A map showing where Durban lies in relation to other South African cities, reinforcing its claim to host a major African hub airport.
Las Mercy is a little up the coast from Durban but it is right in the middle of a major tourist route.
The airport will be able to host the new A380 if required.
The old airport did not have a runway long enough to allow a fully laden 747 to take off.

The South African government has decided to build a new international
airport in the eastern port city of Durban before the country hosts the 2010
football World Cup (Durban being one of ten venues being used to host the

The government decided to invest at least $860m (R6bn) on investments in
Durban in preparation for the football World Cup. The project included a new
85,000-seat stadium (King Senzangakhona Stadium – R2bn), a new airport (King Shaka) and trade port (Dube), a new tram system in downtown Durban, and upgrades to harbours, roads, railways and beaches.

New King Shaka Airport decision

Jeff Radebe, the South African Transport Minister had announced plans to launch a new airport at La Mercy, 30km north of the coastal resort city, and decommission the old Durban International Airport (DIA) decommissioned by the first quarter of 2010. Durban’s former international airport south of the
city was the smallest of South Africa’s three international airports and the
runway was too short to allow a fully laden Boeing 747 to take off.

The old airport was closed in April 2010. The new airport opened for passengers on 1 May 2010, one month before the FIFA World Cup. The airport design was provided by Osmond Lange Architects and Planners.

“King Shaka International Airport is an integrated passenger and freight airport.”

The new airport is named King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) after
the famous Zulu warrior king. Durban, which is South Africa’s third largest
city, is in the heart of the Zulu lands.

Studies on the former Durban international airport terminal proved that it was too small to handle the growing tourist and commercial trade through Durban, South
Africa’s busiest port. Passengers at DIA had doubled since 2005 from two
million to four million passengers a year.

Land dispute

The land dispute between Airports Company of South Africa SA (ACSA) and the
KwaZulu-Natal provincial government was resolved, paving the way for
construction of the new of the new R6.8bn airport for Durban at La Mercy.

Dube Tradeport, the company established by the province to manage the new industrial development zone, began construction of the new airport in November 2007. Dube Tradeport also signed a memorandum of understanding with the national transport department and the provincial government in regards to the cargo terminal portion of the project.

The ACSA committed to selling its 206,899ha of land to the
provincial government, and manage the new airport for the first 10 years
of its life (with an option to buy if required).

The development was carried out by the Airports Company of South Africa, a state-owned enterprise that runs airports throughout the country.

Four bidders were shortlisted for the construction of the airport.

New airport apathy

There were doubts about the new airport at La Mercy and there have been
strong suggestions that international airlines would prefer to
fly into Johannesburg and reroute their Durban-destined passengers on existing
domestic flights.

“The new airport opened for passengers on 1 May 2010, one month before the FIFA World Cup.”

ACSA worked on a plan to encourage international airlines to fly
into the new airport, which has longer runways and more modern
facilities. It has been integrated with the 35-acre Dube trade port and
agricultural shipping zone that was developed at a nearby site.

The zone offers a cargo terminal, an integrated logistics platform, an
agricultural export zone, manufacturing space, and opportunities for property
development such as hotel, retail and conferencing space.

Johannesburg competition

Because of the altitude of Johannesburg Airport long-distance aircraft
departing there usually require subsequent stopovers, owing to the reduced fuel
load in order to reach the take-off velocity on the length of runway given. So
airline operators find more convenience in using the new Durban airport
as well as saving on fuel costs.

It was argued that politics and business have vested interests in
keeping international air traffic in Johannesburg, regardless of the massive
fuel savings to be had by international fights taking off from sea level and at
a position far better suited to be a major distribution hub than

King Shaka details

The King Shaka International Airport is an integrated passenger and
freight airport without the operational and logistic constraints associated
with the old Durban International Airport.

The passenger terminal has initially have 18 passenger aircraft stands and
a size of 19,500m², caters for both domestic and
international travel (six million a year). The initial capacity allows for 7.5 million passengers a year with opportunities for significant expansion, should it be required (figures are projected at 45 million passengers by 2060).

The runway is designated 06/24 and measures 3,700m-long to accommodate the latest New-Generation
Large Aircraft (NGLA) including the A380 Airbus, with the space to expand to
4,000m if needed. The passenger terminal will have greatly expanded retail
concession opportunities.

Facilities for police, military, VIP, general
aviation and aircraft maintenance operations are also available.


The construction contract for the new airport was awarded to the Ilembe Consortium in December 2006. The consortium was headed by Group Five, Mvelaphanda Holdings and WBHO Construction (supported by the construction and management consultant Turner and Townsend).

The $938m contract was signed in June 2007 for the design and construction of the airport and the ground breaking ceremony occurred in September 2007 following a favourable environmental impact assessment.

“The new international airport was built before the country began hosting the 2010 football World Cup.”

The airport is located in close proximity to the main N2 freeway, and two main roads (the R102 and M4), as well as the main railway line heading up the Natal North Coast from Durban. A link road between the airport and the N2 was constructed.

The losing bidders (Aveng Africa and 12 other companies) in the contract to build the new airport did seek an injunction to set the decision to award the contract aside and seek a review because the Indiza consortium was unfairly disqualified as a bidder. There was a delay in the construction but the matter was settled and the timeline of 2010 was achieved.

King Shaka development

There were 2,100 contractors and subcontractors on site along with 200 earth-moving machines involved in the construction of the airport..

The earthworks consisted of the movement and preparation of 5.8 million cubic metres of earth.

The terminal floor area is 102,000m² and the runway and taxiways cover 400,000² and required 230,000t of asphalt. The terminal building required 4,700t of structural steel.