The initial sweeping of the St John’s Harbour has been completed right on schedule according to Port Manager Darwin Telemaque, and it is good news for the country and cruise tourism stakeholders who have been calling for the upgrade for years.
Telemaque said work on the project started on February 19 and, despite a few days that were lost, the team managed to complete the job on time – within a month.
“We plotted a timeline that had works being completed some time around March 20 with the final survey works being done a few days later. The dredging works was completed on the day that it was planned,” he said.
“In planning, you usually end up a day or two behind, but this time we nailed it.”
Telemaque said he was beyond pleased with the level of organisation and professionalism displayed by the contractor and the sub-contractor commissioned for the job.
The sweeping, he said, restored the harbour to its original levels after a buildup of up to two meters of silt in some areas. This build up had become a nuisance to visiting vessels. He explained that the ships’ sonar would often pick up the silt as a potential barrier.
The port manager said while this was not inherently dangerous, it was annoying and there was constant complaint from captains.
“When you’re in clean water and everything’s fine and suddenly you get an alarm, the pilots onboard would instruct the pilots that it’s not an issue, but they kept complaining about that loud sounding noise, so we needed to fix that,” he said.
He added that calls to restore the depth of the harbour had come not only from international cruise vessels, but from the head of the cruise tourism association here at home as well.
“I wouldn’t want to call them ultimatums,” he said, “but there were some serious, serious discussion as to what would happen if that wasn’t done over and over again, so getting the depth back was very significant and crucial,” Telemaque said.
One member of the business community has welcomed the completion of the long anticipated sweeping of the St John’s Harbour.
Businessman Robert Hall, who operates a company within the Heritage Quay area, commended the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) regime for completing the project for which many tourism stakeholders have agitated for over the years.
Cruise tourism stakeholders have for years lamented that cruise lines were threatening to cease calling on Antigua if the sweeping was not done, because the presence of silt close to the surface posed difficulty for the berthing of ships.
Hall is hoping government will turn their attention to the developing the land side of the harbour now that the sweeping is complete.
The China EXIM Bank advanced Antigua a loan US $3.9 million to finance the sweeping.
The money is part of the overall US $268 million being loaned to the country so that the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) could execute the overall project which will see the full redevelopment of the for the St John’s Waterfront.