Tom Allett spoke to Hans de Jonge from Vanderlande about the development of Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport.
Shanghai is China’s largest city by population and is also a huge cog in the country’s business engine. Many readers will be familiar with the city’s Pudong Airport, which opened in 1999 and is dedicated to international traffic. However, perhaps less well-known is its international predecessor, Hongqiao Airport (IATA SHA), which primarily became the (90%) domestic hub when Pudong opened. Located about 8 miles (13km) west of Shanghai’s city centre, Hongqiao is marginally closer to central Shanghai than its international airport. Though it was once surrounded by farmers’ fields, the city’s expansion means it is now within an entirely built-up area.
In March 2010 a 15.3 billion yuan (US$2.5bn) project financed by the Chinese Government was completed, providing Hongqiao with a new 10,826ft (3,300m) runway and a second terminal, thereby raising the airport’s annual passenger capacity to 40 million. The new Terminal 2 now accommodates about 90% of the airport’s traffic as international flights that represent the other 10% all operate from Terminal 1. Hans de Jonge, Vanderlande’s Director of Operations in China worked on the development of Terminal 2’s new baggage system. He told Airports International: “Hongqiao is a very impressive airport. Having spent a lot of time in the UK I would say that in terms of importance, Hongqiao is to Shanghai what Gatwick is to London.
He explained that Terminal 2’s design process was split into stages. The first was primarily a consultancy period; then the architects were introduced and Vanderlande became involved about two years prior to the building was due to be opened.
The departure and arrival elements have capacities of 8,800 and 12,000 bags per hour respectively, while the 3.2 mile (5.3km)-long belt conveyor system is fed from 162 check-in positions that connect to 86 x-ray screening machines.
There is also a single Helixorter tilt-tray sorter, 12 make-up flat Triplanar carousels, plus the same number for baggage reclaim; plus two Bagload Early Bag System (EBS) facilities.
Mr de Jonge said: “A complete departure and arrival system; check-ins, tilt-trays, sorters, make-up and arrival carousels, platforms and control systems – everything – was provided by Vanderlande as the main baggage contractor.
“Despite needing a design capacity of about 30 million bags, from a technical point of view the baggage system’s layout is quite straightforward compared to some of the more complicated ones we have installed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol or London’s Heathrow.
“Every baggage system is different from others in some way, but I would roughly compare Hongqiao’s set-up to that of O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.”
Though Hongqiao’s layout has two Early Bag Systems, unlike most others located around the world, they are used in a different way as they only handle transfer bags.
“The transit systems used at many Chinese airports are different from those in Europe,” Mr de Jong explained. “Here you cannot check-in your bag at the start of your journey and not see them again until your final destination. Transfer passengers must reclaim their bags and go through a second check-in process, so Hongqiao’s EBS is designed for that process.”
Management and Testing
Mr de Jonge said the biggest challenge during the whole project was the cultural differences between work practices. He explained that while Vanderlande is a global company it has a ‘western style’.
He added: “We routinely plan ahead, paying close attention to the supply needs of the working plans but sometimes we encountered a different perception of how important the phasing of the task was. There were occasions when the Chinese team believed it would be okay to work on elements in a different sequence, but it worked out okay in the end.”
Building work on the baggage system began in March 2008 and finished on schedule in February 2010. This was followed by a month-long test period.
Vanderlande managed the whole baggage development project but the Chinese Government always appoints independent bodies to test functionality before the system is declared operational.
Mr de Jonge explained: “We don’t rely on others to do our system tests for us; we always carry out our own standard checks. There is a lot of factory testing but at the end of the day you build a system at the airport, not the factory, so more is required.
“As any baggage system nears completion we always have discussions with our project partners to determine how the test phase is best carried out. Those partners are always invited to take part in our test phase studies and it is up to them whether they wish to do so.
“We have been involved in several of the additional independent Chinese checks and they usually take place during a period of about one month.”
Vanderlande had an initial two-year maintenance contract which was extended for a further two years in 2012.
Hemmed in on all sides by the expanding city of Shanghai, Hongqiao is now one of the very few Chinese airports that has essentially reached the limit of its potential. Having gained a second runway and an impressive terminal building there is little room for any further major developments on this site.