Saba’s harbour project preparations in high gear

The public entity Saba is making progress with preparations for the complete renovation of Fort Bay Harbour. Work behind the scenes continued while the Saba government was seeking additional funding, advice and support from the Dutch government. A sub-soil investigation and coral relocation will start shortly, and a project manager has been contracted.

As was recently reported in the media, the Dutch government has shown its full support for the project by making 12.5 million euros available from the so-called Regional Envelope as additional budget for the renovation of the harbour. The allocation of these additional funds was due to Saba’s sound financial management. With the support from the Dutch government, the Public Entity can now go full speed ahead with the project. The sub-soil investigation is scheduled to start early September, to be carried out by Geotron Caribbean.

Saba’s Fort Bay Harbour. Photo courtesy of Malachy Multimedia.

~ Sub-soil investigation, coral relocation to start soon ~

The soil composition will be determined by drilling cores from designated locations in the sea bottom. This will take about 15 days in total, after which the collected material will be analysed in a lab. The results will determine the technical possibilities for the construction of the breakwater and thereby the scope of the project.

Coral growing in the area will be relocated to the coral nursery at Ladder Bay wherever this is possible. This will be done parallel to the sub-soil investigation. After a first assessment carried out by the Saba Conservation Foundation, the organisation is now working on a plan to relocate and safeguard the coral growing around the secondary breakwater.

The construction contract of this major project is planned to be awarded in the first half of 2019, also depending on the results of the soil investigation. Preparatory works such as stabilisation of the adjacent hillside may commence earlier. The project is very important as the harbour was severely damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The storms almost completely destroyed the secondary breakwater.

Dutch engineering company Witteveen+Bos (W+B) was asked to develop different scenarios for a complete rebuild of the secondary breakwater. This was done in consultation with local stakeholders at the harbour. The preferred scenario was a breakwater that would significantly increase the usable area inside the harbour basin.

However, this scenario would require a significant budget. During the past months the public entity has been in constant contact with the Dutch government to receive advice and support for the project, but also to request the additional funding required to significantly improve the harbour. Behind the scenes the project continued: W+B made preparations for a sub-soil investigation to determine the soil conditions of the area where the new breakwater should be built.

Saba has contracted a project manager, Ton van der Plas, a hydraulic engineer who has experience with port development projects all over the world. Van der Plas has worked for companies such as the Port of Rotterdam and independent international engineering and project management consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV.

Van der Plas has started preparations for the tender phase of the project. He is in close contact with W+B, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management I&W, and Rijkswaterstaat, a division of the I&W Ministry which is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands.

State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops has already publicly expressed his support for the Saba harbour project. He agrees with Saba’s vision to “build back better” and has stressed the need to create a safer harbour with better opportunities for ships to dock inside the basin.

Knops stated during a general debate with the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in May and reported on by The Daily Herald: “I am charmed by the vigour of the Saba government in making preparations for this large project. There is a solid plan for the upgrading and extension of the harbour.”

Commissioner Bruce Zagers, responsible for the harbour project, stated that the financial contributions through the Regional Envelope demonstrated the Dutch government’s commitment to the development of the Saba harbour. “This also proves that having Saba’s financial management as a priority is starting to deliver very substantial results for the island’s development.”

For the most part it seems that not much is happening, but behind the scenes much is being done for the preparation of what will be the single biggest project in Saba’s history, Zagers explained. “A project of such magnitude cannot be rushed so it is important that everything is well planned so that we have can have a successful project,” concluded the Commissioner.

The Daily Herald.

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