Big hitters hover over Mopa

06 March 2015
There is already an international airport at Dabolim, in northern Goa, as a civilian enclave at INS Hansa (pictured is a MiG-29K on takeoff from INS Hansa). (Indian Navy)

The request for qualifications to build, operate, and transfer a second airport for Goa has attracted interest from major firms - but the rationale behind the greenfield development is open to question.

As reported by IHS Jane's in February 2015, the concessionaire will operate the airport at Mopa on behalf of the state government. A contract award is expected by July 2015.

The first phase will cost an estimated INR15 billion (USD241 million) with an overall cost of INR30 billion following further construction to enable capacity of up to 13 million passengers per annum. The concessionaire would be obliged to pay a lump sum and a share of passenger revenue to the Goa government.

Eight consortia as well as individual companies are believed to be in contention. Examples include the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Indian infrastructure groups GMR and GVK, Hiranandani Group in partnership with Vinci Construction, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) in partnership with Incheon International Airport Corporation, SL Infrastructure with Flughafen Zurich, SREI Infrastructure with Dublin Airport Authority, and Tata Sons with Ferrovial.

Mopa would enter service in 2018 to operate alongside Goa International Airport in Dabolim.


The request for quotations for Mopa seems to have attracted twice as much interest as the scheme to build a second airport for Mumbai at Panvel - even though the latter project is worth five times more.

The presence of AAI is also noteworthy, as it would be the first time that the government-run operator bids against domestic and foreign competitors. Until now, the AAI has confined itself to developing and upgrading its own airports.

There is already an international airport at Dabolim, in northern Goa, as a civilian enclave at an Indian Navy airfield.

The intention is for Mopa to function in tandem with the existing airport, but this may not be feasible as their catchment areas would overlap. There may not be enough passenger demand to justify two international airports for Goa, and airlines may shy away from serving both of them - so the commercial justification for Mopa appears weak.

Nor is it realistic to shut down the Dabolim site. The terminal currently handles twice the traffic that its 900 passengers/peak hour capacity permits, so AAI is quadrupling capacity with a new terminal. The resulting infrastructure should allow Dabolim to meet demand in the near and medium term.

The Mopa site also has its problems. For instance, the existing airport is closer to Goa's business district. Construction is planned on prime agricultural land, so new laws would be needed to convert the site to non-agricultural use. Mopa is also close to the Goa-Maharashtra border, so there are concerns that Maharashtra may take away some of Goa's lucrative tourist traffic. In 2014, the former Portuguese colony welcomed more than four million domestic and international tourists. About 12.5% of all international tourists to India visit Goa.

As things stand, it may be best for Goa that Dabolim remains the airport of choice, rather than set up a new airport at Mopa.

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