Bahrain Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications H.E. Mohammed bin Thamer Al-Kaabi

Greetings. The development of Bahrain’s aviation sector is pivotal to our nation’s economic vision, which is encapsulated in the Bahrain Vision 2030. It is an honour to share with you the progress and milestones we have achieved as we near the end of 2023 and look ahead to the future contributions of our aviation industry.

Bahrain Vision 2030: Our Guiding Vision

Bahrain Vision 2030 serves as the guiding light for all ministries and sectors involved in our economic development. This visionary blueprint outlines our aspirations for sustainable economic growth and diversification, emphasising key sectors like aviation. At the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunication, we have worked diligently to align our efforts with this ambitious vision.

Strategic Initiatives: Modernising Regulations

Our journey to enhance the aviation sector begins with the modernization of regulations. We recognize the importance of robust and business-friendly aviation regulations that not only facilitate the growth of businesses but also ensure the safety and efficiency of our airspace. This commitment to regulatory excellence extends to our alignment with international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Continuous updates and improvements in our regulatory framework are a testament to our dedication to this crucial aspect of the aviation sector.

Infrastructure Development: The Foundation of Efficiency

Infrastructure forms the bedrock of any successful aviation industry, and Bahrain is no exception. Over the years, we have made significant strides in enhancing our aviation infrastructure.

One of the most notable achievements in this regard is the inauguration of our new terminal in January 2021. This state-of-the-art facility has not only elevated the passenger experience but has also garnered recognition for its efficiency and strict adherence to health and safety protocols. Such accomplishments reaffirm our commitment to providing world- class services to travellers and businesses alike.

Moreover, we have invested in critical air traffic control facilities. The introduction of our new Air Traffic Control Center is a testament to our efforts to ensure the seamless flow of air traffic, further enhancing safety and efficiency. Additionally, we are continuously working on improving navigational aids on our runways, thus providing the right environment to attract airlines and ensure their safe and efficient operations at our airport.

Cargo and Logistics: A Vital Component

While passenger travel often takes the spotlight, we acknowledge the equal importance of cargo and logistics services, especially in the challenging times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic underscored the critical role that efficient cargo operations play in sustaining economies. To this end, we embarked on an ambitious project—the construction of a Cargo Village. With an estimated investment of 12 million Bahraini Dinar, this project is set to transform Bahrain into a hub for cargo operations.

Notably, FedEx has already signed a contract to operate from this facility, signalling a significant addition to our cargo service providers. Several other cargo companies have expressed keen interest in exploring opportunities within the Cargo Village. Furthermore, our proximity to Bahrain’s logistics hub at the seaport, just a 10-minute drive from the airport, offers the potential to revolutionise cargo movement, making it faster and more efficient.

Integration and Connectivity: Linking Air and Sea

In our pursuit of comprehensive logistical solutions, we are working to bridge the gap between air and sea transport. Bahrain’s strategic location, close to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, a substantial market in its own right, allows us to facilitate the movement of cargo trucks via the Causeway. This not only benefits Bahrain but also fosters greater connectivity in the region. It’s a step toward optimising the potential for cross- border trade and movement of goods, strengthening our ties with neighbouring nations.

Innovation and Digital Transformation: Embracing the Future

Innovation is the cornerstone of our vision for Bahrain’s aviation sector. We understand that to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape, we must embrace digital transformation. We are moving away from traditional paperwork and adopting digital platforms to streamline processes and approvals. Our aim is to become more business-friendly and expedite approvals for airlines and aviation companies. For instance, airline approvals are now automated, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and expediting the commencement of operations. Another noteworthy initiative is the development of a digital platform for pilots. This platform provides real-time weather information and navigation data, accessible directly from a mobile device a pioneering solution in the Gulf region.

By integrating technology, artificial intelligence, and cutting- edge solutions, we are poised to complement the Bahrain Vision 2030 and offer a more efficient and modern aviation sector.

Human Capital Investment: A Key Pillar

Investment in human capital is a vital pillar of our strategy. Bahrain boasts a pool of talented, young Bahrainis, both male and female, who have equal opportunities to participate in the aviation industry. We are committed to nurturing and developing this human capital across various roles, including air traffic control, aviation engineering, and inspection. We have seen both genders excel in these roles, proving their competence and dedication. We firmly believe that this investment in our people will be pivotal in advancing civil aviation in Bahrain.

Impact of COVID-19: Navigating the Storm

The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow over the global aviation industry, and Bahrain was no exception. Nevertheless, our commitment to ensuring the continuity of aviation operations remained unwavering. Unlike some other nations, we did not resort to a complete shutdown of our aviation activities. Instead, we continued to operate, albeit with restrictions, ensuring that essential air travel and cargo operations were uninterrupted.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we witness a remarkable recovery in passenger numbers. From a low point, we have climbed to approximately 4.9 million passengers, with expectations of reaching around 8.2 to 8.5 million passengers by year-end. This figure represents nearly 90% of pre- pandemic levels, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of our aviation sector.

The Impact on Cargo Operations

The pandemic has ushered in a new era for cargo operations. The demand for cargo services soared during the crisis, with some providers reporting a doubling or even tripling of their capacities. Our commitment to the Cargo Village project, coupled with the strong presence of companies like DHL and FedEx, positions Bahrain as a burgeoning hub for cargo operations.

Competitive Advantages: Bahrain’s Appeal to Investors

Bahrain’s appeal to investors in the aviation sector is underpinned by several competitive advantages:

  • Geographical Location: Situated at the heart of the Gulf, Bahrain’s strategic location offers advantages over neighbouring countries. This favourable geographical positioning makes it an attractive hub for aviation activities.
  • Business-Friendly Environment: The Bahraini government, along with the Bahrain Economic Development Board, is committed to creating a business-friendly environment. This includes simplifying regulations to attract businesses, including those in the aviation sector.
  • Diverse Opportunities: Bahrain presents a spectrum of opportunities, from cargo services to maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services and executive jet services. We are keen on attracting a diverse range of aviation-related businesses to our shores.
  • Efficiency and Quality of Service: Bahrain differentiates itself through its efficiency and the quality of service it offers. Our legacy as a linear airport has translated into swift passenger processing, making us a preferred choice for travellers and airlines alike.
  • Network Expansion: Bahrain’s strategic partnerships with airlines, including Gulf Air, are instrumental in expanding our aviation network. The consideration of direct routes to the United States and other destinations demonstrates our commitment to growth and connectivity.