The management of the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) received the final inspection report on the super structure of the airport on December 4, 2017, according to the report compiled by ABT, a European multidisciplinary engineering firm contracted by PJIA.
With that information in hand, Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel doubled down on his vehement critique of PJIA management and main contractor Ballast Nedam who announced this week that the airport reconstruction will again be delayed.
He said the final report of EBT proves that PJIA management and Ballast Nedam continues to lie to the people of St. Maarten about why the airport re-construction has so far taken five years to complete and by the new end date of 2024, would be seven years since the passing of hurricane Irma. “But today, they are using something they knew about since 2017, as an excuse for the latest delay in 2022. They are liars and this racket at PJIA is shaping up to be as bad as PJIA’s Italian scandal,” Emmanuel said.
PJIAE’s announced via press release last Sunday that another delay in the reconstruction will have to be endured due to the peeling of fire-retardant paint on the interior steel structure. According to main contractor Ballast Nedam, the repainting of the structure will delay the completion of the departure hall which will now be ready before the start of the 2023 – 2024 season. The new arrival and ticket hall will follow in Q2 2024.
The ABT report contains findings of the structural review of the existing roof and floor bearing steel constructions (superstructure). It was carried out by ABT and commissioned by NACO on November 20th and 21th, 2017. The purpose of the review is to gain insight into the damage into the bearing steel constructions caused by Hurricane Irma, which passed the island of St. Maarten on September 6, 2017. ABT also received information by Oostingh Staalbouw of the applied paint coatings. According to the report, this information would be useful to select a coating system by fully recoating the terminal building, compatible with the coating.
According to the MP, the report from 2017 states: “Fire-resistant coatings lose their fire resistant effect due to exposure to water or high humidity. In the aftermath of hurricane Irma, due to the water leakage through the roof and the observed high humidity in several areas, ABT concludes that the fire-protective coatings are damaged.”
“The report clearly indicates to PJIAE management and the eventual contractor what the situation is with paint coating in various areas of the airport. Again, this was 2017. Ballast Nedam won the bid for the airport in July 2021. PJIAE and Ballast Nedam signed the reconstruction agreement in August 2021. The groundbreaking was held in October 2021. PJIA refinanced its 2012 loan for US $90 million in May 2022. And through all of the construction preparations, bidding documents and so on you trying to tell us nobody knew about the paint and didn’t include the ABT report?” MP Emmanuel questioned.
“We need to know what the real reason for the delay is and what is the cost for this latest delay going to be. The government of St. Maarten is saying nothing because as usual, they were probably fooled like sheep but ready to drink champagne, toasting a project that is bleeding the trust fund and other dry. The original brand new airport was built for US $87 million. To fix it is costing almost double that and nobody is providing detailed explanations why. Somebody getting rich,” the MP added.
He went on to chastise the Public Prosecutor’s Office who took the initiative to investigate the harbor and GEBE, but has said and done nothing with what is going on at PJIA. The Integrity Chamber wasn’t spared critique either. The MP once again framed the chamber as “useless”.
“The people of St. Maarten and the country’s economy is being affected by this ongoing racket at the airport and nobody is blinking an eye. I want answers and I will do whatever I must to get them,” the MP concluded.