Contracts signed for 28-year-old airport project

TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS after it was first planned, the contracts for the expansion of the ANR Robinson International Airport Expansion Project and associated works have been signed.

The entire project will cost taxpayers $1.2 billion – $870m to build a new terminal, $36m to upgrade existing terminal and $300m to complete land acquisition.

Speaking with attendees during Tuesday’s signing ceremony, hosted by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) at the International Departure Gate of the ANR Robinson International Airport in Crown Point, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said the works have been long outstanding but it was "money well spent."

“It has been deferred, delayed, postponed, stalled, stopped, blocked... for more than 20 years. In fact, if I do a proper mathematical count, it has been deferred for 28 years.

“I was the Minister of Works from 1991 to 1995. I tried to build a new terminal in Tobago, but the Minister of Finance didn’t agree. I was again the Minister of Works between 2005 and 2010 and we got to the design stage, but the Minister of Finance didn’t agree to go ahead with the project. I am now the Minister of Finance, so we’re doing the project... If you think about the money involved, it involves decision making and priorities,” he said.

Breaking down the $1.2 billion overall cost Imbert said, “We’re spending $36 million to upgrade the existing terminal and $870 million to build the new airport terminal. We, in Finance, have been given the authority by Cabinet to be the client ministry in order to facilitate all that is required to drive this very important project, which apart from construction work includes a complex process of land acquisition and a considerable amount of financing.”

He said China Railway submitted the only compliant bid at the end of the process. The process, he said, was an open invitation for pre-qualification. There were nine submissions, shortlisted to five, and China Railway was the only compliant bid.

“When you have a situation like that, you have to test it for value for money and I am very happy to say that the bid from China Railway was almost identical or in line with the engineers' estimate for construction of this facility. So, we are quite satisfied that we are getting value for money from China Railway.”

Imbert: Necessary for tourism

Imbert said Tobago continues to strive to be a top tourism destination, adding that to help achieve this goal the main point of international entry – the ANR Robinson International Airport – has to be upgraded.

“In its current configuration and condition, it is not up to the required standard. The Government, desirous of promoting the continued development of Tobago is providing the island with a new and modern international airport terminal. This new terminal will have sufficient capacity and a level of service to support the required tourism development in Tobago."

The project will comprise the development of a new terminal building and associated airside and landside infrastructure whilst maintaining the operations of the existing terminal building during the construction of the new terminal.

The beneficial outcomes from this project involve a state-of-the-art passenger terminal where international passengers would no longer have to walk outside in the rain.

“They’ll come in through a modern loading bridge as we have at Piarco. The new terminal will have the capacity to serve a minimum of three million passengers (per year) in its first phase of development. Provision facilities in the current terminal area allow for improving the existing service level – this is a new benefit – of domestic and cargo operations in the current airport. "These facilities are required to be in operation six months after the signing of the contract today and we will be keeping China Railway Caribbean Construction Co Ltd (the contractor) on a tight timeline with respect to that, so I expect that by July – we’re in January – I expect by the end of July this upgrade will be completed.”

Imbert said it was deemed necessary to adopt measures to improve the current service level of the existing terminal building. This project will take approximately two years: four months for design and 20 months for construction.

Imbert said Nidco has been engaged for the construction of the new building, noting that the project is two-fold, as two contracts were signed between Nidco and China Railway.

The State is in the process of acquiring 53 acres of land between Store Bay Local Road and the ANR Robinson Airport perimeter fence in the Bon Accord area, he added. Consultant ACQ and Associates has been approved to negotiate and settle with home-owners on behalf of the State.

Imbert said a land acquisition policy has been approved by Cabinet. Up to 130 property owners have been served with section four legal notices, allowing the State to enter the lands. Negotiations with property owners continue. Once negotiations are completed, residents would be compensated in a timely manner. Claims that cannot be settled within the approved budget would be transferred to the Commissioner of Valuations for further negotiations, however, property owners are advised to apply for advanced payments of compensation as soon as possible in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act whereby the State would pay 80 per cent of the approved property value prior to any settlement. The balance of the settlement would be paid once the property is completely vested in the State. All compensation from the Ministry of Finance will be monetary.

“Financing in the sum of $300 million has already been raised by the Ministry of Finance for the land acquisition. The actual amount to be paid will be determined upon completion of the process but I am advised that this sum is more than adequate,” Imbert said.

Sinanan: Envy of the Caribbean

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan, in delivering remarks said the project was “too long in the making” but shows that TT is on target. He recalled in 2015 the Government made several promises to the people of TT, one he said was an airport terminal in Tobago.

“As Minister of Works, I stand very proud that we can have this signing ceremony today as this journey started a very long time ago. Close to 15 to 20 years ago, the talk of a terminal building came, unfortunately we got some extensions on the tarmac, we got an upgrade to the local domestic terminal, but today Mr Imbert is driving this project… to bring this project to fruition. I am sure within 24 months, this airport will be the envy of the Caribbean,” he said.