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Heavy equipment operate at the Argyle International airport construction site. (IWN image)
Heavy equipment operate at the Argyle International airport construction site. (IWN image)
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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has attempted to pour cold water on the fact that a section of the base material laid down on the runway of the Argyle International Airport did not meet the international standard.

Further, at a press conference this week, he lashed out at editor of The News newspaper, which published last week a story about the development.

“Now I notice in the press, and I hear it talked and, you know, when people are hostile to a government, I am talking about the opposition and a newspaper like The News, the slightest thing — well, not the News, the editor, Shelly Clarke –the slightest thing, the slightest problem with anything, it becomes a cause célèbre,” Gonsalves said.

He gave the following explanation of the development:

“Something, months ago, where they were laying down base material, hadn’t start to pave yet, and the contractor, that is to say, the Cuban team which is doing the work, according to the independent quality assurance unit at the airport, when they went and saw that portion, just a portion, said, this is not being done in accordance with the international specifications as laid down in the annexes of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”

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He said it is not an American standard, contrary to what Jennifer Richardson-Herbert, communications officer at the International Airport Development Company, is reported as having told The News.

Praises for quality assurance unit  

Gonsalves sort to praise the quality control unit at the EC$700 million airport, scheduled to be completed by yearend.

“What should give everybody in this country faith and comfort that it’s a quality work being done, is that the quality assurance unit picks it up.

“Now, they could have gone there and in five years time you have to dig out that part and do it over. They said, ‘No, it didn’t meet –.”

Gonsalves further said that his government has spent EC$500,000 on the laboratory, which, he said, is well staffed with good professionals, including professionals from Cuba.

“And they do all the testing and the quality assurance unit is independent of those who are doing the contracting work, so that they can say that this piece of work which you are doing does not meet, in our view, the international standard as laid down, and they have the specification.

“The contractor could argue with them until they are blue in the face, because the quality assurance unit reports not to the contractor, but to Dr. [Rudolph] Matthias, who is the chief executive and to the board.

“You think we will be building an airport without quality assurance? I want to find out if airports being built all over the world, you don’t have, occasionally, a problem,” Gonsalves further said.

Hiccups inevitable 

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (IWN file photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (IWN file photo)

He added that there are hiccups even when one is building a house.

“And that is why you have an independent set of quality assurance set of professionals to address this question…

“Now, when I speak on that issue in that way, is almost, I would expect, something come off from your eye. I say boy I didn’t think ‘bout it this way, I didn’t see it that way, but that’s not how it is being presented.

“Because what is happening, there must be no hiccup, absolutely none. And if there is the slightest hiccup, because is Ralph building it, because is ULP (Unity Labour Party) building it, you gone on a political line.

“What I can do is to set up systems. I am not a civil engineer. I don’t know the details of the application of the standards. But there are professionals whom you have, and you set them up in a way that they check. So you have a check, and that’s the issue which I want to bring to you.”

Gonsalves further noted that the IADC has said that correcting the problem “is not causing any delay to talk about, and the cost is relatively minimal.

“And it woulda cost more if you turn a blind eye,” he said, adding that the work is continually being done under the supervision of the regulatory body, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority, which would have to certify the airport before it becomes operational.

“… that is why it is important that you work with them all the time and apply the right set of rules,” Gonsalves said.

He further said that a consultant is being hired by the IADC “to begin the process with all the paper work in anticipation of the imminent completion” of the airport.

“So we can have all the paper work when we go to our regulatory body with anything,” Gonsalves said.

See below March 2014 video “Argyle int’l airport races to December 2014 completion” 

7 replies on “PM lashes out at newspaper as part of Argyle runway fails to meet int’l standard (+Video)”

  1. It is not a problem having hiccups in any major construction project. The compaction/quality issue probably wasn’t even worth a comment by him.
    However, is the much quoted Dec 2014 construction completion date still feasible? When will it be operational, maybe summer 2015?
    This country needs this airport. It needs the foreign income, investment & domestic support from all ends of the political spectrum.
    But what it also needs is transparency. There are many in the Vincy diaspora on Facebook who are write that they are very much looking toward their direct flights back to SVG this Christmas. Would it be prudent to manage their expectations?

  2. “Something, months ago, where they were laying down base material, hadn’t start to pave yet, and the contractor, that is to say, the Cuban team which is doing the work, according to the independent quality assurance unit at the airport, when they went and saw that portion, just a portion, said, this is not being done in accordance with the international specifications as laid down in the annexes of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”

    This paragraph needs editing. Shows poor punctuation skills. Additionally, I’m getting the feeling that something should be replaced by sometime and thus would require that where be turned into when.
    There are other mistakes that fall under grammar and syntax but I shall hold my tongue.I do not want to be labelled asa hater when I’m truly just passionate about correct use of the English language.

  3. Kelron Harry says:

    I am pleased that our prime minister can clarify or at the lease try to clarify the issue of quality raised. He must be commended that he is able to speak so profoundly on almost every issue. However, I am concerned of his style which seems to be one that addresses national issue in a personal manner. Therefore, he will call specific citizens names and organizations and present a divisive frame work before addressing the issue and maybe it is to try to discredit or make light a legitimate issue. This cannot be the best way.

  4. Peter Binose says:

    A hiccup, really, is $2 million dollars a hiccup or a relatively small amount.

    Vincentian people you can continue being stupid, but I will not follow you in your ignorance and stupidity in even considering this mans lies and twisted truths.

    Gonsalves tells us he is not a civil engineer, but he is also not a civil politician either, he is anything but civil.

    As for the crap that digging up the base layer is costing very little in time and money, that is a typical Marxist way of looking at it.

    As Castro said, “the capitalists know how to make money, we the Marxist’s know how to spend it for them”.

    There are many more problems than runway compaction. The terminal building and apron is built 30′ lower than the runway. In places the runway has been built on swamp and water springs, which will eventually come to the surface. They have had to abandon the sea side oil terminal for aviation and jet fuel supply and delivery, it will now all be tankered via Camden park and through Kingstown by road. The side winds will make the airport unusable at many times of the year. The new terminal is already being attacked by sea blast and is rusting, built with mild steel when it should of been built with marine and medical grade stainless steel.

    Six miles of airport grade fencing to international standards to be installed. Several miles of cable and numerous runway and direction lights to be installed. Radar and navigation beacons and equipment to be installed, not just at the airport but as far away as Bequia.

    The airport will not be finished this year, and it will not be finished next year.

    Regardless of the statement that Delta is in talks about coming to Argyle, to start with there is no airport yet, and when it is completed, only then will the FAA consider the suitability of it for American airlines to fly into.

    What happened to Conviasa Air, the Venezuelan airline who was to be our flag carrier. They have been banned from numerous flight locations because they owe so much money from ticket sales, multi millions. Venezuela and their airline are rapidly becoming a failing state and a failing airline. The Venezuelans currently owe international airlines about US$4 billion for ticket sales.

    We are now turning from help by ALBA and Venezuela, who do nothing for us except put us further and further into debt. We can expect nothing from Cuba, because they have never done anything for nothing for us, except bankrupt us whilst paying their wages at Argyle. We are turning back to the US, who Gonsalves recently in a speech in Cuba described as ‘The Empire’, a derogatory, insulting and disrespectful term of address.

    Then to cap it all LIAT the regional airline, who has also helped to bankrupt SVG, has acquired new aircraft which are unsuitable for use at Argyle.

    I have written a new opinion about the airport and will be submitting it for online publication.

  5. Asante Khamau Njiaa says:

    The PM is 100% correct, anyone who is involved with technical projects of a high standard would agree that there are regulations and statutes that must be adhered to.
    its great that the regulatory body was able to identify the shortcomings so that it doesnt burden us, the vincentian population,unecessarily in the future.
    Keep up the Works
    the struggle must continue

  6. Peter Binose says:

    Surely either he and or the ULP are the contractors, or is ‘Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ government the contractors? there are certainly no outside contractors, the Cubans are only working for wages, if what we have always been led to believe is true, and not its not another fabrication.

    A contractor would have a contract, according to other things we have been told, there are no contracts, just agreements between friends, a nod here and a wink there.

    And in the case of Gonsalves I believe a nod is as good as a wink when dealing with his socialist friends on a scientific socialist basis.

    Was it not also because we had no contract with the Venezuelans, that they could promise to pay the Cubans wages and then decide not to pay them.

    Is this a satisfactory way to conduct a billion and a half dollar project. Must we play this Marxist solidarity game because he wants to? well must we?

    It crossed my mind to say its laughable or almost laughable even. But its not, it’s cryable, its our money that is being wasted and its the Cubans fault. Remember what Castro once said “the capitalists know how to earn it and we the Marxists know how to spend it for them”.

    Remember when the Honourable Arnhim Eustace asked Gonsalves in parliament about contracts, he was told “ You expect me to show you my deeds” and refused to give the information.

    Then you have all the trucks and machinery at the airport with bumper and screen stickers “I AM LABOUR” . The project named after Chey Guevara that nasty communist who murdered 100’s if not 1000’s of Cubans by summary execution, where he personally pulled the trigger that sent a bullet crashing through the heads of the recipients. Che Guevara is a mass murderer, not a hero.

    Now to cap it all the runway was not compacted properly. It should of been laid, 12 to 18” then compaction, then another and compaction, and so forth. There is no way that it can now be rolled to achieve the compaction required. It must either all be dug up or a special compaction machine brought in at great expense and the loss of many, many months of time. The runway, taxiways, and parking apron must pass a test of at least a 100% compaction. Every inch of the rest of the site a compaction between 90 and 92%.

    Remember the airport terminal is 30 feet lower than the runway. Sewages and waste water from the terminal will have to be pumped somewhere.

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