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:
- Storms Water Drainage Works at the airport have not been completed. Check the nature of the flooding whenever there is a significant rain storm.
- 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.
- The facility is still without a permanent water supply installation from CWSA.
- 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?
- Earthworks at the apron are still ongoing and there appears to be no systematic approach to completion.
- The supply and installation of airport navigational lights have not been completed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Access Roads to the Argyle Airport Site are still to be completed.
- Essential Navigation Equipment are yet to be installed in the Airport Tower.
- 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.
“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.
He said it has been well established that before such a project is undertaken, “a responsible government” must first undertake the following:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.