The government is working on some “quick wins” to alleviate the cargo bottleneck at Port Purcell while devising a more permanent solution, Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool said during a District Five meeting Monday at Althea Scatliffe Primary School.
“I think many persons have been experiencing inconveniences in the port situation we have been going through since the storm,” he said, noting that imports have nearly quadrupled in recent months, an increase driven largely by building supplies.
He added that plans are in place to change the system for collecting cargo shipments that are less than a container load.
“We are going to change around the system where you can enter on the side by the fisheries so you’re not driving inside the port itself,” he said.
Mr. Vanterpool also announced plans for a “temporary system where we can get the cargo out of the containers more quickly to you.”
The minister added that the problems at the ports are “very concerning” and that a “fairly comprehensive statement” would come in the next few days outlining further plans to resolve the situation.
“We have some issues we’ve been dealing with [that] the big shipping companies … are working with us closely on to trying to resolve,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight, but we are trying to … help people get their goods off the port more quickly.”
As for the roads, he announced that the territory’s asphalt shortage problem is nearly solved.
“We had a challenge at the beginning because we didn’t have an asphalt plant on the islands; asphalt was not available,” he explained.
This problem, he added, led the Public Works Department to carry out temporary fixes to damaged roads.
“The team at PWD did their best to lift some of the roads to avoid the drainage that was causing damage,” he said.
Now that asphalt is available, he added, “In the next couple of weeks, months, we can have some of the roads that you are having challenges with at least passable and better useable.”
Specifically addressing the Fifth District, the minister said, “We did a temporary repaving in the Huntums Ghut area. We did some there already, but we want to do some more temporarily.”
Instead of using asphalt in some areas, concrete will be used on “some of the roads that can withstand the water, especially those areas where when it rains it becomes almost a ghut.”
Mr. Vanterpool added that bids will be taken soon and advised that companies with expertise in road construction prepare for them.
“The first one is going out to the Long Swamp area to Paraquita Bay and then from Paraquita Bay to Brandywine [Bay],” he said.
Fifth District Representative Delores Christopher drew attention to several sections of road in her district she feels need more attention, including the Ridge Road from Belle Vue to Meyers Estate.
She had noticed some patching, but “it was very poorly done,” she said, adding that the area deserves attention because “the road is heavily trafficked.”
Mr. Vanterpool responded that the work in place is a temporary overlay, where workers laid “one or two inches of asphalt,” but that they are working on a permanent solution “to continue from the church on Hope Hill to meet the road at the junction of Meyers.”
Ms. Christopher also mentioned that the main road into Huntums Ghut from the Road Town Police Station is in “deplorable condition” and “needs some immediate attention.”
Mr. Vanterpool agreed, saying, “We have more to do there.”
The minister also addressed problems that have arisen because Hurricane Irma destroyed sewage pumps.
“A lot of the areas that have sewage now is [because] the pumps and so on that were involved in moving the sewage from point A to point B have been damaged — in fact, totally destroyed,” he explained.
One major challenge is near U.P.’s Cineplex, according to the minister.
“We also have a challenge along the road here coming from Purcell along the main highway,” he said.
In response, new pumps have been ordered and are scheduled to arrive within a week, he added.
Mr. Vanterpool also gave an update on the work remaining on Phase II of the force main in East End, which began early last year as part of the National Sewerage Programme.
“We have some major work to do on the east end in sewerage from Parham Town down to Long Swamp,” he said, explaining that workers will be installing a “gravity-fed” sewerage system. “This will take the sewage pipes down between seven and 12 feet on the ground so we can get that sewage [issue] on the east end of the island resolved once and for all.”