any formal application for the development of the KXP and the Kedah Aerotropolis by the interested parties. He further shared his view that the project is not viable, considering that Kedah already has an airport in Alor Setar, and another in Langkawi.

In response, Mukhriz said the master plan for the Kedah Aerotropolis has been completed for years, with a proposal raised to the federal government in the last few years.

“The claim that the government did not receive any proposal for this project is not true,” he said.

Pointing to the industrial sectors in Kedah and Penang, Mukhriz said many factories are located in industrial zones like Bayan Lepas with intention to utilise the air cargo services in the LTAPP — but the volume has dropped, while passenger capacity was raised to 12 million per year, from 6.5 million previously.

“Total cargo volume using the LTAPP in 2006 was 226,000 tonnes. In 2020, the figure dropped to 138,000 tonnes. The LTAPP has a cargo capacity of 360,000 tonnes a year,” Mukhriz said.

Industries that previously used the LTAPP as a logistics hub now have to transport containers using the highway down to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), and some further south to Singapore’s Changi Airport, Mukhriz claimed.

 “As such, the Penang state, the Kulim Hi-Tech Park, and industrial parks in the northern corridor will no longer have a point of attraction due to reduced air cargo services,” he said, adding that the added transportation cost had increased for those planning to invest in the northern corridor.

The LTAPP’s upgrade, which begins this year, will not involve land acquisition but rather see the upgrade of existing terminals, the contact pier and an aerobridge.

“However, past studies showed that the main problem [with the LTAPP] is that the existing passenger terminal has exceeded its designed capacity,” he added.

He said the Kedah Aerotropolis project has been in planning since 2014, comprising an airport city, a business park, and the Sidam Logistics, Aerospace and Manufacturing Hub that includes aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

On the KXP, Mukhriz said its four-phased development comprises two runways, as opposed to one in the LTAPP. It is envisioned to have enforcement services like customs located on-site to smoothen import-export dealings.

The proposed Kedah Aerotropolis is “the solution to “the overcrowded capacity in Penang”, and the goal of advancing the northern states, especially Kedah, he added.

“It is often heard, the comments by the minister of finance (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) and the minister of transport, that the government has no budget to develop the Kedah Aerotropolis.

“If that is the case, funding for the project can be taken on by the private sector,” he said, adding that what is needed is the political will to move the project forward.

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Surin Murugiah