Abaconians can expect more delays for the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport. While we have received several completion dates for the new airport terminal, The Abaconian understands that the terminal was last inspected by a fire expert whose findings revealed that there is no emergency fire escape in the building.
Therefore, this relevant security measure must be designed and added to the existing structure, which poses another unexpected delay.
The original date for completion of the new terminal was set as August 2012.
Excluding the forthcoming fire escape, the project is approximately $10 million over budget due to delays and correcting design oversights.
From the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech at the Abaco Business Outlook on September 25:
“May I begin with an update on where we seem to stand with the Marsh Harbour International Airport. I am saddened by the turn of events on this extremely expensive – and – much anticipated project.
My Ministry has been challenged to provide all the necessary approvals to the contractor for the construction of the airport buildings as there have been and continue to be concerns of a technical nature which do not permit the Ministry of Works and Urban Development to issue necessary approvals.
This is a most serious and vexing matter.
I am not an engineer nor do I pretend to be one; but I accept that there are extremely good reasons for, first, a thorough approval process to be followed by the issuance of approvals following any required adjustments and then the requisite follow-up through regular objective inspections and confirmation of building according to an approved plan.
Yes, adjustments are made to meet unforeseen circumstances; and, yes, the application and approval process can sometimes be frustratingly slow and tedious. Also, yes, I agree that the application and approval process needs overhauling. Recent announcements either by me or by officials of the Ministry confirmed that we recognise this – and are in the process of updating and modernising how we conduct all our business with the construction community.
You might fault us for the time we are taking in the research and planning process to bring this all about; but you certainly can’t fault us for the effort to PLAN instead of just rushing to get things out so that we could claim to be doing more than is sometimes in the People’s best interests.
Sometimes politicians make promises and proceed to browbeat public servants to get moving on things and end up with difficulties like we now have with the airport.
Besides the problems with all of the necessary approvals not being in place which would mean that an occupancy certificate cannot be issued resulting in delays in opening, we also have concerns being expressed about whether all the structural elements actually meet fire and safety codes.
Further, I am advised that other agencies of the government and representative of potential users, namely airlines, have difficulties with the spaces and equipment being provided for them; it seems that “the design of the interior would demand additional staffing to operate a separate international and domestic security operations.
The airlines are also asking for ticket counters to be redesigned as there are presently no allocations for space for printers and ticketing machines.”
Apparently, the “Immigration (Department) also has an issue with their access to their work area and the security of the same.”
“There is also the relocating of the switching system for runway lighting to the new control tower and the removal of the existing building.”
Some technical equipment required to meet international standards are presently under review to ensure proper compliance.
I am told that the Civil Aviation Department is presently short listing potential new Controllers from more than 100 persons who applied.
We approached this unfinished project when we returned to government last year with a view to completing it in the shortest period of time while trying to ensure that the taxpayer was receiving value for money and that the project was a complete one, which would best serve all the needs of travellers, and those employed within the facility and in its environs.
All told, even though this description of the challenges with the Marsh Harbour Airport was not pleasant to learn about and certainly is not pleasant to report to you and the Nation. I am pleased, however, to confirm that under the leadership of my colleague, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, the Government is gradually cutting through all the nonsense surrounding this entire project with a view to, at the earliest opportunity, to make sure that the airport facilities to our travelling public, is efficient, safe, secure.
You will be kept up to date with progress as it is made.
You would also be interested to know that the Government has made a major policy decision with regard to the future operation of airports in our Family of Islands:
The view is that the current model for Family Island airport management is unsustainable, as it requires a considerable investment of public funds.
It is the policy of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation moving forward to ensure that, to the extent possible, all Family Island airports must be self sufficient, with a view to reducing the cost of operating airports for the Public Treasury.
This would reduce the strain on the public purse, and simultaneously, generate a new revenue stream for the Government.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation is pursuing the option of private management of the Marsh Harbour Airport.
In that regard, a Request for Proposals to manage, develop and operate the Marsh Harbour airport was published in May of this year, inviting Bids from qualified Bahamian firms.
Three companies submitted proposals.
The Minister of Transport and Aviation appointed an Evaluation Committee headed by Sir Baltron Bethel to review the proposals and to revert to the Minister with their recommendation.
I am advised that the Committee has now completed its work and has made a recommendation for the consideration of the Minister, who will in turn consult with the Cabinet.”