Vromi Minister allegedly holding up construction of new FBO facility at SXMPOSTED: 03/16/15 1:06 PM
St. Maarten – The Minister of VROMI is yet to sign the building permit requested since last year by the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, and this is allegedly the root of delays to the beginning of construction of the new Fixed Based Operations facility at SXM.
The new FBO facility is meant to help maintain Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM’s, market share in the lucrative General Aviation sector and is considered by management as a key project in the Capital Improvement Program for which the airport obtained a loan on the international financial market. According to information reaching Today, the government wants the airport to construct a new facility to house the Metrological Office, but the management at the airport has said they are not in a position to do so since the recent loan obtained was used to refinance an existing loan and the balance has been earmarked for the Capital Improvement Program.
Also, the airport has already committed itself to paying for the architectural drawings of the new Met Office, as well as taking care of arrangements for transitional office space for the department.
The Capital Improvement Program included the resurfacing of the runway and upgrading of the facilities, including the construction of a new FBO builidng to accommodate the many private planes that utilize the airport in the December and January months. Currently the SXM airport is said to turn away a number of these aircrafts because they are able to accommodate only some of them. With the planned improvements the airport would be able to allow much more of these planes to use the facility as opposed to turning them away. This too is anticipated to generate more revenue for the airport.
The delays are said to be a cause of worry for SXM management since it means work is at a standstill which means the periodic reports to the investors would have to reflect the late start of the project and it has been anticipated that the more the project is delayed, the more problematic it will become.
SXM Airport recently signed an MOU with Arrindell by Signature to operate in the new, yet to be constructed facility. The non-exclusive agreement calls for Signature to offer passenger, ground handling and into plane fuel services for General Aviation (GA) from the new FBO Terminal. At least one other operator is expected in the new facility. The new FBO facility will be located in the area where the demolished Government Fire Department once stood as well as the area currently occupied by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Meteorological Services of St. Maarten, to the east of the terminal building. The relocation of these offices is still pending the approval of the relevant minister.
“We urgently need to move forward with this project, given the agreements SXM has already entered into with third parties concerning the construction of the new facility,” Regina Labega, SXM Managing Director, stated in a press release. “Each day it is delayed represents significant financial consequences for the airport, and unnecessarily compromises the future of the project,” she added. SXM Airport has already remodeled and renovated the former Turtle Pier restaurant so that the new two-storey 400m2 facility could accommodate the Civil Aviation Authority and the Met Office until Government can build a permanent facility for both departments close to the SXM Airport Air Traffic Control Tower.
Similarly, SXM has invested in the construction of a new inflation building for the Meteorological Services in the vicinity of the Air Traffic Control Tower. The relocation of both departments was expected to have taken place shortly after the holiday season, following the final inspection of the new temporary facilities by both the Civil Aviation and the Met Office.
The new FBO Terminal building will occupy an area of 1,000 square meters with a space of 5,000 square meters for General Aviation parking. It will feature three retail outlets as well as Customs, Immigration and Security services.
“We really don’t know what is causing the hold up,” Labega said, while expressing the hope that whatever the obstacles may be, these would be resolved without delay to permit the project to go ahead as planned. “The new FBO facility has become very necessary due to increased growth in the General Aviation sector. While SXM Airport is ranked number two in the region in terms of General Aviation, competition from other airports, particularly St. Kitts, means that SXM needs to expand and upgrade its current facilities in order to maintain its position.” As evidenced during the Christmas/New Year holiday period, SXM Airport has been exceeding the number of bookings of private jets each year, and has had to divert some to neighboring airports due to congestion.
“The FBO operator(s) are rearing to go, and want to start building their own lounges with additional services and amenities at the new facility as agreed. Any further delays in SXM’s construction of this facility will definitely affect them as well,” added Labega.