Seaport project woes

Contribution, Part 116 (‘21 # 09)

Have we cut down our CIPREG seaport project to inadequacy, by eliminating the breakwater component?

The proposed cut-down seaport development with a shortened jetty – yes, with no breakwater (so no ships can dock if “North Seas” decide to kick up some rough waves)

BRADES, Montserrat, July 8, 2021 –  In a presentation for the social/environmental impact assessment townhall meeting held on June 29th, the Montserrat public saw the “finalised” [?] cut-down, no-breakwater seaport development that is currently contemplated.  The obvious question, is whether we are again being forced to accept an inadequate, cut-down port project, similar to the bitter pill up in Geralds.

For, without a proper breakwater, it is obvious that we are back to the same problem of having to turn away ships when seas are rough that has plagued our current jetty. This has meant, for example, that tourist and cargo ships would have to turn back when seas become rough.

The proposed, cut-down seaport development, with a shortened jetty – yes, with no breakwater

Indeed, when the Port Project was officially launched on Friday, May 17, 2019, then Premier Donaldson Romeo noted that, 

“due to rough seas…out of a total of 478 calls [for 2018?], vessels were unable to berth 58 times…one vessel out of every eight had to turn back. “Yes, that is not sustainable. We had to fix the problem . . .”[1]

So, we may compare the proposed breakwater-based development at that time:

The originally proposed Sea Port development, as was publicised when the project was launched, May 17, 2019. Notice the then identified costing, which was later found to be faulty

Of course, we later heard that a Programme Management Office [PMO] review found that the cost of this general design was significantly low. While no detailed documentation or explanation of the under-costing has been given to the Montserrat public, officials in the know have suggested that the cost may have been double or more the £21.4 million identified in the chart issued on May 17, 2019. Something, that needs to be properly explained, as experienced consultants were used to developing the general design and so too to give its cost estimate. In that process, £14.4 million was found to be inadequate relative to needs and so £7 million more were transferred by the EU. Where, that obviously means our regional development bank, CDB, and the EU as well as DfID and GoM were involved in evaluating design and costs. What went wrong with the port costing, why, and why was it missed until a PMO review was undertaken? 

So, the immediate question is, are we being forced to accept another inadequate, economy-choking port? One, that will instantly cripple our tourism prospects? And if that is so, why is that being imposed now by FCDO?

After all, doesn’t the relevant clause of the legally binding UN Charter, Article 73[2] require the UK to “promote to the utmost . . . the well-being of the inhabitants of [non-self-governing] territories,” to “ensure . . . their political, economic, social, and educational advancement,” and to “promote constructive measures of development”?

In a day when, in response to pandemic, the UK will cumulatively invest over £ 300 billions in internal Covid-19 stimulus and where it spent some £300 millions on an airport for St Helena (promoted as a yardstick of what they were willing to invest), are we to seriously believe it cannot find a further £20 – 30 millions to fund an adequate sea port here? Especially, when apparently DfID, EU and CDB were all caught on the back foot (as well as GoM) on the initial costing? Is Montserrat’s vital first growth driver – tourism – to be held hostage to what seems to be a consultancy blunder?

Something, does not add up.

At minimum perhaps, we will indeed be forced to accept a grossly inadequate sea port to go with our coerced acceptance of an inadequate airport, with its far too short runway, in the wrong place.  This means that just as we have to bear in mind that Thatch Valley is the site to beat for a 5,000 foot, jet plane ready airport, Carrs Bay would be the reserved site for the “real” sea-port development, later on. But, economy-choking ports are going to make that future date shrink even further into the distant future.

Not good.

Far better would be to frankly face whatever errors led to a problem with costing, then seek a solution. Where, no, in a pandemic age we need an adequate hospital so, rob Peter to pay Paul won’t work. Nor can we continue to neglect the social housing challenge nor the needed upgrade to our only high school. Thank God, after a decade of struggle with a clearly reluctant DfID, we now have restored fibre optic digital access and Flow and Digicel are undertaking fibre to the home, school, office, and factory initiatives. Digitalisation is of course, our second obvious growth driver. Likewise, we have had 250 kW of Solar PV capacity installed, with 750 kW and 1 MWhr of storage being further added. Likewise, we are at least hearing talk of follow-up on geothermal energy. Geothermal, arguably, is our third growth driver.

While we are at it, those who were so busy denouncing the EC$ 200 millions of funded development initiatives as a deceitful election gimmick, have some explaining and public apologising to do. That includes – having already publicly dismissed the CIPREG, UKCIF, and EU initiatives and funding – presenting a 2021/22 budget where every capital initiative of consequence came from that derided EC$ 200 million. . . without even generically acknowledging the work of previous administrations in putting that funding in place.

Where, no, long-term development project funding is not a piggy bank to be raided at will and used to do whatever one wishes. Projects are specifically developed, justified, negotiated to obtain funding, then are implemented under close monitoring and audit. If something goes wrong, they can be terminated for cause. Public rhetoric that has suggested otherwise actually undermines confidence in our project governance capability and makes it even harder to negotiate for future projects.


[1] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-port-development-launched/

[2] See UN https://legal.un.org/repertory/art73.shtml

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Contribution, Part 116 (‘21 # 09)

Have we cut down our CIPREG seaport project to inadequacy, by eliminating the breakwater component?

The proposed cut-down seaport development with a shortened jetty – yes, with no breakwater (so no ships can dock if “North Seas” decide to kick up some rough waves)

BRADES, Montserrat, July 8, 2021 –  In a presentation for the social/environmental impact assessment townhall meeting held on June 29th, the Montserrat public saw the “finalised” [?] cut-down, no-breakwater seaport development that is currently contemplated.  The obvious question, is whether we are again being forced to accept an inadequate, cut-down port project, similar to the bitter pill up in Geralds.

Insert Ads Here

For, without a proper breakwater, it is obvious that we are back to the same problem of having to turn away ships when seas are rough that has plagued our current jetty. This has meant, for example, that tourist and cargo ships would have to turn back when seas become rough.

The proposed, cut-down seaport development, with a shortened jetty – yes, with no breakwater

Indeed, when the Port Project was officially launched on Friday, May 17, 2019, then Premier Donaldson Romeo noted that, 

“due to rough seas…out of a total of 478 calls [for 2018?], vessels were unable to berth 58 times…one vessel out of every eight had to turn back. “Yes, that is not sustainable. We had to fix the problem . . .”[1]

So, we may compare the proposed breakwater-based development at that time:

The originally proposed Sea Port development, as was publicised when the project was launched, May 17, 2019. Notice the then identified costing, which was later found to be faulty

Of course, we later heard that a Programme Management Office [PMO] review found that the cost of this general design was significantly low. While no detailed documentation or explanation of the under-costing has been given to the Montserrat public, officials in the know have suggested that the cost may have been double or more the £21.4 million identified in the chart issued on May 17, 2019. Something, that needs to be properly explained, as experienced consultants were used to developing the general design and so too to give its cost estimate. In that process, £14.4 million was found to be inadequate relative to needs and so £7 million more were transferred by the EU. Where, that obviously means our regional development bank, CDB, and the EU as well as DfID and GoM were involved in evaluating design and costs. What went wrong with the port costing, why, and why was it missed until a PMO review was undertaken? 

So, the immediate question is, are we being forced to accept another inadequate, economy-choking port? One, that will instantly cripple our tourism prospects? And if that is so, why is that being imposed now by FCDO?

After all, doesn’t the relevant clause of the legally binding UN Charter, Article 73[2] require the UK to “promote to the utmost . . . the well-being of the inhabitants of [non-self-governing] territories,” to “ensure . . . their political, economic, social, and educational advancement,” and to “promote constructive measures of development”?

In a day when, in response to pandemic, the UK will cumulatively invest over £ 300 billions in internal Covid-19 stimulus and where it spent some £300 millions on an airport for St Helena (promoted as a yardstick of what they were willing to invest), are we to seriously believe it cannot find a further £20 – 30 millions to fund an adequate sea port here? Especially, when apparently DfID, EU and CDB were all caught on the back foot (as well as GoM) on the initial costing? Is Montserrat’s vital first growth driver – tourism – to be held hostage to what seems to be a consultancy blunder?

Something, does not add up.

At minimum perhaps, we will indeed be forced to accept a grossly inadequate sea port to go with our coerced acceptance of an inadequate airport, with its far too short runway, in the wrong place.  This means that just as we have to bear in mind that Thatch Valley is the site to beat for a 5,000 foot, jet plane ready airport, Carrs Bay would be the reserved site for the “real” sea-port development, later on. But, economy-choking ports are going to make that future date shrink even further into the distant future.

Not good.

Far better would be to frankly face whatever errors led to a problem with costing, then seek a solution. Where, no, in a pandemic age we need an adequate hospital so, rob Peter to pay Paul won’t work. Nor can we continue to neglect the social housing challenge nor the needed upgrade to our only high school. Thank God, after a decade of struggle with a clearly reluctant DfID, we now have restored fibre optic digital access and Flow and Digicel are undertaking fibre to the home, school, office, and factory initiatives. Digitalisation is of course, our second obvious growth driver. Likewise, we have had 250 kW of Solar PV capacity installed, with 750 kW and 1 MWhr of storage being further added. Likewise, we are at least hearing talk of follow-up on geothermal energy. Geothermal, arguably, is our third growth driver.

While we are at it, those who were so busy denouncing the EC$ 200 millions of funded development initiatives as a deceitful election gimmick, have some explaining and public apologising to do. That includes – having already publicly dismissed the CIPREG, UKCIF, and EU initiatives and funding – presenting a 2021/22 budget where every capital initiative of consequence came from that derided EC$ 200 million. . . without even generically acknowledging the work of previous administrations in putting that funding in place.

Where, no, long-term development project funding is not a piggy bank to be raided at will and used to do whatever one wishes. Projects are specifically developed, justified, negotiated to obtain funding, then are implemented under close monitoring and audit. If something goes wrong, they can be terminated for cause. Public rhetoric that has suggested otherwise actually undermines confidence in our project governance capability and makes it even harder to negotiate for future projects.


[1] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-port-development-launched/

[2] See UN https://legal.un.org/repertory/art73.shtml