The Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri expansion project is now slated to finish at the end of next year, CEO Ramesh Ghir said yesterday.
Speaking at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure’s (MPI) end-of-year review, Ghir said that while there have been some delays, including slippage at the south western side of the facility, the project is now set to be completed by the end of December, 2018.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson had indicated during his recent contribution to the budget debate that the project would not be completed by the proposed December 31, 2017 deadline. On that occasion he had assured completion of the project “sometime soon in 2018”.
Yesterday, Ghir explained that all new buildings will be completed before the first half of the new year and said that it is the renovation and rehabilitation works on the older buildings that will see the entire project stretch its completion date to the end of the year.
According to Ghir, the north east extension of the runway will be completed by July next year and the first 500m of the southwest part will be done by April 2018. The remaining 190m will be completed by the end of December next year. This, he said, was delayed because of a slippage that occurred around the area, and this is going to take additional time to rectify.
The taxiways and apron are expected to be completed by March while the new arrival terminal is slated to be completed by June. The boarding bridge is expected to be finished before the arrival terminal and the existing terminal building will see works being done on it to finish in time for December.
In terms of the rectification works on the south western side where there was slippage, Ghir explained that repairs have already started and that the area where it happened is a safety drop off that is compacted with sand and built in case any airplane runs off the runway.
Despite the project’s delay, it was highlighted that there would be no additional costs incurred since it was only a time extension. In terms of the payment of the finances for the project to the company, Ghir explained that to date, approximately US$111 million has been paid, with US$6.5M coming from the Government of Guyana and US$105 million from the China Exim Bank. This, Ghir noted, makes up for 81% of financing for the project.
When questioned whether the slippage could have been detected and in turn, the project run as planned, Head of the Work Services Group from the Ministry, Geoffrey Vaughn said that it was an unforeseen circumstance that the contractors could not have catered for.
“Whether he knows it before hand, you have to be careful in terms of doing ground work. There are always unforeseen conditions which you cannot tell until you start digging down and these slips do happen because of settlement and maybe voids,” Vaughn said, while pointing out that unforeseen conditions, such as slippages, are usually catered for in contracts.
In terms of CJIA’s financial performance, Ghir highlighted that it was able to earn some $1.5 billion this year, an 18% increase from last year. This, Ghir said, was partially attributed to the 5% increase in passenger growth and an increase in departure tax.
For the 5% increase in passenger numbers, Ghir pointed out that some 572,000 passengers were processed at the airport this year, with over 300,000 arriving in the country for the first time. “Those numbers should be read in conjunction with statistics from last year, where there was a 14% increase and the year before where there was a 6% increase,” he said.
In terms of the market share, 42% of traffic came from New York, while 16% came from Canada, which he said is similar to last year’s numbers. Once again Caribbean Airlines was the major player, controlling 53% of the market, with Fly Jamaica at 30%.
For 2018, in addition to completing the expansion project, Ghir pointed out that the CJIA will also procure new scanning machines for checked luggage, cabin baggage and cargo baggage and will also be installing additional lighting on the aerodrome.
Some work will also be done on the other taxiways and also the installation of additional perimeter lighting is expected to be completed, he said.