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De Ole Dawg – Special Edition: Follow-up on port & access challenges

What can be done (or is being done) about ports and access?

Artist design with Little Bay port

Artist design with Little Bay port

BRADES, Montserrat, April 22, 2016 – In the fifth article in this series (published online November 13th 2015[1]), we looked at our ports challenge, and had to note: “Forgive us if we don’t quite get a clear picture on the port debate, there is an obvious lack of transparency.” Unfortunately, little has changed over the past five months – our Government has to get more serious about regular, open communication and genuine consultation with “we, the people.” That said, it is time to follow up – especially, given what DFID Minister Allen Duncan said in his Dec 9, 2011 TMR interview: “You can’t have a sustainable economy without good communications, transport or information.”

Brief remarks during the recent budget debate suggest that a committee of some sort seems to be looking at the sea-port and that discussion now focusses on a breakwater at Little Bay. Maybe, we are looking at a modification of the pre-Charette[2] concept in an online sketch:

Now, since at least 2013 – 14, a sum of £23 million has been in the air, as a DFID offer to build a Little Bay Breakwater. As a May 16th 2014 TMR article[3] (based on a May 13th press conference), then Premier Reuben Meade explained:

”The concept which we are also looking at is that given the offer of DFID to spend twenty three million pounds (US$30 million [or, EC$ 96.6 mn at the 4.2:1 rate on the pound]) on the breakwater to protect the little jetty which we have, and the refusal by Government of Montserrat to accept that investment, the deal which we are trying to work with DFID is to retain those funds so that we can put it in as part of the larger development with the understanding that the remainder of the funds will be sourced through public private (Dubai) partnership.”

The article reports how then Premier Meade also suggested – regarding his preferred Carrs Bay port alternative (c. 2013):

2013 master plan poster-layout

2013 master plan poster-layout

“Having met with the Vice President of Dubai ports, they were satisfied with the approach that we are taking,” he said. However looking at their port development, the Premier said, “we needed to look at our port development in a larger context; it must not be seen as a cargo handling and just as a cruise ship and cargo handling facility,” adding we’ve been encouraged to look at a ‘free zone’ concept including a transshipment type operation in Montserrat, because we are sitting in the middle of the middle of the Caribbean sea aisle.

As to commitment to their investment the Premier said they have been asked to provide additional financial information regarding the container movement and traffic within the region, etc, “so that they can come back to us with a firm decision,” which he said, “We are hoping to be in a position to provide all of that additional information within the next thirty days.”

The hope is to have this all concluded, “maybe as early as July [2014], possibly as late as August  . . .”

In a Dredging Today article[4] from June 2013 – a full year before that – we read about the 90% stage of the Halcrow plan for a Carrs Bay port:

In 2012, the government approved a new design concept for the town at Little Bay which included a shifting of the port plans to Carr’s Bay.

Regional Manager for Halcrow Edward Albada said significant changes and additions were made after a review of the 60% design. One of the biggest changes has been a drop in the overall estimated costs of the main port from US$ 117 million to US$ 96 million [ = EC$ 260 mn]. The marina, which will be handled separately by the Montserrat Development Corporation, is estimated at US$50 million [ = EC$ 135 mn] . . . . Included in the changes [i.e., in the 90% design] was the resizing of the docking facilities to handle cruise vessels up to 294 metres whereas the earlier [60%] design only accommodated up to 225 metres; allowing for the fuel vessel to unload at the docks rather than stay offshore as is presently the case; and the breakwater which was originally planned to be built via ocean construction will now be 75% constructed from land which caused a significant drop in the costs.

However, two years on – after Gunn Hill was bulldozed and Piper’s Pond was filled in to become land for the intended town centre – this Dubai-funded option has faded from view, having failed to materialise. Subsequent UK documents suggest that no committed private sector investment partners have been secured for the sort of option outlined.

It is no surprise that Capt. John Howes, head of the boat owners association went on record[5] in a March 10, 2016 Discover MNI article:

“DFID & GOM… If [the] NEW PORT at Carr’s Bay is too expensive, some 150 plus million US dollars. Please let us look more closely at building a Breakwater at Little Bay as soon as possible. The Little Bay Breakwater and Reclaiming of some shore line, would cost about $75 Million USD. Half of the proposed Port at Carr’s Bay . . .”

If Capt. Howes’ figures are even reasonably close to right, there is an option on the table that would cost much less than the reduced cost Carrs Bay port. So, there is a serious value for money question on the table to justify something costing far more than something that is there as “good enough.” The question is, what is that argument.

Is it, that Carrs Bay is the natural hub of our road network, and this will help keep noisy, heavy vehicle traffic out of our tourism zone in Little Bay?

Is it, that there is little or no room for expansion and development for a port built in Carrs Bay?

Is it, that a port would reduce visual amenities for a proposed hotel in Little Bay? (Can we then go back to the three bays option and see the hotel as being in Rendezvous Bay?)

Or, what? (Are the various numbers we see floating about wrong? If so, what are some credible values? Why are they credible? Please, GoM, we need to hear. The time when behind closed doors discussions and decisions was acceptable is long since in the past.)

Could it be, there is no compelling argument and so we have little choice but to accept a Little Bay port once we have not been able to find committed private sector investors?

We would like to know the options advantages and disadvantages, and what the “value for money” criterion says.

While we are at it, what is the situation with the fibre optics cable that could open up possibilities for high bandwidth data services? Is there any prospect for improving the airport? What about the proposed purpose-built ferry? Housing? The new secondary school? The new hospital and major items of medical equipment?

And, so much more . . .

Please, GoM, let us know what the “true and fair view” picture is. On a regular basis.

END –

[1]           http://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-5-contribution/

[2]           http://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-holds-high-level-charrette/

[3]           http://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-meade-progress-with-investors/

[4]           https://www.dredgingtoday.com/2013/06/10/montserrat-port-project-moves-forward/

[5]           http://www.discovermni.com/2016/03/gom-needs-to-fix-sea-access-problem-says-head-of-boat-owners-association/

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What can be done (or is being done) about ports and access?

Artist design with Little Bay port

Artist design with Little Bay port

BRADES, Montserrat, April 22, 2016 – In the fifth article in this series (published online November 13th 2015[1]), we looked at our ports challenge, and had to note: “Forgive us if we don’t quite get a clear picture on the port debate, there is an obvious lack of transparency.” Unfortunately, little has changed over the past five months – our Government has to get more serious about regular, open communication and genuine consultation with “we, the people.” That said, it is time to follow up – especially, given what DFID Minister Allen Duncan said in his Dec 9, 2011 TMR interview: “You can’t have a sustainable economy without good communications, transport or information.”

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Brief remarks during the recent budget debate suggest that a committee of some sort seems to be looking at the sea-port and that discussion now focusses on a breakwater at Little Bay. Maybe, we are looking at a modification of the pre-Charette[2] concept in an online sketch:

Now, since at least 2013 – 14, a sum of £23 million has been in the air, as a DFID offer to build a Little Bay Breakwater. As a May 16th 2014 TMR article[3] (based on a May 13th press conference), then Premier Reuben Meade explained:

”The concept which we are also looking at is that given the offer of DFID to spend twenty three million pounds (US$30 million [or, EC$ 96.6 mn at the 4.2:1 rate on the pound]) on the breakwater to protect the little jetty which we have, and the refusal by Government of Montserrat to accept that investment, the deal which we are trying to work with DFID is to retain those funds so that we can put it in as part of the larger development with the understanding that the remainder of the funds will be sourced through public private (Dubai) partnership.”

The article reports how then Premier Meade also suggested – regarding his preferred Carrs Bay port alternative (c. 2013):

2013 master plan poster-layout

2013 master plan poster-layout

“Having met with the Vice President of Dubai ports, they were satisfied with the approach that we are taking,” he said. However looking at their port development, the Premier said, “we needed to look at our port development in a larger context; it must not be seen as a cargo handling and just as a cruise ship and cargo handling facility,” adding we’ve been encouraged to look at a ‘free zone’ concept including a transshipment type operation in Montserrat, because we are sitting in the middle of the middle of the Caribbean sea aisle.

As to commitment to their investment the Premier said they have been asked to provide additional financial information regarding the container movement and traffic within the region, etc, “so that they can come back to us with a firm decision,” which he said, “We are hoping to be in a position to provide all of that additional information within the next thirty days.”

The hope is to have this all concluded, “maybe as early as July [2014], possibly as late as August  . . .”

In a Dredging Today article[4] from June 2013 – a full year before that – we read about the 90% stage of the Halcrow plan for a Carrs Bay port:

In 2012, the government approved a new design concept for the town at Little Bay which included a shifting of the port plans to Carr’s Bay.

Regional Manager for Halcrow Edward Albada said significant changes and additions were made after a review of the 60% design. One of the biggest changes has been a drop in the overall estimated costs of the main port from US$ 117 million to US$ 96 million [ = EC$ 260 mn]. The marina, which will be handled separately by the Montserrat Development Corporation, is estimated at US$50 million [ = EC$ 135 mn] . . . . Included in the changes [i.e., in the 90% design] was the resizing of the docking facilities to handle cruise vessels up to 294 metres whereas the earlier [60%] design only accommodated up to 225 metres; allowing for the fuel vessel to unload at the docks rather than stay offshore as is presently the case; and the breakwater which was originally planned to be built via ocean construction will now be 75% constructed from land which caused a significant drop in the costs.

However, two years on – after Gunn Hill was bulldozed and Piper’s Pond was filled in to become land for the intended town centre – this Dubai-funded option has faded from view, having failed to materialise. Subsequent UK documents suggest that no committed private sector investment partners have been secured for the sort of option outlined.

It is no surprise that Capt. John Howes, head of the boat owners association went on record[5] in a March 10, 2016 Discover MNI article:

“DFID & GOM… If [the] NEW PORT at Carr’s Bay is too expensive, some 150 plus million US dollars. Please let us look more closely at building a Breakwater at Little Bay as soon as possible. The Little Bay Breakwater and Reclaiming of some shore line, would cost about $75 Million USD. Half of the proposed Port at Carr’s Bay . . .”

If Capt. Howes’ figures are even reasonably close to right, there is an option on the table that would cost much less than the reduced cost Carrs Bay port. So, there is a serious value for money question on the table to justify something costing far more than something that is there as “good enough.” The question is, what is that argument.

Is it, that Carrs Bay is the natural hub of our road network, and this will help keep noisy, heavy vehicle traffic out of our tourism zone in Little Bay?

Is it, that there is little or no room for expansion and development for a port built in Carrs Bay?

Is it, that a port would reduce visual amenities for a proposed hotel in Little Bay? (Can we then go back to the three bays option and see the hotel as being in Rendezvous Bay?)

Or, what? (Are the various numbers we see floating about wrong? If so, what are some credible values? Why are they credible? Please, GoM, we need to hear. The time when behind closed doors discussions and decisions was acceptable is long since in the past.)

Could it be, there is no compelling argument and so we have little choice but to accept a Little Bay port once we have not been able to find committed private sector investors?

We would like to know the options advantages and disadvantages, and what the “value for money” criterion says.

While we are at it, what is the situation with the fibre optics cable that could open up possibilities for high bandwidth data services? Is there any prospect for improving the airport? What about the proposed purpose-built ferry? Housing? The new secondary school? The new hospital and major items of medical equipment?

And, so much more . . .

Please, GoM, let us know what the “true and fair view” picture is. On a regular basis.

END –

[1]           http://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-5-contribution/

[2]           http://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-holds-high-level-charrette/

[3]           http://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-meade-progress-with-investors/

[4]           https://www.dredgingtoday.com/2013/06/10/montserrat-port-project-moves-forward/

[5]           http://www.discovermni.com/2016/03/gom-needs-to-fix-sea-access-problem-says-head-of-boat-owners-association/