Heyliger wants structural solution for Pier 1 repairs

POSTED: 07/22/11 12:28 PM

St. Maarten – Deputy Prime Minister and Shareholder Representative for the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies Theodore Heyliger has impressed the need for the company to implement a structural solution to ensure that Cruise Pier 1 at the Dr. A.C. Wathey will survive at least its initial life span of 30 years. He made the statement on Wednesday when he revealed that the top deck of the pier needs to be replaced at a cost between $10 million and $15 million dollars.

“It’s not as simple as go find 10 million by opening a little box. The issue is that it’s a substantial amount of money to repair Pier 1. The largest point from government to the harbor is that we don’t want just temporary repairs, but we want to come up with a structural solution so that the pier will give its life span of 20 to 30 years,” Heyliger said.

Pier 1 is currently 12 years old and is half the width of Pier 2, which was commissioned recently. Both piers were designed to shift with the winds of a hurricane, the seas and the ships via expansion joints. Those joints, which are the weakest points on the pier, are currently being examined by engineers so they can be repaired after damages from the storms that hit the island in 2010. Heyliger believes they need to go past just repairing the expansion joints.

“In my opinion, even with those repairs, if a category four or five hurricane hits you will have substantial damage to Pier 1,” Heyliger said.

The need for repairs has created several challenges including maintaining contractual agreements that have been signed with cruise partners to allow their ships to berth at port instead of dropping anchor at sea. That arrangement has kept cruise ships coming.

“Discussions will have to be intensified with the cruise lines to see how we’re going to be able to repair the pier, keep our fingers crossed and pray to the almighty that no hurricanes hit the pier and that during the off season of next year that we can immediately look at repairs going into effect for that pier itself and then looking for how you can finance 10 million dollars that has not been budgeted for,” Heyliger said.

There would be no need to drive new piles during the project but the entire top deck, which people walk on, would have to be replaced. If the repairs are not done the entire pier could be lost if a strong category four or a category five storm hits the island.

“That would be catastrophic for the business community because one can see when there’s no ships in town what it means for the economic activity,” Heyliger said.

Some measures have been taken already, but those do not need to negate the need for a structural solution.

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