Meridian Construction Company will not meet its contractual deadline to complete Montserrat’s Port Development Project in the first quarter of 2024.
This was revealed Thursday, at the quarterly port project Town Hall Meeting held at the Lookout Primary School.
Presentations were made by Project Engineer for the Government of Montserrat, Glenroy Foster, Manager of the Montserrat Port Authority Joseph O’Garro and Project Manager for Meridian Construction Company Ltd. Peter Wattenhofer.
Foster shared that the trailers, purchased to allow fisherfolk to transport their boats as they will be unable to anchor in Little Bay, are scheduled to arrive in November. He also said that the port project has been making contributions to the Montserrat Arts Council, Tourism Division, and other entities to support initiatives which will help the community prepare to make commercial advantage of the new pier.
O’Garro said the port authority has also seen benefits to the construction of the new port. The removal of sections of the hillside above the current building has created more space to facilitate port health and other agencies which need to be accommodated at the Little Bay gateway. He added that he is looking forward to more ships being able to anchor at the port. In 2022, 43% of the ships scheduled to visit the island were unable to do so due to high seas.
The issue of Montserrat’s North Seas and its impact on the project was discussed at length by members of the public in attendance at the meeting.
Captain John Howes enquired of the panel what would be done to mitigate the damage caused in Little Bay two weeks ago when high seas removed much of the dirt packed into the newly built causeway by the construction company. He called it “an environmental disaster” because the silt booms had been removed to stop them being damaged by the high waves. He also shared his concern that from now until April 2024 the island will be impacted by the Northerly seas. This means that all the newly pressed land and stones will be removed by the ocean if work is not done to mitigate against this.
Wattenhofer, Meridian Construction’s Project Manager said they have appreciated the feedback and information received from the community who have knowledge of Montserrat’s waters. They are aware, he said, that they will lose some of the work done to the sea. Shortly, the public will see work to construct the permanent coastal protection begin as the required materials have arrived on the island. The caissons which will form the base of the pier will be made from cement at the Piper’s Pond site. More than 200 of the 4m by 6.5m structures will be needed for the project. Moving forward, the company intends to onboard more workers for training in how to construct the caissons.
The project manager stated in his presentation that installation of the caissons in Little Bay will begin later this year. However, the work on the construction of the 130m pier by the end of the first quarter or the start of the second quarter of 2024.
The project was scheduled to be completed by April 2024. When asked why the government was still speaking of an April 2024 date despite Meridian stating a later completion date of the third quarter, Rawlson Patterson, the port project lead for the government, said that until discussions are finalised, they must stick with the contracted date. Wattenhofer said that discussions are ongoing at a high level regarding the need for an extension to the contract. He also could not give any details on who would be financially responsible for the delays.
He said the company is committed to completing the project and to supporting the community. Based on availability and resources, Meridian Construction has agreed to tidy up the kiddy pool located in front of Marine Village as it is no longer safe for use by children or the elderly. The company said it has also agreed to construct a lifeguard tower for Little Bay.
The Montserrat Port Development Project will host the town hall meetings on a quarterly basis to keep the community informed of the progress. They will also be launching a dashboard on the Ministry of Communication, Works, Labor and Energy Facebook page with monthly updates on the progress, details on number of jobs and other social impacts of the project.
The port project is financed by the United Kingdom CIF through the Caribbean Development Bank, the European Union and the Government of Montserrat.