In April 2019, Premier Andrew Fahie, RDA Director of Planning Neil Smith and Disaster Recovery Coordinating Committee Chairman Brodrick Penn unveil initial plans for the new West End port facility. (File photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

Government intends to use a portion of the $65 million Caribbean Development Bank recovery loan to build the long-awaited West End ferry terminal, and it is now seeking a consulting firm to design and manage the project over the course of two years.

“The main objective of this consulting assignment is to provide architectural, engineering and contract management services for the West End ferry terminal project from its planning phase to the handover for operation by the end-users,” according to a request for expressions of interest issued Monday by government. “The consultant will be responsible for engaging stakeholders through all phases of the project, leading the planning and development phases and producing preliminary and final designs required for construction of the project.”

The history

A preliminary plan for the terminal — the most recent of several proposed under successive administrations for more than a decade — was unveiled in April 2019.

At the time, Premier Andrew Fahie and Recovery and Development Agency officials said the facility would be about 27,000 square feet and have the capacity to process at least 200 passengers per hour and two ferries at once. It would also include separate areas for domestic and international passengers and be able to accommodate four safari buses going in and out every 15 minutes, they said.

They added that a private donor, who they did not name, had proposed covering at least 50 percent of the cost, and they were considering drawing the rest from government funds or the CDB loan.

However, at the time, no cost or timeline for the project was set, and officials said they would seek community input before a “statement of requirement” was submitted to the RDA, which is the executing agency for the project.

On Wednesday, RDA Head of Communications Colene Penn confirmed that the agency plans to “build on the consultations and conceptual design work completed in 2019 to facilitate this project.”

The government statement did not project the total cost or mention whether a private donor would be involved in the financing.

Last year’s plan apparently replaced another announced in January 2018, when then-Premier Dr. Orlando Smith said the VI branch of international architecture firm OBMI had offered to donate its time towards drawing up architecture and engineering designs.

At the April 2019 meeting, officials did not specify whether OBMI was still involved in the design of the terminal, and stressed that the design was in very early stages and may change depending on public feedback.

In the meantime, a temporary West End ferry terminal, replacing the one destroyed in Hurricane Irma in 2017, officially opened on Aug. 2, 2019.

The BVI Ports Authority built the temporary terminal to serve boats to and from neighbouring islands, including Jost Van Dyke, with the intention of eventually building a permanent structure. At the time, Mr. Fahie said work on a permanent facility should begin in spring of this year.

The consulting assignment detailed this week also includes assistance during the tendering and award of the construction works, and supervision and contract management during construction over a period of two years.

In the statement, government announced that the funds are part of the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan received to aid recovery from Hurricane Irma in 2017, and that the project will be governed by the regulations of the United Nations Security Council and the CDB.

Residents of all CDB member countries are eligible for consideration. EOIs must be submitted by 4 p.m. on July 20 to the RDA.

Following the assessment of submissions, a shortlist of between three and six applicants will be provided with full terms and invited to submit technical and financial proposals, the statement explains.

Plans for a new ferry terminal in West End date back long before Irma. A 2010 proposal under the then-Virgin Islands Party government — in which Mr. Fahie, who as First District representative represents West End, served as minister of education and culture — called for a three-storey, 75,000-square-foot facility with cost estimates of over $40 million.

But after the National Democratic Party came to power in 2011, then Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool, the District Four representative, said the project would be scaled back.

In 2013, he proposed plans for a facility costing just under $5 million. But neither project got off the ground before Irma destroyed the existing terminal, which had long given rise to safety concerns and other issues.