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HomeLatest NewsSt Lucia Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment continues … reluctantly  

St Lucia Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment continues … reluctantly  

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The decision to temporarily halt the construction of the Hewanorra International Airport in 2021 was an essential step, according to a release from St Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) on Friday, September 1, 2023.

Resumption of HIA

“The government of Saint Lucia, in collaboration with the Port Council, SLASPA management, and experts from the aviation industry, engaged in extensive consultations to ensure the project’s viability and alignment with the nation’s developmental goals. After months of collaborative efforts, it has been determined that the project is primed to move forward, with the first phase of redevelopment set to commence in the coming months.”

A statement from the office of the prime minister, August 2021said:

“The cabinet of ministers appointed a seven-person committee to review the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) Redevelopment Project. The committee has been tasked to review the scope and financing arrangements of the HIA Redevelopment Project and to report its findings within 90 days. Loans amounting to over $600 million were accrued from a consortium of local banks and the Exim Bank of Taiwan. The review committee is expected to advise the cabinet on the way forward as it relates to the loan financing or a return to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement. The new Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration has pledged its commitment to the improvement and modernisation of the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA).” 

Points of view

The previous United Workers Party (UWP) administration argued that under the (current) agreement the redevelopment tax is US$35 per person and would take 15 years to repay the loan provided by the government of Taiwan. The mechanism that the SLP proposed was a head tax of $55-60 for 30 years paid to the private developer.

The loan from Taiwan is for 20 years with a five-year moratorium at an interest rate capped at 4 percent. There is a second loan from a regional consortium of banks under the same terms, and a third loan from the World Bank for 40 years at 0.5 percent interest with a ten-year moratorium. This is in comparison to a 30-year PPP agreement at 6 percent interest proposed by the current government.

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The announcement advised that the initial phase entails the construction of an air traffic control tower:

“The initial phase of this renewed endeavour entails the construction of the state-of-the-art Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), which commenced construction in the first quarter of this year. With dedicated efforts and careful planning, the ATCT project is scheduled to reach completion by the first half of 2024. This milestone will mark a significant step forward in the modernization and enhancement of navigation infrastructure, which will undoubtedly contribute to improved air travel.”

“Driven by a dedication to responsible fiscal management, the government of Saint Lucia recognized the need to identify fiscal space to ensure Saint Lucia’s economic growth. For SLASPA, this pause also provided a unique opportunity for a comprehensive review of the project’s scope, financial dynamics, and alignment with the long-term vision for the island, and government priorities. The need for this review was deemed paramount given the financial pressures brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic, inflation, rising costs in construction materials, particularly steel, and the unrest between Ukraine and Russia.”

The SLASPA release noted that “recommencement of the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project underscores the government’s dedication to fostering growth, progress, and enhanced infrastructure for the benefit of both citizens and visitors to Saint Lucia.”

Year-to-date Stay Over Arrivals July 2023

Meanwhile, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) announced increased air traffic for the US for winter and spring 2024.

A second Saturday flight by Delta Airlines departing from Atlanta. Commencing in January and continuing through April 2024, this additional flight will further enrich the travel options available to eager explorers.

American Airlines (AA) is also set to contribute significantly to the improved service landscape. Notably, the Miami route will significantly upgrade from a B-737 (172-seater) to an A321 (190-seater).

The return of the second daily flight from Miami to Saint Lucia, slated for December to January, brings a surge of convenience for travellers. The continuity of the second Saturday flight from January to March 2024 will complement this operational enhancement.

The AA Charlotte route is poised for a substantial transformation as well. Starting mid-February and spanning throughout Summer 2024, the A319 aircraft will be replaced with a B737, promising a more comfortable and accommodating journey.

AA’s Philadelphia route will undergo an extensive upgrade from an A-319 (128-seater) to an A-321 (190-seater), effective mid-February to mid-March.

Jet Blue’s mint/Saturday service also enters the equation, elevating passenger capacity from 159 to 162-seater in November and December.

“The collective efforts of these enhancements will yield an impressive addition of 9,913 seats from November to April, translating to a remarkable 7 percent increase in seat availability compared to the corresponding period of the 2022/2023 winter/spring season,” said the SLASPA release.

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