ST JOHN’S, Antigua — As the country continues its climb to economic resilience, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has embarked on a multimillion dollar port modernization project.
According to minister of information, Melford Nicholas, during the weekly Cabinet press briefing, “More than US$90 million will be expended on modernizing and enlarging the current Deepwater harbour cargo port. The resources have come from the China Export/Import Bank in the form of a low-interest loan, with very generous interest rates, and a moratorium on repayment.”
This, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, “will be the single largest public sector investment undertaken by any government, past or present and will facilitate the transformation of the facility into a regional transshipment port.”
The port modernization project, which is scheduled to have its ground breaking on Monday, will see a large-scale effort placed in completing the task.
Chairperson of the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, Senator Mary Clare Hurst, highlighted some of the renovation tasks planned for the project. She stated that the new facility will be equipped with a new and extended seawall, new and expanded operations area, a maintenance shop, dockers quarters, a new warehouse, marine department and administration building, which will house all the state agencies responsible for facilitating business at the port. These agencies are Customs, Immigration, Plant Quarantine, Port Health, Ministry of Trade and Finance and the Port Authority. The project will also include a new carpool and a modern port gate.
The facility will also be equipped with other amenities such as a security building, fire pump house, tug berth and cross docking facility, customs detention area and a water storage area.
As with most heavily financed projects by the Chinese, there will be a trade off with workers for the completion of this project. However, while a specific number has not been determined, the prime minister has mandated that his government expects no less than 40% of the labour to be local. Additionally, an audit has been conducted by the Chinese to determine the equipment pool (trucks and heavy equipment) on the island.
According to Hurst, “The effort is being made to reduce the volume of equipment to be used on the project. When one combines the prospects of labour and equipment use, the number should exceed 200.”
The project, which will commence by April, is anticipated to be completed in three years. Port management indicated that, if all goes well, this could be reduced to two-and-a-half years.
Browne the port management both expect high yields after the completion of the port modernization. Enhanced market competitiveness, improved trade facilitation, enhanced service levels, prospects for branding, entrepreneurship, and product differentiation are all aspects that the new port will provide.
“This project will position Antigua as the option for transshipment, storage, and other maritime services in the region,” Hurst said.