Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen visited Saba on Monday afternoon, May 6 and Tuesday morning, May 7, to see how the infrastructural projects that are being financed through the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) are doing.
The project to upgrade and expand the Fort Bay Harbor, the project to build a waterpipe and associated logistics from Fort Bay to Hell’s Gate project, the renovation and expansion of the Juancho Yrausquin Airport, the construction of the water bottling plant near St. John’s. The Ministry of I&W is investing a lot in Saba’s development.
This was the first visit of Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen to Saba, and she very much liked what she saw. “This is a very beautiful island, and I was especially impressed with how steep it is. You only realize this when you see it with your own eyes. At the same time, I realized how complex it is to build on Saba. It is quite a challenge logistically.” In this sense, she also mentioned the challenge of erosion.
The minister showed comprehension for another challenge that Saba has been facing: the connectivity, the island’s accessibility by boat and air. “A committee has given advice on the connectivity of the islands, and I will be taking this under careful consideration. Having good connectivity is not only important for Saba’s accessibility, but also for the island’s economic development.”
Crucial for future
Van Nieuwenhuizen further mentioned the project to improve the water supply and distribution and the project to expand and upgrade the harbor, which she referred to as “crucial for the island’s future.” She said it was very important to construct a strong and safe harbor for the handling of cargo and people. “It concerns a very large project involving a big budget and which is highly important for Saba’s development. This needs to be done right.”
The minister was very positive about the meetings that she had with the members of the Executive Council and the Island Council. About the meeting with Members of the Island Council Eviton Heyliger, Vito Charles and Hemmie van Xanten on Tuesday morning, she said: “We had an open, pleasant talk during which the members brought up various subjects.”
The relation with the Saba Government is good, Van Nieuwenhuizen stated. “We have a very good cooperation with appreciation from both sides.” The Ministry of I&W will remain involved. “Having good agreements inspires everyone to continue.” She complimented Saba and its government for their hard work and commitment.
The minister landed on Saba Monday afternoon following an aerial tour of the island with the charter company SXM Airways. Upon her arrival, Commissioner Zagers provided the minister an update of the airport project, which he said brought much convenience for all users. The delegation, which included several top civil servants of the Ministry of I&W, stopped at the Under the Hill social housing project on the way to The Bottom.
Harbor project manager Ton van der Plas updated the minister via a presentation. The harbor, built in the 70’ies with the addition of the small pier in the 90’ies, is currently only able to provide basic services: roll-on roll-off for cargo, the off-loading of fishing boats, and the off and onloading of the ferries and dive boats. The current harbor is also very exposed. Extending the main pier will reduce the wave exposure. “The conditions are now far from ideal,” Zagers told the minister during a visit to the harbor after the presentation.
The close to 30 million euros project, financed by the Dutch Government, involves the construction of a new, larger pier further west from the location of the current small pier, the extension of the current main pier and improvements at the shoreline and on-land infrastructure. It will be by far the biggest project for Saba ever, money and size wise. The project is in full preparation and the intention is to appoint a contractor by the end of this year. It will concern a design and build contract. Construction will start in 2020.
After the visit to the harbor, the delegation went to the location of the landfill where the commissioner explained the workings of the recycling facility and the waste burner. On Tuesday morning, the minister and her delegation met with members of the Island Council and Commissioner Rolando Wilson, before proceeding to the airport for the flight to St. Eustatius.