-end of year deadline unlikely
A prefabricated terminal is under consideration for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport extension project as the permanent work is unlikely to be completed by May and the end-of-year deadline for the entire US$150m expansion is also in doubt.
Stabroek News was told by sources close to the project, which began in 2013 under the People’s Pro-gressive Party/Civic government that while a decision on the purchasing of the prefabrication terminal has not been made, the Board is tasked with looking at the pros and cons of such a move.
The overall airport expansion is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year but a May 31st 2017 date was set for the refurbished departure terminal to be finished. But delays make the May completion date for this section of the airport unlikely and some board members are now expressing their concern on how the projects works are proceeding and the decisions made in the modifications to the original project details.
“The original plan was to demolish the existing (departure) terminal and build a new one but then for reasons explained by the higher beings, it would have been too costly. A decision was therefore taken to modify the existing building so that it could be used for departures and the (new) structure being built will be for arrivals,” a source explained.
“Well herein lies the problems, if I can call it that, because as you are familiar with the saying ‘Ole house pon ole house’ as they pulled down one area to be fixed they saw more and more work to be done…I can’t say if it would have been cheaper to tear it down, but with construction work being done with arrivals and departures and everything that goes on it has proven a challenge, we are told,” the source added.
It was because of the challenges faced in building the departures terminal while simultaneously using the old building that a proposal was made to purchase a prefabricated terminal to handle departures and arrivals.
It was explained to Board members that such a move would not only save time and enable contractors to work traffic free, but that the prefabricated terminal is not costly and could be reused.
“We understand that it would take about three weeks to get here and could easily be set up. And unlike what some may think that it would drain the treasury or something, it is not that expensive as you might believe. Besides, when it is finished using it can be moved and reused. Remember it is basically bolts and nuts. Look at it this way, it is believed that this could speed up works on the current building and let us say by September latest, it would be completed,” the source asserted.
“The Board has not yet decided on this so it is not like if it is certain. We will meet shortly and everyone will give their views before a decision is made. We have to look at a lot of things because as it seems now, the whole project seems to be delayed and we are not sure if it will (finish yearend) as was stated,” the source added.
The APNU+AFC government while in opposition had been critical of the project and had voted against funding for it in light of their concerns about the high cost to taxpayers and the potential relocation of some 1,500 residents of the Timehri North area.
But when it took office in 2015 the project was re-examined and after week-long discussions with the contractor, the decision was made to move forward with extensions and renovations rather than demolition and rebuilding, resulting in better value for money.
A one-week-long discussion with contractor, China Harbour and Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) resulted in a US$46.8M claim made by the company being reduced to roughly half of the amount. Some of the issues responsible for the claim included design changes and cost overruns.
Minister of Public Infrastructure (MPI) David Patterson said then that a cap of US$23.7M could not be exceeded, inclusive of all variations and designs for the proposed work.
Prior to the discussions with CHEC, Patterson had told Stabroek News that the ballooning cost for the project was not fiscally realistic and indicated that it should cost less than US$150M.
“Cabinet has said that we will continue the runway and upgrade of the terminal but all must fall under US$150M, that is the only way,” Patterson had said.
The contractor had not been keen on expansion of the current departures terminal and was instead pursuing a new terminal building under the contract.
Patterson noted that the work under the revised terms included the extension of the 7,500 ft-long runway to 10,800 ft, renovation of the terminal buildings, the provision of navigational aids, and the relocation of not more than 15 residences. The establishment of a commercial mall and expansion of the parking lot are also expected as part of the project.
Last year October, MPI had reason to meet with CHEC again but it was to discuss several unsatisfactory areas and key among them was the lagging of works.
Other areas included but were not limited to the final submission of the construction drawings for the new arrivals terminal building, the timely delivery of concrete onsite, the Ministry’s proposed fast-tracking of the project via simultaneous works to the runway/new arrivals terminal building and renovations of the existing departures terminal building.
Also singled out were discussions pertaining to the procurement schedule for equipment and a generator room and fire station.
It was the Ministry of Public Infrastructure which had proposed to CHEC that works on the new arrivals terminal be conducted in parallel with works on the existing building and runway. This proposal they had said, would require additional manpower and equipment to achieve the December 2017 deadline.
It was explained that while the US$150M project has been modified to be a smaller size of the original plan, the end-of-year deadline still seems unrealistic.
“Many of the issues have not been resolved so we have a clear cut understanding of where we stand. It can be very frustrating to a degree because they have scaled back somewhat, what is keeping them? I think the company needs see some pressure so they can speed up, because we have to begin repayment soon. The US dollar is already higher so it means more already, something has to be done,” the source said.
Patterson has been optimistic that the project will meet its December deadline and at an end-of-year meeting he held in December last year he assured that the project will meet its completion date.