31 May 2013
By Kang Siew Li
WAS it a case of too many chefs spoiling the broth? The opening of klia2 in Sepang, which will be the largest low-cost carrier terminal in Asia, has been delayed a fifth time to a date yet to be known.
While Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has blamed contractors for the latest delay, questions are thrown up as to which contractors caused it and why? Alas, the airport operator has only given information on an "as need" basis.
Nevertheless, KUB Malaysia Bhd, which is responsible for the construction of the 3.96km third runway, parallel taxiways and connecting taxiways at klia2, and WCT Bhd, which is developing the integrated complex, have come out to say they are not to be blamed. So that leaves the other 40-odd contractors to do the same.
Forty-odd contractors, you ask? Well, this number tallies with that of the 47 work packages awarded in the development of the new terminal as part of the economic stimulus for the country, and that’s not even counting the sub-contractors whom the main contractors rely on.
This is where "the more, the merrier" adage does not apply.
According to one industry observer, if the contractors don’t perform, they should be kicked out. "Look for the cause of the delays. Don’t cover up and suffer in silence."
For Etiqa Insurance & Takaful Bhd head of research Chris Eng, he sees the delay as an opportunity cost to making money for MAHB and retailers at klia2, but he doesn’t expect significant cost overruns as the delays are not caused by a variation of MAHB’s order.
"MAHB has announced that it will impose liquidated ascertained damages (LAD) on the concerned contractors, implying that the risks of higher costs will be borne by the contractors. Thus, I don’t see MAHB suffering major losses.
"As for other stakeholders like the airlines and passengers like you and me, we can still use the existing low-cost carrier terminal," said Eng.
Thus, he doesn’t view the latest delay as a concern. "Don’t rush (into opening klia2) just to later find out there are safety issues. It is always better to be safe than sorry."
Also, a delay in the opening of klia2 is not new. In fact, we’ve probably gotten used to it after the third delay. Previous delays were attributed to numerous requests by AirAsia Bhd, which will be the anchor tenant at klia2, to increase the new terminal’s capacity to 45 million passengers a year, and for a fully-automated baggage handling system, among others.
And, as recently as in January this year MAHB decided to defer the opening of klia2 to June 28, 2013 from the originally targeted May 1, 2013 on the advice of the prime minister. That was to coincide with the day the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang was launched in 1998.
Still, one can’t help but feel frustrated and a little disappointed at MAHB’s lack of action. It’s time the airport operator nip the problem in the bud and tell the parties concerned to finish the job.