FIVE years of delays, and several modifications later, the modernisation of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) is finally on track to meet its latest December 31, 2021 deadline. This confirmation was given by Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill, who led an assessment visit to the airport on Friday. Minister Edghill told reporters that 95 per cent of the recent adjustments requested by the Irfaan Ali-led government have been made, and that the entire airport would be fully transformed in a matter of months.
In addition to a spanking new facelift, the modernised airport will boast a superstructure that will be erected between the VIP Lounge and the Check-in section of the airport. This ‘commercial zone’, as it was described, will facilitate the operations of more than 20 businesses, inclusive of restaurants, duty-free shops and massage parlours, among others.
In keeping with recent arrangements, China Harbours Engineering Consultants (CHEC) will be standing the construction cost to erect the ‘superstructure’, while the government has already approved a local contractor to execute the “retrofitting” aspect of the project.
“There will also be a curtain wall,” Minister Edghill posited.
He confirmed, too, that CHEC will also be financing the construction of an extended ‘wrap-around’ corridor which has to be erected to accommodate the government’s demands for two additional air bridges, bringing the total number to six. The CJIA currently has four defective air bridges that are being repaired.
Edghill said that the two additional bridges will be outsourced by the Government of Guyana, and that CHEC will be building the corridor to accommodate the specifications of the bridges being supplied.
Chief Executive Officer of the CJIA, Ramesh Ghir pointed to several other aspects of the airport that have to be remedied in order to match the government’s modernisation agenda. He said that requests have already been green-lighted by Cabinet, and are expected to see the full rehabilitation of the airport’s taxiway, as well as an office building, which is likely to cost $150 million. These smaller contracts, according to Edghill, have been restricted to local contractors.
Project Manager, Carrissa Gooding said that approval has also been given for the preliminary designs of the scope of works, and that the geotechnical investigation and other necessary surveys are moving apace for the central unit areas.
Gooding said, too, that additional manholes have been positioned as a means of rectifying the sewage problems that once plagued the international airport.
As far as security measures go, the airport building has been outfitted with a number of emergency exit doors that will be automatically activated in case of emergencies. Within a matter of weeks, also, the CJIA will be commissioning a state-of-art scanner, which will be able to instantly detect anomalies that would then be examined by officers.
Minister Edghill has assured the media that the CJIA modernisation project is progressing with active bonds to cover the contract being fully intact. “We are not exposed; we have in place full coverage,” the minister posited. He specified that the $6.9 million has been instituted as part of a retention bond, while $1.1M has been withheld for defects liability.
The controversial CJIA project recently benefited from an additional $2.5 billion of Government funds. Over the past nine years, more than US$150 million has been exhausted on the expansion project, which has encountered several delays and a plethora of problems, including a malfunctioning sewer system and three changes of government. The project was initiated by the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C)’s Donald Ramotar administration (2011-2015), and when the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition assumed office in May 2015, the project, which had been slated for a December 2017 completion, was halted for a review.
Following that review, the scope of work was adjusted; several changes were made, and a new deadline was set for December 2018. Fast-forward to August 2020, the PPP/C regained power, and the Irfaan Ali government insisted that the contractor must once again readjust the project to be in compliance with the original contract signed by Ramotar prior to 2015.
In December 2020, CHEC demanded more monies to complete the project as per its original specifications; however, after a series of consultations, the company agreed to finance some $1.8 billion in works, at no cost to the Government or the People of Guyana. These works include the aforementioned “superstructure”, as well as the “wrap-around corridor”.