$900m airport plan

Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Transport, Irvine Best.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Transport, Irvine Best.

The Cabinet of Barbados is expected to approve that long-mooted Airport Master Plan in a “couple” weeks, with a projected budget of almost $900 million.

The revelation came from Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy during a press conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this afternoon, where he had earlier addressed the first-ever consultation on aviation in Barbados.

Sealy, who was flanked at the news conference by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Transport, Irvine Best and Chief Technical Officer in the same ministry, Jacqueline Blackman, said the draft plan would be a blueprint for the physical development of Grantley Adams International Airport up to 2030.

The minister assured taxpayers that the proposals in the plan may cost them a fraction of the projected $893 million, in that they would involve public-private sector investment. While not in a position to spell out the level of foreign exchange earnings which would likely flow from the investment at this time, the Cabinet member was certain “some serious” revenue was expected.

Sealy said he could have brought forward the plan a little earlier, but first wanted the benefit of today’s consultation on aviation.

“We only have one airport, so if we are talking aviation and aviation industry, central to that would be the master planning of the Grantley Adams side,” he noted.

Sealy listed some of the main benefits of the Master Plan for Barbados.

“For the first time, as far as I know, you actually have a blueprint for the development of the airport. It’s not just merely having a facility for your arrivals and your departures and your cargo, and your auxiliary services and so on,… but you actually have a master plan which sets out precisely where your expansion should take place and when,” pointed out that minister.

He said this was based on empirical work, in “anticipating, projecting and extrapolating” what was anticipated and the capacity requirements.

“You also are looking,” he continued, “at other needs of the airport. For example, it is proposed you could potentially have a hotel facility at the airport; the question of air-sea transfer for example, and how you handle that. That came up today as well, in terms of what impact that has on normal airport operations.”

Sealy observed that when the existing airport was conceived — and even with recent renovations — no one expected Barbados would have been home-porting close to 200,000 passengers per year.

“That has serious implications for your airport — just as much in the case of the sea port. We have had to take that onboard; and even with respect to creating other opportunities for aviation.”

One of the examples he cited, was the lack of hanger facilities.

Sealy disclosed that the plan also envisages a new cargo facility to the west of Grantley Adams, provision for basing major airlines here and determining the future of the old Terminal Two buildings. The site adjacent to the airport, where the radar and air traffic controller school are located were also being factored into the plan.

“If we get it right and we are able to develop a true aviation industry in Barbados with a private aircraft registry, with a training school, with airlines based here flying into the US, with cargo being transhipped, passengers being hubbed through here, we could see aviation earning serious foreign exchange for Barbados; not just supporting the other foreign exchange earning sectors, like the tourism sector and international transport,” he stated. (EJ)

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