Address on Hewanorra International Airport - 15 Sept 2010
ADDRESS TO THE NATION
ON HEWANORRA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT UPDATE
BY PRIME MINISTER STEPHENSON KING
My fellow Saint Lucians, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Evening.
The last three years have been challenging throughout the World, as the Global tsunami affected every nation - Saint Lucia being no exception. Government; in pursuit of national development, has remained focused throughout the period, on keeping the ship of state buoyant and stable within a hostile environment, which has threatened to wreck our voyage. We have navigated the rough seas of increasing commodity prices and global recession and weathered the storm of a global financial crisis unprecedented since the 1930s. During this challenging period, we have been engaged as a Government in minimizing the unavoidable negative impact and at the same time ensuring that the hard earned gains of our nation were not eroded or the quality of life of our people undermined.
Notwithstanding the relentless economic pressure, Government has assumed a deliberate proactive and aggressive posture, designed to minimize these external shocks, while preparing us to take full advantage of the opportunities and the anticipated up-swing in activity when the global recession begins to retreat. It is against this understanding that the 2010 – 2011 Budget was underpinned by the theme: “The Road to Recovery: Engineering Growth, Engendering Social Cohesion and Building Resilience to External Shocks”. In this regard, Government’s policy has been one based on the approach of applying public investment as a strategy for stimulating economic activity.
Over the past three (3) years, we have undertaken a number of bold public-sector investments, not only to generate economic activity and provide employment, but also to position our nation at the forefront of emerging trends and technological advancements. Our aim has been; at all times, to take full advantage of opportunities within the international market place, which would bring benefits to our people. Some of the public sector investments initiated by this Government over the past three (3) years and which have brought direct benefits, including jobs to ordinary Saint Lucians, include: construction of the Allan Bousquet Highway; Completion of the Saint Lucia National Wellness Centre; Construction of a new National Hospital which is scheduled for completion in 2012; completion of the East Coast Road; commencement of work on the National Meat Processing Facility in Beausejour, Vieux Fort; completion of the Senior Citizens Home in Black Bay, Vieux Fort; and our recent commitment for Reconstruction of the St Jude Hospital. All of these projects have contributed to the generation of jobs and the improvement and modernization in key sectors - health, communications, agriculture, etc.
My administration is determined to complete our programme of modernizing and stimulating economic growth, despite efforts by opposition elements to attack our programmes and manufacture controversy in relation to every development initiative undertaken by this Government. In the process of advancing their self-serving agenda, the opposition has resorted to attacking the integrity and professionalism of persons who proudly serve this nation. We are confident though, that Saint Lucians fully understand the enormous challenges faced by their Government and our efforts to deliver against phenomenal odds. We have no doubt that our efforts are widely appreciated by those who have benefited and continue to benefit from the initiatives highlighted earlier. This is why we will continue in our forward march with the support of the people of Saint Lucia who share our vision in the interest of the national good. We CANNOT stall our Country’s development at this critical time, as opportunities will simply not wait for us. We must capitalize on the existing opportunities, so that we can chart the course for sustained growth and development. The key is for us to be forward thinking and proactive.
My fellow Saint Lucians, It is therefore my pleasure as Prime Minister to inform you of your Government’s decision on another major development initiative. After months of exhaustive review and a thorough due diligence process, the Government of Saint Lucia has agreed to approve the proposals of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority (SLASPA) on the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project. The Government, through Cabinet, has officially accepted SLASPA’s submission, for the redevelopment of the Airport. This will now clear the way for the start of preparatory work leading to the actual commencement of the project early in the New Year.
The new facility to be constructed was designed by renowned architects; Heery S&G Architects International, based in Miami, USA. The company has many years of experience in designing airport terminals. The facility will emphasize a Caribbean concept, featuring ample light, open spaces and greenery. Both the terminal and the airport grounds will be carefully landscaped with trees, tropical plants and flowers, some of which will be innovatively incorporated into the terminal’s interior. The architectural design itself will include imitations of the natural environment, inspired by St. Lucia’s tropical rain forest. First time visitors will experience the beauty, vibrancy and attraction of picturesque St. Lucia seconds after arriving on our soil, and will know instantly that they are somewhere special. Departing visitors will have one final memorable image of our tropical “Helen of the West” to leave with.
The new terminal will feature larger temperature regulated, energy efficient, and handicap friendly departure and arrival halls, for a less cramped experience during peak hours. The bigger and improved terminal is designed to handle more than twice the number of annual passenger throughput. Modern check-in counters which conform to the internationally standardized CUTE (Common User Terminal Equipment) System, will be installed to allow for the speedy processing of check-in passengers. Wider baggage carousels will reduce baggage recovery time. There will also be a greater variety of duty free shops, eating establishments, banking services and other improved passenger facilities and services. These improvements will no doubt translate into an enjoyable passenger experience which is truly reflective of Saint Lucian hospitality.
In addition to the airport terminal, the airport’s apron will also be enlarged and restructured. Hewanorra International Airport was designed to accommodate five aircraft. With the redevelopment project, that number will increase to thirteen - six to eight of which will be accessible via enclosed jet bridges. The apron area will include parking space for bigger jets such as the Airbus 380 – “the liner of the skies”; the largest passenger aircraft currently in service. Two additional spaces will also be allocated for Boeing 747- 400 and 777- 200, which are wide body jets. Passenger comfort will also be taken into account, through the installation of jet bridges or passenger loading bridges connecting airplanes to the terminal. This will allow passengers to disembark and board planes with full protection from the elements. In addition, the terminal will include a technical block consisting of a new control tower and modernized air traffic control and meteorological centres. These updated facilities will allow for the smooth execution of airport operations and provide our dedicated Air Traffic Controllers with a better work environment.
After conducting a detailed “Request for Proposals” and evaluation process with the requisite due diligence, the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority has finally selected a consortium group which would be responsible for the execution of the project. The group of companies contracted to rebuild Hewanorra International Airport at a total cost of US$140 million, consists of four entities which are all experts in their field, with combined experience of over 200 years. They are:
a. Asphalt & Mining (St Lucia) Ltd. utilizing their finance consultants of Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T) and will be engaged in Project Finance and Administration.
b. Heery International / S&G Architects will be responsible for Architectural Design, Architectural Construction Administration and Architectural Project Management.
c. TY Lin International will the lead Design professional, Engineering Construction Administration, Engineering, Project Management; and
d. Delant Construction will engage in the Construction Management and Terminal Building Construction.
As indicated before, the total estimated cost of executing this project is US$140 million, broken down as follows:
1. Architectural & Engineering Fees - US$8.25 million
2. Transaction/Financing Fee - US$2.25 million ; and
3. Construction cost - US$129.5 million
Let me take this opportunity to clearly state that there is no Government guarantee, nor will SLASPA have any of its properties mortgaged or debentures placed against its revenue. Rather, debt security will be mainly in the form of rights to a specific revenue stream through a lockbox mechanism, as well as a cash reserve. Funding will be done through loan financing to be repaid over 25 years at a fixed interest rate of less than six percent.
The Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project is a self-financing endeavour, financed through the implementation of an Airport Development Charge (ADC), to be realized through departure taxes of US $35.00 and not taxpayer dollars. Passengers leaving St. Lucia, of which approximately 80% are visitors, will incur these charges through pre-purchased tickets and will not pay any additional charges on boarding. This increase will still allow St. Lucia to compete effectively and successfully in the regional Tourism Industry.
Based on projected models, the new Hewanorra International Airport is expected to provide service for a period of approximately forty (40) years before there will be need for any significant expansion or upgrading. The SLASPA has already identified possibilities for expansion; whenever necessary, at either ends of the Terminal in a modular manner.
Notwithstanding Government’s recognition of SLASPA’s status as an autonomous agency and with lead responsibility for negotiations, Government felt it necessary to issue some stringent requirements, which served as conditions for Government’s approval. These included:
1. obtaining an optimal design at a substantially reduced cost;
2. ensuring there was no compromise of the proposed functionality of the structure;
3. reducing the financial liability to the State, by ensuring that the project was self-financing
4. ensuring that any additional charge required per passenger was kept to an absolute minimum;
5. exploring financing mechanisms/models not overly onerous in terms of additional security i.e. with no Government guarantee and without SLASPA having its properties mortgaged or debentures placed against its revenue
The St. Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority has committed to providing stakeholders and the general public with comprehensive information on the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project in the coming months.
Let me therefore express my appreciation to the Board, Management and Staff of SLASPA, as well as the Public officials who assisted at the appropriate stages, for their professionalism, resilience and integrity, which they have displayed throughout the assessment and negotiations process. On behalf of the Government and people of Saint Lucia, I would like to publicly thank those professionals of SLASPA and the Public Service.
The Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project will no doubt act as a catalyst for economic development and enhanced competitiveness in regional and international markets. On commencement, the project will provide major employment opportunities for Saint Lucians, particularly those residing in the south of the Island. These would include the Districts of Soufriere, Choiseul, Laborie, Vieux Fort, Micoud, Dennery and, indeed, the entire Country. Skilled residents in fields such as: Engineering, Carpentry, Plumbing, Masonry, Electrical Installation, Painting and other areas requiring skilled and unskilled labourers, will find welcome opportunities for employment during the construction phase of the Airport Redevelopment Project. Once the project is completed, it will create opportunities for a long waiting list of Operators who would like to establish business ventures at the Airport. These include: Tourism Transportation Providers, Retail Shop Owners, Restaurateurs, Travel Agents, Spa Operators, Telecommunication Providers, Bank Operators and Other Small Business Owners.
Now that Government has given its approval for this major infrastructural project, which is expected to impact positively on the domestic economy, we can now look forward to the process of stakeholder and wider public information dissemination led by SLASPA, to apprise the population of the opportunities and progress of the project as we go forward. Saint Lucians will, therefore, be soon invited to embark and fasten our seatbelts as we participate in what is expected to be an engaging and educational journey before a smooth landing for the official launch of the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Saint Lucians, I thank you.
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