An experienced Vincentian engineer has given 12 reasons why he believes the Argyle International Airport will not begin operating before 2018, seven years later than its initial completion deadline.

The government has said that the EC$729 million airport, which has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011, will begin operating this year.

But consultant engineer Glenford Stewart, a former Parliamentarian under the opposition New Democratic Party, has pointed out that, among other things, there is no sewage treatment plant at the airport, no permanent water connection, and that electricity works are incomplete

Stewart’s observations were communicated to Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, in a Sept. 27 letter.

His observations about the airport are as follows:

  1. Storms Water Drainage Works at the airport have not been completed. Check the nature of the flooding whenever there is a significant rain storm.
  2. Electrical Power Supply and Installations have not been completed. VINLEC is yet to complete the installation of ducts, manholes, and armored power supply cables, etc.
  3. The facility is still without a permanent water supply installation from CWSA.
  4. As yet, there is no Central Sewage Treatment Plant for this ‘international airport’. How will the sewage or liquid waste from aircrafts (sic) be received and treated. How will the sewage from buildings and ancillary facilities be treated? Will it be to each its own for a modem airport facility?
  5. Earthworks at the apron are still ongoing and there appears to be no systematic approach to completion.
  6. The supply and installation of airport navigational lights have not been completed.
  7. The security fence at the airport facility has not been completed. Substandard fencing material has been procured and installed such that rapid corrosion will demand imminent replacement.
  8. The Terminal Building was built at least 4 years before it can be outfitted and put to use. It has been overtaken by dust and corrosion, poor economic and physical planning, a lack of understanding and appreciation of the time value of money has been so obviously displayed by the IADC and the ULP regime.
  9. The 3 Fire Tenders and 2 unnecessary Air-Bridges have been similarly purchased and parked for deterioration at least 4 years before they can be commissioned and put to use.
  10. Access Roads to the Argyle Airport Site are still to be completed.
  11. Essential Navigation Equipment are yet to be installed in the Airport Tower.
  12. The certification of the airport facility by the designated international agencies are yet to commence. The process of certification is a very serious matter not only for St. Vincent but for the Caribbean Region as well.
The AIDC posted this photo to Facebook after the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew, saying, "There was no damage to any of the facilities or structures at the AIA. Here at the 220 channel, which channels the runoff from the Yambou River, debris is currently being cleared."
The AIDC posted this photo to Facebook after the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew, saying, “There was no damage to any of the facilities or structures at the AIA. Here at the 220 channel, which channels the runoff from the Yambou River, debris is currently being cleared.”

“It is our considered professional opinion that this Airport cannot become operational before December 2018,” Stewart wrote.

Stewart noted to Eustace that eight years has passed since the opposition leader requested that his firm undertook a determination of the budgetary estimates of the cost of construction of the proposed Argyle International Airport.

He said that his company, Stewart Engineering Ltd., “undertook that serious and important study in consultation and collaboration with fourteen international professionals”.

These professionals were engineers, geologists, architects, quantity surveyors, airline officials, airport navigational equipment suppliers, environmental scientists and landscape architects.

“We also consulted the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada, as well as personnel of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) of the United States of America. We had already been familiar with the regulations and requirements of the OECS Aviation Authority, having previously undertook (sic) the Airport Development Studies for St. Vincent in association with the Consulting Firm of Marshall Masklin Monaghan Ltd. of Canada in 1998.”

Stewart pointed out that the construction cost estimates for the airport that his company gave on June 15, 2008 was EC$1,103,132,000.

“Shortly after you released that estimate the Management of the International Airport Development Company (IADC), a wholly-owned Government entity which was seized with the responsibility of constructing that airport, increased their construction cost estimates by over $100 Million. We stand by the estimates which we have determined and provided to you,” Stewart said.

The IADC said on Oct. 6 that power washing of the terminal building started today in preparation to paint the building. (Photo: AIDC/Facebook).
The IADC said on Oct. 6 that power washing of the terminal building started today in preparation to paint the building. (Photo: AIDC/Facebook).

He said it has been well established that before such a project is undertaken, “a responsible government” must first undertake the following:

  1. Wind Studies at the site for a period of at least 5 to 7 years for the benefit of the Airport Design Engineers, to submit the findings to ICAO for review, as well as for public awareness.
  2. An Economic Feasibility Study of the proposed project to show in what ways the development would impact on the national economy. An airport of itself is not a sustainable public investment.
  3. An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to determine especially the negative impacts which such a development may have on the physical environment and the neighbouring communities, and to establish an environmental management plan which would seriously address the mitigation measures which should be implemented before, during and after construction.
  4. Government must own all the lands on which the proposed airport facility will be built.

Stewart said that the Unity Labour Party government failed to “consider, undertake or complete any of the above prerequisites” when construction work began at Argyle in 2008.

“It is for this reason that the ULP could not obtain international development ‘low interest’ financing for the largest capital project ever undertaken in the nation.

The several missed completion dates repeatedly announced by the IADC since 2011 is symptomatic of gross mismanagement and incompetence.

“Finally, the IADC as well as the ULP Government cannot afford to make public any audited accounts of the finances of the project,” Stewart said.

9 replies on “Argyle Airport won’t open until 2018 — engineer”

  1. Jeannine James says:

    The last sentence in this piece sounds like the segue for another story.

    If the funding expectations of this project were scuttled by unforeseen global pressures on the coalition of the willing, how come the facility continued to spend money and make large outlays on enhancements like air bridges. An air bridge might be a neglible capital expenditure in the scheme of things but why go that route? Why go that route after you are aware of the weakened state of the coalition of the willing? What was the rationale given the state of play at the time these purchases were made? Were these air bridges in the initial project plan? Were they considered to be among the must-haves?

    1. Good questions! Everyone should be asking such questions. Maybe they were offered a “great deal” on the air bridges, and someone thought they would look impressive.

  2. EC $1,103,132,000 Can we even count in those numbers?
    Can SVG really afford to undertake projects at cost of over a billion dollars? Of course NOT.
    An old word comes to mind “squandermania” Not only the squandering of airport monies obtained by whatever means, but also the squandering, pilfering and pillaging of the barely existent SVG Treasury to finance their fiasco. Their modus operandi is to befuddle,confuse and browbeat the citizenry into believing that the AIA will be something more than the proverbial white elephant. It may eventually serve its purpose though. The graveyard of the SVG Treasury may well become the graveyard of the leaders of the ULP and the hapless SVG citizenry. We may as well go ahead and consecrate the ground now….
    “Dear Lord and Father God Almighty, we the people and our Master Ralph do ask that you bless this ground to provide a resting place for our remains when you call us home…Etc, and so on, and so forth”

  3. I have been reluctant to write anything about the technical issues of building Argyle airport except to note all the broken completion dates for the simple reason that, unlike people like Peter Binose whose numerous comments suggest that he considers himself an expert in airport construction, I have no expertise whatsoever in this area.

    But I have to note that the two Stewart Engineering one-page summaries cannot be accepted as definitive because they presents no detailed documentation of the findings or how they were obtained.

    Also, their main finding was quickly disputed by Rudy Matthias, Argyle airport authority CEO, who stuck to his guns about the airport “becoming operational by the end of this year.” As well, the CEO of Vinlec implied that everything is in place to provide electrical service to the airport at a single day’s notice.

    This does not mean that I in any way “believe” that the airport will be operational by year’s end but this “belief” may be erroneous. Similarly, I am personally convinced that the final cost of the airport will be at least $EC 1,000,000,000.00. (Looking at all these zeros makes me dizzy!), and that it will be a white elephant at birth. But I have no actual proof to back this up.

    In short, a simple list of items not completed or never done (except for the feasibility and wind studies which were actually never done before construction began) is inadequate. More particularly, the scientific credibility of a two-page summary coming from a firm that was paid by and is said to be politically close to the NDP (the founder represented the NDP in the Southern Grenadines some years ago), lacks credibility without further documentation. Accepting all its findings would be like taking the abstract of a scientific paper and accepting what it says as true without reading the entire text of the paper.

    Two issues seem particularly problematic: First, my recollection of the final MMM report is that there was an environmental impact assessment (though I don’t know if the government followed up on its recommendations). Second, it talks about flooding at the airport during heavy rain, the most problematic being flooding of the runway which no one but the same Peter Binose observed during the storm last week.

    I hope there are two much longer reports on which the two summaries were based and that they are sufficiently detailed for impartial outsiders to make independent assessments. If all they have are these summaries, I will yawn and move on.

  4. At the end of this madness, this airport may well cross the two billion mark.
    From the above scope of works still outstanding it is hard to imagine this airport operating by 2018.
    Two little buildings and a runway, madness!

    1. Good point! I also find it strange that the current cost of the airport today is the same as it was over a year ago. Does this mean that since that time all the workers have been working for nothing and all the materials since that time have been for free? If records are ever released I bet the cost is already well over 1 Billion!

    2. You are a trifle excessive with $EC 2 billion unless, of course, you are counting the 20 plus years of interest payments to pay off the debts.

      Some people have said that screw the debts because they will be written off when we can’t pay. I say bull shit to that because just watch Greece and other countries that can’t pay their debts and how this has impoverished their masses when they have been forced to do so.

  5. The air bridges, which I have seen in no other airport in the Caribbean, are necessary only as janother of many poppy-show features at the airport, including the premature building of the terminal and the control tower, to impress the Comrade’s impressionable followers, more evidence that the entire project was built only for show.

    But it has all worked to his advantage, don’t you think?

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