By Stanford Conway

The Observer

The official signing of the contract of agreement between the St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA) and Surrey Paving and Aggregate Limited (SPAL) for the US$17 million runway expansion project and refurbishment of the RLB International Airport was completed on Friday, November 4.

At a ceremony held in the Parliamentary Lounge of Government Headquarters, Chairman of the SCASPA, Linkon Maynard, and Director of SPAL Jamie Chang signed the contract in the presence of Prime Minister (PM) and Minister of Finance Dr. Denzil Douglas.

Maynard said the selection process and eventual signing of the contract began some six months ago when over nine contractors were invited to submit bids.

He noted that the comprehensive and exhaustive bidding and vetting process was overseen by SCASPA’s Canadian engineering consultants, Novaport International Consultants Limited.

“Throughout the vigorous and transparent process we have at last arrived at, what we firmly believe, an equitable agreement between SCASPA and Surrey Paving and Aggregate Limited,” Maynard said.

Maynard said that work to be undertaken at the airport would vastly improve the quality and extent of the services, which is being provided not only to citizens and the business community of the Federation but also to the world at large.

He expressed confidence in the contractors and noted they would complete the job on time and deliver a finished product that would make all parties concerned proud.

Director of SPAL Jamie Chang confirmed that work on the project would begin next January and should be completed by the end of 2006.

Chang said he was excited to be part of the project and noted his company’s awareness of the role it has to play in the development of the local tourism product and the preparations for the upcoming 2007 Cricket World Cup.

The Director stated that with the advent of the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), he was looking forward to expand his company’s business throughout the region since it is a Jamaican-based Caribbean entity.

He also hoped for the solidification of the cordial relationship that has recently been developed between St. Kitts and SPAL, noting it should be a long and rewarding one.

PM Douglas also expressed his pleasure in seeing the passing of the first milestone in the developmental project and stated it was of tremendous importance to the Federation, since tourism was identified as the country’s main vehicle for economic growth.

He said that the country was fast becoming a premier conference destination and a large number of corporate jets were arriving at the airport on a more frequent basis.

The PM however stressed, “We cannot succeed in this very exciting new venture unless we have the basic infrastructure in placeā€¦and a refurbished fully expanded airport and services must go a long way in the achievement of these specific goals.”

He thanked all parties involved in making the expansion and refurbishment project as well as the agreement with SPAL a reality.

Dr. Douglas also thanked the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank and noted even when financing of the project was not in sight it willingly came forward to ensure that success was achieved.

The PM further thanked the President of the Republic of China on Taiwan, whom he noted on return to his country after visiting St. Kitts influenced his Cabinet to approve the appropriate loan to finance the project.

It was revealed that SCASPA got a $25 million loan from the National Bank and part of that money would be used to fund the project along with the loan from the Taiwanese Government.

Senior Project Officer of Novaport International Consultants Limited, Gordon Goodwin, said there were four or five major aspects of work to be done at the airport and the main one was resurfacing of the existing 8,000-foot runway, which had substantially deteriorated over the years since last upgraded in 1999.

He noted that additional major works included extension of the western apron to accommodate six wide-bodied aircraft, which would be a huge concrete slab passing through the western apron and projecting into the land now occupied by the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation.

Goodwin further noted that a new carriageway would be constructed for incoming and outgoing aircraft to have easy access of the runway and, also a modified drainage system would be implemented on the aprons in order to free the runway of water caused by rain and other means.

It was also learned that some 200 locals would be employed for the project and SCASPA was seeking the services of a highly qualified local engineer to oversee the nation’s interest.