STATEMENT FOR THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY BY THE
DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND LABOUR
DR. THE HONOURABLE KEDRICK D. PICKERING
ON THE AIRPORT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
January 25th 2016
Madame Speaker, I rise to update this Honourable House and the Citizens of this Territory on the proposed development of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
It is widely recognised that improving air access to these Virgin Islands is a key factor in unlocking the full development potential of our economy. The Honourable Premier has already announced the partnership forged between BVI Airways and the Government to provide direct flights from Miami to the BVI. This will be a game changer and I am sure that all Honourable Members of this House will welcome this positive development.
In addition, the Government’s plan to improve air access is the development of T B Lettsome International Airport to accommodate regional and international traffic from a wider range of destinations.
Madame Speaker, when I last updated this Honourable House on the Airport development project, I said that I would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people of this Territory received value for money from the project. I also said that I was determined to produce a project that would meet the needs of this Territory with regards to international procurement standards. These objectives have guided my efforts as Minister responsible for the Airport Project and the efforts of this Government.
This Government has explored a range of options for delivering the project, including a design-build procurement model and, most recently, a concession procurement basis. Under a design-build model, the BVI Airports Authority would continue to operate the Airport with agreement reached with the private sector to design and construct the extended runway that we require. Under a concession model, the successful bidder would carry out the design, financing and construction, operation and maintenance of the Airport. Concessions are typically granted for a period of thirty or more years.
Madame Speaker, following our engagement with the Bidders and after careful consideration, I can today say to the Members of this Honourable House and the Citizens of this Territory, that the Government has concluded that the design-build model provides the best way forward.
Discussions will take place with the Bidders with a view to reaching an agreement by the middle of this year on a contract to construct the airport runway extension and associated works. Once construction gets underway, it is expected to take around 12 to 36 months to complete. The runway extension will be built on an embankment and a key design requirement will be to ensure the continued flushing of Trellis Bay. Minimising the environmental impact of the project both during and after construction is a priority for this Government. The current orientation of the runway remains with extensions into Well Bay to the West and into Trellis Bay to the East bringing the runway total length to seven thousand one hundred feet (7100) from its current length of four thousand five hundred and ninety-six feet (4596).
The runway will be designed to accommodate Airbus A-320 and Boeing 737-800 jet aircraft. Opening the BVI to these aircraft will bring the prospect of direct flights from a wider range of North American destinations and improved connections for travellers from Europe and beyond.
Madame Speaker, this will support the growth of our tourism industry and the continued development of our financial services industry. It will also provide an important building block for the diversification of our economy into areas such as arbitration, scientific/environmental research, as well as the promotion of the Territory as a place where legitimate business can be conducted.
I am pleased to echo the comment previously made by our Honourable Premier that Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom agrees that this infrastructure project is affordable in the context of the BVI Medium Term Fiscal Plan, and we are now actively seeking financing for the project.
Since the commencement of this project, we have been careful not to release specific information prematurely. This is deliberate on our part as we must take every necessary precaution not to prejudice the process. Despite the fluid procurement process, we are optimistic that we will be able to meet the Premier’s mandate to me which should result in a signed contract somewhere around the end of the first half of this year. As the project unfolds and the project management team takes shape we will endeavour to have a public relations officer specifically assigned to the project. This individual will bridge the gap between the project and the various media houses to ensure that information is disseminated on a timely basis.
Madam Speaker, this has been a long process, but getting the right outcome for the people of this Territory have always been the Government’s overriding objective. I remain focussed and resolute as I work with our expert team of legal, accounting and engineering advisers to deliver a project that meets the needs of this Territory.
Thank You Madam Speaker.