Deal signed for airport upgrade

Albert Anderson, CEO of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, center left, and Ian Pairaudeau, of McAlpine, center right, sign the airport terminal construction contract Wednesday.

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority signed a contract Wednesday with building contractor McAlpine for a $42.5 million project which will almost triple the size of the airport’s terminal buildings.

Phase one of the airport expansion, a $5 million contract for the construction of a new baggage sorting area and luggage screening room, will be completed within the next two weeks, officials said.

Phase two, the completion of the airport upgrade, involving expansion of the arrival and departure areas, will begin immediately afterward and is scheduled to be completed mid-2018.

McAlpine beat Arch and Godfrey in a competitive bid process for the job after Decco, the Dart group’s construction arm, pulled out.

Ian Pairaudeau, of McAlpine, said the construction project would create around 100 jobs, including sub-contracts.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the deal was an important landmark on the long road to getting a much needed upgrade to the Owen Roberts International Airport.

He said cramped and outdated facilities were creating a poor experience for visitors.

“This puts us in a position we needed to be in years ago …. In a tourism-driven economy, we have to have the best infrastructure and the best experience for our visitors,” he added.

The airport was built to handle about 500,000 passengers annually but currently accommodates more than twice that many. The new facility will have a maximum annual passenger capacity of around 2.5 million, Mr. Kirkconnell said.

He said the airport renovations were a signal to developers that Cayman meant business. He said successive government had talked about expanding the airport for over a decade; now it was getting done. Tourism Councilor Joey Hew said overcrowding at the airport represented “one of the largest threats to our stay-over tourism.”

He said government had taken steps to remedy the problems in the short term and was now ensuring the larger job got done. He said it would not be a “destination airport,” adding the aim was to get visitors through quickly and efficiently so they could enjoy their vacation.

We do not want visitors sitting in the airport for hours. We want them on the beach.”

Denise Stabler, the project manager for the airport renovations, said she was confident the project could be delivered on time and on budget.

She said the construction team would do everything possible to minimize disruption to passengers during the two-and-a-half year construction process.