CJIA Airport to miss deadline for expansion completion

David Patterson

The US$150M Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project  will not be completed by the proposed December 31st 2017 deadline but works are forging ahead and Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson yesterday assured of a “sometime soon in 2018” completion.

“We had to push back a couple of things because we are putting in two air bridges and those things like that which is ongoing and which wasn’t in there,” Patterson yesterday told Stabroek News when asked for an update on the works and if it would be completed in time for the promised year-end deadline.

Patterson explained that in his 2018 Budget presentation today he will go into detail about the project and why the works would not be completed in time.

Nonetheless, he assured that the completion is “in place for 2018”.

The Timehri facility is set to be transformed upon completion of the project. The runway will be extended from 7,500 feet to 10,800 feet, and there will also be a new Arrivals Terminal Building, two boarding bridges, with the provision to install another two at a later stage, a renovated Departures Terminal, additional duty-free shops and increased parking facilities.

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.

Patterson had 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.

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