By Bryce Guerrero
Arrivals to Guam, whether human or inanimate, require portals to reach the island’s shores. These portals, the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, and the Port Authority of Guam, have been working on improvements that better enable the transport of people and goods. Plans for the airport include a comprehensive list of projects already underway or pending, and the Port Authority of Guam is also working on significant developments as part of its modernization plans.
In highlighting just a few of the projects at the airport, one of the biggest is a 12,000-foot runway that will nullify past weight restrictions for carriers and enable the airport to accommodate long-haul flights.
“It will be the largest one in the region, which will validate our place as the leading aviation operator in Micronesia and the Western Pacific and actually propel us onto the global stage as a fierce competitor in aviation,” says Charles H. Ada II, executive director at the airport.
Technically, the runway is already completed, but due to the Tiyan Parkway road development, the airport will not be able to utilize the runway until the parkway’s projected completion in 2015.
The most expensive project — estimated at approximately $54 million — that the airport is working on is the construction of a third-level corridor for international arrivals. The corridor will allow the removal of partitions the airport has used for more than 10 years to separate passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration from those that have not yet been screened.
“That’ll do a lot of things for us. One, it will allow us to maximize the usage of all the gates within the terminal […]. Two, it provides a better customer service experience from the curbside to the cabin,” Ada says.
The temporary walls have negatively affected facility access and revenue generation and have required costly labor, according to the airport. The International Arrivals Corridor was at 60% completion as of Dec. 18 and is
anticipated to be complete in April.
In addition to new vertical circulation to customs and immigration, the terminal building will also have moving walkways in the arrivals corridor and new airline lounges and concessions.
Another significant change to happen at the airport will be the relocation of baggage-screening equipment to the back of the house. Because of the equipment’s present location alongside the check-in area, 12 ticket counters per baggage-screening machine are rendered useless, and there are four baggage-screening machines in use.
Ada says that, largely through federal funding, new baggage-screening equipment will be acquired and will be relocated. He says that customers will no longer need to haul their bags to the screening area but will instead be able to head directly to security after checking in, resulting in less congestion in the check-in area.
The project will cost $3.98 million, and the contract was awarded on Dec. 3 to BME & Sons.
Concerning security, three more lanes will be added at TSA to help alleviate congestion and quicken the process.
“All these projects will greatly increase our capacity for customer service,” Ada says.
Because customer service is what businesses thrive on, airlines are looking forward to the improvements as well.
Star Marianas Air Inc. has been seeking space to do business at the airport but has not been able to secure adequate access, Star Marianas’ President Shaun Christian told the Marianas Business Journal, sister publication to Guam Business. Ada says that the reason is largely due to a misunderstanding in which the small commuter terminal Star Marianas is requesting to use is not fit for commission because of the expanded taxiway. Ada says that the airport has requested a name change for the terminal, which is being used to house United Airline’s human resources department.
Ada says the airport is planning to break down an old cargo building and construct a new building that will be designated a small commuter terminal.
“It would be in our best interest to accommodate any customer that wants to operate here at the airport,” he says.
Samuel V. Shinohara, managing director at United Airlines, says he is most looking forward to the removal of the partitions in the airport.
“We’re excited that the airport’s got drawings on the books [and] has funding secured to eliminate that problem. […] It’s not a very friendly, welcoming, warm experience,” Shinohara says.
He says that the partitions limit the airport’s ability to show its beauty and that the removal of the partitions will provide better use of assets for advertising, displays from local artists and traffic flow.
“People won’t be confused, and they’ll walk into the immigrations hall, and they’ll be ready to start their vacation on Guam,” he says.
David Baker, regional director of United Express operated by Cape Air, also comments on the upcoming terminal changes.
“I think because it’s going to be easier to process passengers, there’s a potential for increased revenue for both the airport and the airlines to get flights in and out of there quicker. I think that’s a real advantage” he says. “[The] Guam airport will be the best airport in this region after they continue with their enhancements.”
One thing that Shinohara would like to see improved is the overall immigrations process at the airport.
“As we talk to our customers, it’s a frustration and pain point for them — just the entire immigrations process. […] I really do think that there are opportunities for us to work with the airport, the airlines — the other carriers in the market — as well as Customs and Border Patrol to figure out a way to better flow the customers out into the arrivals hall,” he says.
United Airlines will be installing new power-docking stations in the terminal. The power stations will allow travelers to keep their mobile devices charged and ready for use with United’s mobile features.
“Everybody’s so reliant on their mobile devices nowadays. People don’t have the ability in the gate hall to keep their devices charged. With our mobile app and people using it to download their boarding passes and actually board the airplane […] we’re looking forward to the airport installing power points in each and every gate hall,” Shinohara says.
Since the airport is a gateway for travelers to come and go, Shinohara says he hopes the airport focuses on being clean and safe.
“We need to remember that the airport is the first and last impression that a customer coming to visit has of the island. We need to make sure it’s a good impression and certainly a good last impression because we want them to come back,” he says.
Baker would like for the public restrooms at the airport to be improved and would like for there to be an expanded choice of restaurants and concessions.
“It’d be great if we could get some other type of restaurants in there that are even outside of the security area so that families dropping families off — maybe they want to have something to eat there,” he says. “I think an airport can make more money with more concessions, more vendors.”
Baker also hopes for the airport tenant rates to remain flat during all of the projects underway at the airport. “As we do all of these great things to the property, let’s do it with granted money so that it doesn’t increase the cost to the airlines.”
Joanne M. S. Brown, general manager at the Port Authority of Guam, says the extent of changes being made there is unprecedented. She says most of the buildings at the property were built almost 50 years ago by the U.S. Navy before being signed over to the government of Guam.
“This is the biggest upgrade [or] makeover we’ve ever had,” she says.
Updates at the port are numerous and include, but are not limited to, the demolition of old buildings, renovation to existing buildings to create more office spaces, container yard expansions and implementation of updated technologies all around the port to modernize business.
“Earlier this year in June and July, we completed our Port Command Center […], and that is our new security building. It gives us 24-hour video surveillance of the entire port compound, parking lot, admin building, Route 11,” Brown says.
The port has also doubled its number of cranes in use from two to four. For a number of years, Cranes 1 and 2 were the only two major cranes operating in the port of Guam, until December 2012, when a loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed the purchase of three more. The oldest crane has since been decomissioned.
The port is also looking to modernize extensively with electronics by installing access points throughout the port and container tracking technology to expedite the moving process.
In the event of a power outage, the port possesses four load centers but has only one operational backup generator in use. Come February 2015, the port will have three additional generators to max out capacity and capability to provide backup power sources.
“If worst-case scenario — a major storm, or whatever the case might be — and we were disconnected from island-wide power, we’d be able to operate for a sustained period of time,” Brown says.
She also says that the importance of the port’s operation is critical to the island’s operations.
“Would we always need that capacity? Probably not, but if you do need it, it’s important to have it because if the port does not move, everything else on Guam isn’t going to move either. I don’t think most people realize how much of everything they have comes in through the port and what could happen if there’s any adverse impact in the movement of cargo out of the port.”
Brown says that sometime in the future, she hopes to bring in a gate operating system in which truckers would not have to check in and out manually.
“We’d be able to scan the truck number, the container number going in and going out. [The drivers] would already know where they would have to go to either load or unload, and it wouldn’t even involve that time or that backup that you see now with the manual process,” she says.
This would be greatly appreciated by Ray Cruz, transportation manager for Dewitt Moving & Storage, who says an electronic system will reduce wait times for drivers.
“[An improvement I look forward to is] reducing driver processing and wait time. It is taking our drivers more than 20 minutes per driver to process one container at the gate. Improvement in this area will make our drivers more productive while improving our on-time customer container delivery service,” he says. “With the port’s modernization plan, we hope that the paperless gate added to the modernization plan is implemented to eliminate driver wait time. The quicker we turn our drivers, the better our revenue return.”
In addition to an electronic processing system, Cruz says he hopes the port will acquire more loading equipment to meet the demand of numerous ships unloading.
“When multiple vessels are in port, there are not enough top loaders to accommodate both the domestic and foreign arriving cargoes resulting in container frustration within the port compound,” he says. n