SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - There’s a new wind blowing at the Princess Juliana International Airport N.V. (PJIAE) with news this week of a major boost in the company’s plans to return the facility to one of the busiest air transit hubs in the Northeastern Caribbean. The "shot in the arm" is coming from this week’s ruling of an arbitration panel awarding the airport a more than USD$71 million insurance claim following the passage of Hurricane Irma, almost two years ago.
And while much of the awarded sum have already been received as an advance payment and made use of, the remaining settlement amount now seems likely to provide the wiggle room that PJIAE Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Brian Mingo, has been seeking to put additional things in place to speed up the progress of restoration works. Also, the funding of some critical project works that were sitting on the shelves as recently as last week - before the deal-changing arbitration ruling was officially announced.
“Momentum, Momentum, Momentum – that is the one word our partners have been escalating to us during these past months,” said the PJIAE CEO, Mr. Brian Mingo, reflecting on the real significance of the arbitration ruling and his own contention that without the availability of additional funds, other than those already negotiated as loans, the prospect of returning PJIAE to its glory days was still very bleak indeed.
“You can build a lot of momentum with USD$ 71 million, the insurance settlement PJIAE was awarded, if the balance will be received within the next few weeks,” said Mingo.
One major challenge has been the significant increase in demand for travel to the island during the first half of the year causing cramped conditions, long queues for passengers and flight delays as an unfortunate result.
“Passengers using the terminal building and other PJIAE facilities have every right to get inpatient and frustrated at times with the seemingly lack of progress in getting back to normal, but I can assure them that the hold-ups are beyond our control and that the management team and I are personally ready to step up our pace of restoration and renovation,” said the PJIAE CEO.
He added that with additional funds to call upon, some of the overcrowding issues at the terminal building can be immediately dealt with to create a better passenger experience and to also open up newly renovated areas of the facilities, for both the passenger and management to further utilize.
The airport's chief says PJIAE will be celebrating a major milestone in terms of its reconstruction efforts at month's end, when the contractor, Ballast Nedam, completes all three (3) reconstruction phases of the terminal building's roof. This includes the installation of roof profiles and panels, bull-noses and soffits along with major reinforcement and waterproofing to withstand hurricane-forced winds and rain.
No sooner than Ballast Nedam packs up its' equipment and withdraws from the job site, will the management team and our contracting partners, should be putting the finishing touches to the planning of the tendering process for Phase II of the airport's reconstruction, which should be under way at least by October 2019. The CEO, Mr. Mingo, cautions however, that the meeting of this new milestone will depend on all funding arrangements being in place within the coming weeks, including receipt of the remaining settlement from Nagico.
“We have creatively dealt with the financing part of the airport's restoration with the support of the Government of St. Maarten, the Kingdom Government, Schiphol aviation specialists, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, notwithstanding the support of the bondholders. Furthermore, this could not have been done without the support of our valued staff, Supervisory Board of Directors and executives of Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company (PJIAH)," said Mingo.
He says his task at this point of time is to build the momentum required to see the following put into place without delay:
• Complete the formation of the Management Team.
• Making the terminal hurricane ready.
• Implement PJIAE Project Team and support teams.
• Engagement with all stakeholders and ensure technical project support.
• Increasing capacity for passengers in the terminal building.
• Rebuilding of the Rescue and Fire-fighting building.
The management team will also be working on a new business model,which will be formally introduce in 2020 with a focus on the PJIAE re-enforcing its position as a major economic driver for the St. Maarten economy.
“Once the bidding process for the reconstruction is completed (January – April 2020) and Phase II of the reconstruction works get underway, and we maintain a momentum with regular phased exposure of completed projects and stages, I anticipate a major shift in investor confidence locally and internationally toward our island. I see a new climate of investments being created for the economy that I am personally very excited about and so is the executive team. We are continuing to put all our efforts into delivering a new PJIAE product - by building the state of the art "airport of the future". With a new wind blowing, our new airport will once again be the regional leader, with a focus on pride for the entire St. Maarten community,” said the PJIAE CEO, Mr. Mingo.