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Letter: Is the government creating a ghost airport in St Vincent
Published on May 14, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

There are hundreds if not thousands of closed airports, described in the airline business as ghost airports. During the last twenty years more airports have closed than opened. Why? Because running an airport is a huge expense even for the largest of countries. Unless there is sufficient passenger traffic for local, regional and international traffic, no one can afford to run such loss making projects.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the government has been putting 15 to 20 million dollars every year into a regional airline, LIAT. Can you imagine if such a loss can be made year on year by a tiny airline, just how much can you expect to lose from an international airport, ten or a hundred times those figures. We can look forward to a year on year loss of at least $200 million a year, most likely many times that amount.

We will be struggling with debt burden that the government has lumbered us with, approaching one and a half billion dollars. We will be paying that back for the next 100 years. Add that to the operational losses and just ask yourself what chance do we stand of getting ourselves out of what can now be described as the Gonsalves folly.

We were told that we had many countries that would pay for the airport construction, which turned out for whatever reason to be untrue. We the people have been fooled, our children and their children will be paying for this project long after we are all dead and buried.

Some silly Vincentian politicians try and equate the building of our airport with the success of Grenada's airport. Again, they have the beaches; they have the attractions that we do not have. And remember you can take a vacation ‘Grenada and the Grenadines’ Saint Lucia and the Grenadines’ all top locations with spectacular white beaches and thousands of hotel rooms. Our tiny black beaches get so hot during the day they are impossible to walk on. Only the Grenadines have lovely white beaches. In the case of beaches, black is not beautiful.

SVG has no income whatsoever. Little or no industry; a government-neglected and seriously damaged tourist industry; a government-neglected and seriously damaged agriculture industry. Whatever happens at the Argyle International Airport, SVG will never be able to fund it. We are not a Barbados or Saint Lucia, with their pristine white beaches; our little black beaches are not what the tourists want. We will never attract the volumes of tourists to even make a small dent in the losses that we can expect, year on year from the operation of the airport.

Berlin's Tempelhof Airport Germany
Tempelhof Airport was one of Europe's iconic pre-World War II airports. It was once among the top 20 largest buildings in the world, but housed the world's smallest duty-free shop. The airport, which opened in 1926, suffered from low international passenger numbers. Today, the airport's outdoor space is a public park, with a six-kilometre cycling, skating and jogging trail, a BBQ area, a dog-walking field and an enormous picnic area for visitors.

Durban International Airport, South Africa
Durban's old international airport now stands empty after the new King Shaka International Airport opened in 2010 for the World Cup. The airport, which opened in 1951, suffered from low international passenger numbers. Today it stands abandoned and while plans have not been made for its future use, it is believed the site will be used for industrial.

Nicosia Airport, Cyprus
The abandoned airport of Nicosia is now the headquarters of United Nations following its closure in 1974. Cafes and gift shops stand empty in the derelict terminal building, and the departure lounge seats have a blanket of dust, while glass shards from the lights and windows cover the floors. The airport, which opened in 1956, suffered from low international passenger numbers.

Cuidad Real International Airport, Spain
Cuidad Real International Airport's terminal building stands dormant after closing in April 2012, when all scheduled flights ceased to operate to or from it. The large international airport, which was completed in 2009 at a cost of 1.1 billion euros, was intended to serve both Madrid and the Andalucían coast, but lack of demand driven by Spain’s economic crisis saw its closure after just three years. The airport, which opened in 2009, suffered from low international passenger numbers.

Hellenikon Airport, Greece
Hellinikon Airport was the international airport of Athens for 60 years until 2001. Before it closed, the airport, located four miles south of Athens, served 12 million passengers a year. After its closure, Hellinikon's runways were converted into a sports park for the 2004 Summer Olympics and in 2011, the Olympic Airways Museum opened in the West Terminal.

Castellon International Airport, Spain
Castellon airport in the east of the Spain was inaugurated in March 2011 after an estimated 150m euros (£130m) was spent on its development but almost a year later, and having failed to secure a license to operate, the virgin airstrip is to be torn up. The Agency for Air Security has found that it did not meet regulation standards. It is the latest revelation in an ongoing saga of an airport that has come to symbolise the reckless public spending of ill-thought out projects that has left the Spain crippled with debt. Last month it emerged that 30 million euros had been spent on publicity for Castellon airport despite the fact that it had failed to secure permits to receive air traffic.

Bulltofta Airport, Malmö, Sweden
Bulltofta Airport was converted into a park and entertainment complex. The airport suffered from low international passenger numbers. Though one of the hangars was turned into a school, the area has lost its aeronautic identity and air transport facility.

Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, USA
Stapleton International Airport (once the fifth busiest hub in the US before closing in 1994) suffered from low international passenger numbers and is now being redeveloped as a mixed-use housing community.

Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, Austin, Texas, USA
The now defunct Robert Mueller Municipal Airport suffered from low national and international passenger numbers. 700 acres in the centre of Austin, and three miles from downtown and two miles from the university.

Canada 2014: the $500 million airport once expected to be Canada’s main hub, the terminal is currently being demolished. It sits 10 miles north of Montreal and was closed ten years ago because of lack of usage, travellers and revenue. They just couldn’t stand the losses.

What I have known for a long time from past research, the FAA in the US will be very much aware and up to date on what is spoken and written about Argyle. Someone may well be informing them also; in fact, if true to form several individuals and organisations are informing them. They will be aware of the problems -- cross winds, and dangerous engine damaging sea blast, a terminal way lower than the runway etc. -- but they do not get involved in the planning and construction stages of an airport, unless invited to do so. Once the airport is finished they will issue an advisory that will militate against US carriers flying in there. It may be an outright ban or it could be recommendation that has effect of increasing insurance premiums paid by the airlines, thus leading to higher uncompetitive fares. If the FAA takes such action you can be sure the UK CAA and Europe will do the same thing.

Remember this airport is being built without any pre-construction wind reports, even without a feasibility study, and the master plan was written long after work started. Currently anything and everything that can go wrong, is going wrong. Compaction problems, water springs under the runway, a combined effect of the water table and the sea. A terminal and aircraft apron which has been built 30’ lower than the runway. Extremely dangerous cross winds. Massive sea erosion to the areas that they have tried to reclaim from the sea. The runway crossing of the Yambu river and the associated engineering and unknown work involved yet to be started, the reason that the Cuban chief engineer walked off the job two years ago. It’s a nightmare brought about by the ignorance and ideologies of one man.

Most of you will be aware, as are the US authorities, that the Russians have recently started patrols in the Caribbean and have now based several naval vessels in the Caribbean. The Cubans have recently renewed their old military pact with the Russians. I am told but cannot confirm that our foreign affairs minister has been discussing with the Russians the flying into Argyle airport of Russian holiday junkets. Let’s just hope that doesn’t include Russian military aircraft.

Let’s hope this is not part of the unfinished work of Maurice Bishop. Because when Grenada’s airport was being built it was by the Cubans at the behest of the Russians. Regardless of the Caribbean Marxist wipe out story that the airport was solely for civilian use, evidence in public records proves otherwise. The Russians were interested for military use and as a refuelling stop for Cuban military aircraft to and from Africa.

By the way, don’t ask me what we should do, what we can do, because I do not have the answer. I think we are in very serious trouble, the answer to which I am lost to guess the final outcome.

God help us, and I sincerely hope and pray that he will. But the initial help must come from ourselves. We must start by ridding ourselves of the nasty socialist government that we are currently being dragged into the mire by.

Peter Binose
 
Reads: 4627





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Comments:

clyde job:

A functional illiterate on matters of endogenous, infrastructure and capital investment development. An analysis with no conceptual framework consideration of Small Island State development, vulnerability, globalisation, trade liberalisation, developmental strategies and programmes relevant to module of development.

The hallmarks of overall effective developmental success reside in the resilience , commitment, patriotism, synergy and political will via visionary political leadership,holistic governance and not partisan politics.

Peter Binose:

CLYDE B JOB, a lot of great words, but meaningless and misleading words regarding this project. The airport is actually being built on behalf of ULP partisan politics. Trucks and machinery displaying stickers stating “I AM ULP” . With the project named after Che Guevara a communist revolutionary that murdered hundreds of Cubans by summary execution.

The capital investment we were told was to be paid by others “The Coalition of the Willing” a group of countries who would be paying for plant, machinery, labour, expertise and materials, all to be supplied by the coalition. Except for about 10% of the plant for the project, everything else turned out to be pure fiction, if not a downright lie. Instead of others paying, the ULP government have borrowed hundreds of millions, putting us in debt for the next hundred years. They had told us that when the airport is completed we would have no debt, that is also untrue.

Then to make it worse the land that the airport is built on was stolen from the landowners, because to this very day they have not been paid. Some dying and not able to afford treatment abroad. Children have been unable to take education abroad. Its sheer theft, because even if one day the do get paid, they can claim no interest from the government. Its a disgraceful situation, some have been owed their money for six years.

What we have in SVG is not a patriotic government, they are only patriotic to their Marxist beliefs and the ULP party. They specialise in partisan politics, led by a cult leader, leading a whole lot of brainwashed Vincentians at home and in the Diaspora.

So clever dick, its good night from me, and good night from me.

Lenford O'Garro:

Peter,

Ah wonder if Clyde looking for a job or is he trying to sing for a job? Because instead of putting a set of fancy words together, he should be doing his own analysis of the project, starting with a feasibility study.

Clyde my boy, check out the IMF’s, St Vincent and the Grenadines: 2006 Article IV Consultation, “Canadian consulting firm Marshall Macklin Monaghan (MMM) completed the most recent comprehensive airport study in September 1998 and argued against building a new airport and concluded that the only economically viable option was a limited renovation of the existing airport at ET Joshua.” The ULP government moved forward without any further economic cost benefit analysis for the airport.

Clyde, can you tell the world what’s the travel demand forecast looks like for SVG? How about the two nearest neighbors to SVG with international airports, St Lucia and Grenada? Somehow, people have this flight of the imagination that by building an international airport, the economic woes of these small island states will magically disappear. Yes, an international airport can help but you need to have enough traffic into the international airport. Otherwise, you are digging a hole to fill a hole!

Does it make sense to waste taxpayers hard earn money and a nation’s meager resources on building an international airport, only get one or maybe two international flights a week in the peak season? Or paying money (millions of dollars) to subsidized any international airlines to fly into the Argyle airport?

Clyde, by now you should have realized that the math does not add up on the airport cost! Are you asking yourself why the cost of the airport keep escalating?

Clyde, this is the same ULP government that said it was not possible to build an international airport, then for political expediency turned around and said to the world there was a coalition of the willing to build the airport. Did they get a vision or were they just on television? Either way Clyde, they were fooling the people and themselves!

Keep them coming Peter!

Peter Binose:

LENFORD, I always appreciate your input because it is always written with a great degree of intelligence.

You see Mr Job, or is it Odd Job from James Bond, whoever you are you really are quite silly.


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