Statement by Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie
on the status of the Taddy Bay Airport on Virgin Gorda
Wednesday, 14th August, 2019
Fellow Virgin Islanders and Residents,
On Monday, August 12, 2019, a suspension spring on the sole fire tender assigned to the Taddy Bay Airport on Virgin Gorda broke, rendering the vehicle inoperable. According to aviation safety regulations, all airports must have at least one working fire tender in order to operate. As such, the BVI Airports Authority (BVIAA) was forced to close the Taddy Bay Airport, pending the rectification of this situation.
In the first place, I want to extend sincere apologies on behalf of the government and people of the Virgin Islands to all persons who were adversely affected by the closure of the airport, in particular the visitors to Virgin Gorda.
I am advised that the BVIAA is working diligently to have the fire truck repaired within the next 24 hours to 48 hours so that service at the airport can resume.
Citizens will recall that just about one month ago, I delivered a statement in the House of Assembly outlining a list of critical issues at the airports on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada, which needed to be addressed urgently to prevent our airports from being shut down.
These emergency works are estimated at a total of $5.8million and, as the Minister for Finance, I have given the commitment that your government is working assiduously to identify the funding to complete these works and secure our airlift infrastructure.
It is important to note that, based on the advice I have received from the BVIAA, that the breakdown of the fire truck at the Virgin Gorda airport is connected to the critical work that was identified to be done at the Taddy Bay airport, and which this administration inherited from our predecessors.
In my statement to the House of Assembly on July 16, I disclosed that the said fire truck, which was purchased in November 2018, was being left constantly exposed to the elements during the day due to the lack of a proper garage facility for securing the vehicle.
Some time previous to the February 2019 General Elections, a contract was issued by the then Board of the BVIAA, under the previous administration, for construction of a garage for the sum of $89,000. Somewhere along the line a variation was done to add an office and a watch tower to the contract for an additional $127,000.
There was a reported disagreement at the management level over this variation and the contractor halted work. All of this was under the previous government.
The work remains incomplete and there is still no garage for securing the fire appliance.
The truck is kept in the vicinity of the old fire station, however this venue is not fit for that purpose, as is now evidenced by the breakdown of the vehicle.
My administration is mindful that unless and until the government and the BVIAA are able to have the urgent issues rectified, our airports are vulnerable to interruption in service, and more serious consequences, that stand to adversely affect members of our traveling public and our tourist visitors.
Some of the other urgent work that have been identified, you will recall from my statement on July 16, include – but are not limited to - repairs to the administration building at the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport in the sum of $650,000, replacement of the control tower console at Beef Island in the sum of $500,000, repairs to the conveyor belt and updating of the X-ray machine at the TB Lettsome airport at a cost of $900,000, acquisition of two new fire tenders at $1.6 million – which will allow us to have an additional fire truck assigned to Virgin Gorda as a back-up, and more. Adequate and proper garage facilities would be needed in Beef Island to secure the new fire tenders.
These are among the critical things that ought to have been done under the previous Airports Authority Board and the previous administration, but which were neglected and allowed to reach the point of collapse.
I again appeal to the public to bear with us as we work on solving these issues, and I give the assurance that keeping our airports running at the professionally acceptable industry standard is a high priority for your government.
I also want to take this opportunity to commend the members of the Board of the BVIAA for moving swiftly to keep the authority in compliance with Air Safety Support International (ASSI) regulations by appointing Mr Clive Smith to the posts of Accountable Manager and Acting Managing Director of the BVIAA, upon the sudden resignation of Mr Coy Levons yesterday, August 13.
In accordance with the Company’s Act governing the BVIAA, Mr Smith has also been appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of the Airports Authority.
Mr Levons, whose substantive post was Director of Operations, had been holding the role of Accountable Manager and acting in the post of Managing Director since June 11 when the BVIAA Managing Director, Mr Denniston Fraser, retired.
The positions of Managing Director, Deputy Managing Director, Director of Operations and Duty Manager were advertised and the BVIAA is working to make substantive appointments to those positions as soon as possible.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Smith on his new appointment and to wish him the best. I also want to thank Mr Levons for his many years of service.
Mr Smith has a wealth of knowledge of the aviation sector and experience in the industry. His current substantive post is Duty Manager however since June he has been serving as Acting Director of Operations.
I will continue to keep you the public inform of our efforts and I want to reassure everyone that the Virgin Gorda airport will be functional between the next 24 hours to 48 hours.
I thank you.