Doppler radar arrival projected for July 2012

Hurricane Ivan doppler radar 300x250

With the arrival of Cayman’s early warning weather radar set for July 2012, it is not clear yet how much the Cayman Islands government will spend on the long-awaited Doppler system. 

The government is expected to award the contract to construct the tower for radar system this month, and has announced that two German companies will install the digital radar itself and give technical assistance for the duration of the project. It also has an agreement with a regional meteorological body to provide various services before and after the radar is installed. 

“It is anticipated that the construction tender will be awarded in December and the tower should be completed by July next year, to coincide with the radar’s arrival. The final phase will be the set-up of equipment within the building and staff training,” Cayman Islands Airports Authority Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Jackson said in a news release. 


Project status  

Tenders were due 2 December to build a 55.5-feet tower on Crown land in East End just west of High Rock Road, on a portion of the now-shuttered Wilderness Farm, which had been previously used by Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward. In mid-November, government announced it had awarded a contract to Selex Systems Integration to manufacture, supply and install the actual early warning radar, and another contract to Icon Institute to provide technical assistance. 

In late July, Selex posted on its website that it had secured the contract “to supply one dual-polarised METEOR 600S radar system to the Cayman Islands Airport Authority for the establishment of a digital early warning radar system.” The government signed the agreement with Icon in mid-2010. 

The project between the government and the European Commission commenced in February 2009. Government announced in July 2009 the European Commission would supply 4.16 million euro toward the project, with the Cayman Islands government chipping in in-kind contributions worth about 500,000 euro. 

According to GIS Information Officer Cornelia Olivier, the airports authority is the grant recipient, but government has agreed to pay for “all costs over and above the grant funding, and will take over the running of the facility on its 
completion”. When the grant was made, the airports authority was in charge of meteorological services, but in 2010 that was taken over by the newly created National Weather Service, which now reports directly to the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Land and Agriculture. 

According to government records, the contract with Selex was for 1.43 million euro. The maximum amount for the contract eventually awarded to Icon was 380,000 euro, according to tender documents. 

Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said, “The radar station will no doubt serve the country’s long-term national interest as this is an invaluable opportunity for the Cayman Islands to become an integrated regional player in respect of hurricane preparedness, through a much more robust regional early warning system, thereby contributing to improved disaster risk management and reduction for the Caribbean. 

“Securing the funding for this important resource from the European Union took years of advocating by the Cabinet Office and I thank everyone involved for their ongoing commitment to see this through to completion,” she said. 


Cayman’s contributions  

The total amount of government contributions are not known at this point, but include in-kind and financial dimensions. 

Regarding in-kind contributions, the Government “has provided the 1.2 acre site and in-house survey resources to survey the site and remove the top soil”, and “The Department of Environment had also prepared a report on the site”, Ms Olivier said in an email. 

Financially, the government has paid for a geotechnical report of ground conditions of the radar site. It will pay for the National Roads Authority to provide physical road access to the site, for Caribbean Utilities Company to provide electricity to the site, and to cover the difference between the grant amount and the project costs. Ms Olivier said, “[T]he grant is specifically not for 100 per cent of project costs but until project completion we will not know CIG’s exact proportion”. 

Additionally, the government, through the airports authority, is paying the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation for technical consultancy services via a separate contract, she said. 

The Caribbean Meteorological Organisation has two contracts with the airports authority, one funded by the European Union and one by the Cayman government. 

“The services that the CMO provide as funded by the EU relate to the procurement and technical acceptance of the Doppler radar itself,” she said. 

The Cayman-funded services that the meteorological organisation is providing include, “Advice on site selection and the provision of the Terms of Reference for the geotechnical survey and providing a geophysical survey”. 

“Construction and supervision of a radar building and associated infrastructure through a civil works program implemented as part of the project”, “Integration of the civil works and the radar system”, “Establishment of a communication network between the radar and the National Weather Service and the dissemination of data to all prospective users”, “Integration of the new radar into the existing CMO Regional Network through the transmission of data to the compositing centre in Martinique in WMO BUFR data protocol format, and re-transmission of the composite service to designated users also in BUFR format”, “The delivery of appropriate training components for the National Weather Service”, and “Commissioning of the Doppler radar”. 

National Weather Service Director General Fred Sambula said, “Apart from giving Cayman access to real-time local weather information, the radar station will also strengthen regional severe weather forecasting, linking with radar stations in Belize, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago. 

“This means that Cayman will get more accurate, timely and up-to-date information when storms or any other weather systems threaten our area, and, as such, our residents can better prepare,” he said. 

Hurricane Ivan doppler radar

A coloured doppler radar image shows Hurricane Ivan’s presence over Grand Cayman in September 2004. – Photo: File

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