Cargo operations disrupted at Namibia’s Hosea Kutako Airport

Hosea Kutako International Airport. Photo: Namibia Airports Company

Cargo operations have been disrupted at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) in Namibia following the exit of ground handler Menzies Aviation.

Ground handler at HKIA since 2014, Menzies had been involved in long-running legal dispute with airport operator Namibia Airports Company (NAC) over a procurement process carried out, which saw Paragon Investment Holdings’ Paragon Aviation Services, in a joint venture (JV) with Ethiopian Airlines, appointed as ground handler at the airport in its place.

The Paragon JV began ground handling operations at HKIA, near Windhoek, on August 19.

However, Johannesburg, South Africa-headquartered airline Airlink said in a statement on August 23: “We have been obliged to suspend our cargo operations at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport following the change in the airport’s ground handling and cargo service provider.”

The airline said that it would not restore cargo operations until Paragon had implemented security measures.

“While we are ready to work with Paragon, the new service provider, the safety and security of our passengers, personnel, and aircraft are paramount. We can only restore cargo operations when Paragon’s aviation security – including dangerous goods handling – and other cargo handling certifications, approvals, and protocols are in place.

“If we continue providing a cargo service at Windhoek without these, the integrity of our operations and international aviation safety and security will be compromised.”

According to a statement from NAC on June 9, during 2014, Menzies and NAC entered into a written agreement to provide ground handling services at HKIA. The agreement was for an initial period of five years and commenced on January 1 2014. It lapsed on 31 December 2021 and was subject to the right of renewal for three years.

New bids were invited prior to the termination date of the said agreement and a six months extension was agreed to between the parties from January 2022 to 30 June 2022, subject to a month’s written notice of termination should the procurement process that was pending at the time be finalised prior to the termination date.

Both Menzies and Paragon, in a joint bid with Ethiopian, took part in the procurement process as bidders. Paragon’s bid was successful. Menzies’ bid was disqualified on the basis of non-compliance with certain tender conditions.

Menzies took the matter to a legal Review Panel, but the review was dismissed during February 2022. Subsequently, the NAC gave notice of termination of the agreement between it and Menzies, effective April 30 2022.

But as the legal battle continued, Menzies continued to operate at the airport.

On June 15 this year, NAC said that Menzies would continue operating at the airport until July 4. The ground handler was due to cease operations on June 12, however, Menzies successfully requested High Court suspension of a previous High Court order ending its operations at HKIA, and which had been held up by the Supreme Court.

Following the commencement of Paragon as ground handler on August 19 this year, NAC said: “Paragon’s commencement to perform ground handling services at HKIA heeds the Supreme Court’s assertion to the effect that Menzies relied on unlawful self-help to stay put and had to date hereof occupied the premises unlawfully for about a year, despite the fact that Paraqon presently has the right in accordance with a bid awarded to it by the NAC to be placed in possession of the premises so as to render qround handlinq services  at HKlA pursuant to the bid awarded to it by NAC.”

Menzies has been contacted for comment.

 

 

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Rebecca Jeffrey

Rebecca Jeffrey
New to aviation journalism, I joined Air Cargo News in late 2021 as deputy editor. I previously worked for Mercator Media’s six maritime sector magazines as a reporter, heading up news for Port Strategy. Prior to this, I was editor for Recruitment International (now TALiNT International). Contact me on: [email protected]