Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, left, in August led his Cabinet on a tour of the Argyle Int’l Airport. (IWN photo)

Midyear next year.

That is the timeline that head of the state-owned International Airport Development Company (IADC) wants Vincentians to fix in their minds for the nation’s first international airport to begin receiving flights.

“We are working steadfastly to complete this international airport — well I say substantial completion of this airport project — by December this year,” Rudolph Matthias, chief executive officer of the IADC, told journalists on Thursday after the Cabinet toured the facility.

“And those who did not believe, who sometimes don’t listen to what we say, and who perhaps sometimes question, I am sure that now that you have visited and you have seen for yourself, I am sure that you would admit that we have made substantial progress and it is quite possible that this project can be completed by the end of this year, barring extreme adverse weather conditions,” Matthias said.

The tour came one day shy of nine years since Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves outlined his plans to build the nation’s first international airport.

Since then, the project has missed several completion date, but Gonsalves, told the media after the tour he is satisfied, that notwithstanding challenges with the disbursements of funds already secured, the project will be substantially completed by the end of this year.

“Oh, the progress has been excellent. We had given different timelines for substantial completion and we got setback with a number of things, technical and availability of money on time,” he said at the end of the tour, which came one week short of the sixth anniversary (Aug. 13) of the actual commencement of physical work on the project.

A team of Vincentian and Cuban workers at the airport. (IWN photo)
A team of Vincentian and Cuban workers at the airport. (IWN photo)

In addressing the issue of cash flow for the EC$700 million project, Gonsalves said that IADC last year requested US$80 million for the completion of the project.

He spoke of US$20 million that should have come from the sale of state-owned land in Canouan.

Two developers are involved in that regard, but a disagreement between them have resulted in US$9.25 million of that sum remaining unpaid to the government.

“I could not have expected, for instance, that I would have had trouble getting all of our 20 million from the developers to whom we sold the land, but a dispute arouse between them and created some dissonance and we have been an unwitting, not victim, but we have not received what we are supposed to receive on a timely basis,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.

The government is also awaiting the disbursement of the final $10 million of a $40 million loan from the ALBA bank in Venezuela.

Progress on the airport was also impacted by the delay in removing some petroglyphs from a hillside.

Initially, the government of Egypt had agreed to remove the petroglyph, but that plan went off track after the Arab Spring.

(Click for more photos)

Argentinian experts removed the petroglyphs earlier this year, and work on the excavation of hillside is underway.

“… we became prisoners of the Arab Spring , the fall or Mubarak, all the activity with Morsi and then the fall of Morsi, until, finally, we had to go other places. But, a lot of time was taken up with communication,” Gonsalves said, adding,  “Those are the things, but we have done substantial work.”

Work on the spanning the Yambou River has begun. The petroglyphs were located on the hillside to the top left. (IWN photo)
Work on the spanning the Yambou River has begun. The petroglyphs were located on the hillside at the top left. (IWN photo)

Meanwhile, Matthias gave an overview of some of the work that is still to be done on the airport.

“… we are substantially advanced on the runway. It is prepared now to a level where we need to start applying the base material, but the engineers have advised that we perhaps should not begin to apply the base material until we are ready to start paving the runway,” he said.

“So, what you see out there is essentially almost now ready to receive the base material and to receive the final asphalt that we are going to put on the runway.”

He further said that concrete works on the apron began in July and are “progressing fairly well, considering the adverse weather conditions that we have had in July.

“But we believe and we are working very hard to try to complete — and I say complete, meaning substantially complete — the apron works as well as the turning heads, which we are going to put into concrete by the end of this year, so that concrete works should substantially be done by the end of this year,” he said.

The fire station and terminal building are under construction, and are expected to be completed before the end of this year.

Engineers and other staff are also working to span a river, which will run under the runway.

The terminal building was handed over to the government at the end of last year, and retrofitting is underway.

Matthias said the IADC has entered into contracts with several suppliers of equipment to be installed in the terminal building.

The two air bridges, along with the equipment inside the terminal building, such as conveyor belts, scanner, counters, and furniture, are yet to be installed.

“All of this are work that we are doing behind the scenes, and I suspect that if you were to visit us here again in December, that much of that will be already installed.

So that, providing the funds are made available to us at the rate at which we need the funds to be made available to us, by the end of this year, this airport will be substantially complete,” Matthias said.

The view from one of the ends of the runway. (IWN photo)
The view from one of the ends of the runway. (IWN photo)

He, however, noted that there are other processes after completion o the physical works, before the airport can begin accommodating flight.

“Let us understand and remember that substantial completion of construction is not the same things as the beginning of airport operations.  Once we have done the construction work and the retrofitting of this terminal building, there is a lot of work that we have to do behind the scenes before we can make this airport ready to receive flights,” he said.

Matthias told journalists that his company has to work with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority and Kingstown’s Director of Airports to prepare the airport to start receiving flights.

“Indeed, in the first half of next year, if there are some things that we need to do in terms of construction, we can do that during that time. So that while we are working hard to get the construction done by December, we still have the first half of next year — while we are doing testing and other procedures to get the airport ready — we can still get some construction works completed then.

“The best thing to think about is that we are trying to get this airport become operational by midyear next year.

“If you ask me a date, that is the date I think you might want to fix in your minds, that sometime mid next year, God’s willing, we should be able to receive international flight here at Argyle. I pray that things work out as we plan,” Matthias said.

14 replies on “Argyle airport on track for mid-2015 completion — officials ”

  1. The PM has 20/20 vision on this project……in other words, it’s not going to be open for flights until 2020

  2. Urlan Alexander says:

    Mid 2015!! Wow! I am wondering how many completion dates can one project has? While the PM and Mathias are giving us the impression that mid 2015 is the year. We should ask in unison ” is that the final answer”? I can put my last dollar on this one that we are gong to be told something else in a few moths time. My reason: While the govt and mathias talk about mid 2015 as the finish line, monies that are crucial to see this project through, has not yet received. $10 million from land sales in Canouan and final drawdown of another US10 from ALBA. That’s over 50 million of monies we not sure when it will get here. Yet these brass faces are telling us 2015. Any dummy who visit the site can say see that the airport far far from far completion. So if they say 2015 we will wait and see but I doubt it.

  3. The was just a photo-op, as I predicted, part of a long-term plan to give the illusion of rapid progress while moving ahead at snail’s place. A Trojan horse moving in slow motion, if you like.

    This whole project was conceived as a hope and a (wet) dream on the back of an old envelope, and it shows at every halting step.

    A project that should have had a clear timetable and that should have been fully-costed and fully-funded based on a carefully researched feasibility study is now in its ninth year since conception with no one having a clue of when or if the baby will ever be delivered. The proclamation that the airport will be up and running by the middle of next year (someone should compose a calypso called “Next Year is Always Next Year”) is just an idle guess made by people who have never built an airport before.

    My own guess — which is at least as credible as that of the so-called “experts” — is that the airport will be “substantially completed” by the end of 2017, will be declared ready to receive flights by the end of 2018, and will be permanently moth-balled by the end 2019.

    In the interim, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, whether in or out of office, will vigorously resist any effort to have his name given to his deformed and illegitimate offspring.

    1. james the lion monroe says:

      Remember c- ben david, it’s up to vincentians like us to inform other vincentians, that his son was not born in svg and this is a cinflict of interest, cause if he succeeds, what is to stop others from bringing their offspring to svg to become prime minister. this is a bad presidence.

  4. After the many setbacks, please do let us have this airport open to receive flights for Carnival 2015, thus making it a double celebration. Should it not be operational by then I think we’ll have missed a glorious opportunity

  5. Of course!! Whatever Matthias. That is the date for the next elections folks…MID 2015…THE BELL HAS BEEN RUNG.

    1. james the lion monroe says:

      I totally agree with you. This Airport is like carrot bieng dangled before before the people’s eyes. just in time to get votes.

    2. james the lion monroe says:

      I’m glad svg is wakening up. Just look at the timeline. This is a political ploy to get votes. Has any airlines commet themselves to svg. These are questions i would like more vincentians to ask. Thank you avriel cozier, i like what you wrote. I wish more people would demand answers from their official. Remember there’re to represent the people and not themselves.

  6. Urlan Alexander says:

    What happen to the airlines that were preparing to land their planes starting December 2014? They will have to be spoken to again? One of the things my grand mother use to tell me is truly unfolding: “When you lie so often it will soon catch up wid yo”. It is five years now to since the PM say Argyle Airport is on track. That track has a crazy glue on it. The Airport seem unable to come off it.

  7. Patrick Ferari says:

    On track? Whose track? Which track?

    Next is, “Passengers will substantially be able to substantially fly in by an on track date.”

    But at no time in 2015. Not even substantially.

  8. Ralph has succeeded again in moving the agenda his way. This airport picnic was a ploy, to remove the two incidents that had him on the ropes: The $300k scandal and the booing at Lynch’s funeral. Even those who were critical of others about the completion of the airport are now seeing the light. Ralph will not be in office when the airport is completed.

  9. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    On and on and on we go again. The fakery never stops. But fools keep believing. In the last 3 years of finishes and near finishes I have had a number of Ralph’s supporters get upset with me for saying they are too optimistic about the airport. Especially those who live or have close relatives in the UK believe that Ralph knows what he is doing.

    Again they will all be disappointed. This airport was NOT properly planned in any sense of that term. No pre-planning to determine wind direction, No pre-planning to determine river direction. No planning to determine if they had the monies to build or even if they had adequate stable supporting governments. No determination as to how they will pay the substantial running costs for the airport. (Monies will still be redirected from the Hospital, Education, Civil Service salaries and pensions, rejuvenation of Agriculture etc. There will be no end to it.

    The Airport costs would be like a cocaine addict continually needing more and more cocaine. It can never be satisfied. It can never pay for itself. And to make matters worse the first time that we have flooding in the Marriaqua Valley would be the last time we have a functioning airport.

    All of us want a well functioning airport built on solid foundation physically and financially,but this is not it. Gonsalves is incompetent and has no idea how to plan or move a project to completion. He can talk. He is very good at that. Nothing else. A few months ago he told us that he had discussions with Delta Airlines. But when I wrote Delta they said that was not true. I was not surprised.

  10. Wow, that’s all I could say is wow. I am shocked at the sheer amount of work that is yet to be done. If you take the terminal out of the picture that was donated by Taiwan I was told, then we have miles to go to finish that Airport. The Construction of the Landing strip is no trivial matter and is the longest and most time consuming part of an airport. I have said 2020 to be the completion date, and that is looking more correct everyday.

  11. Patrick Rev.This says:

    As a son of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who left his homeland some 45 years ago. As a small boy growing up,I remember being told that the then government had received money to extend the airport. That never happened!. We now have a chance to have ,our own international airport. Yes it is going to cost, let us All stand behind this government and support them. I am getting tired of reading and listening to the negative comments. I want to hear the solutions to the problems. For with God’s Help we together can accomplish anything.

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