The leading bidders for the job of building a breakwater at Jamestown are trying to bring down the cost of the project – only days after UK cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell suggested it was being dropped.
The contract cannot be awarded to the joint preferred bidders, Enco and Marine Lagan, because St Helena Government cannot meet the tender price.
Executive councillors were called to The Castle in Jamestown at short notice in April to be told the project was in jeopardy, and new funding was being sought.
But on 20 May 2012, Mr Mitchell told a meeting in Swindon, UK, that the project was on the point of being dropped.
The Secretary of State for International Development said a permanent landing stage was being considered at Rupert’s Bay instead – big enough for some vessels to come alongside.
The ship chartered by the airport construction company Basil Read is due to be the first one ever to dock at St Helena, using a temporary jetty in Rupert’s Bay.
The last section of concrete for the temporary jetty was successfully poured into place on Friday, 25 May.
The latest airport newsletter says: “After the unfortunate incident in April where the sea conditions caused some of the concrete to be washed away, Basil Read adapted their method and poured the concrete jetty wall in four stages.
“All that remains is the addition of the fendering, planned for June.”
Three tenders for the Jamestown breakwater contract were received in January 2012.
Enco and Lagan were chosen over CAN S.A. from France and joint bidders WBHO and Sea and Shore, from South Africa.
A St Helena Government (SHG) statement says: “The tender price exceeds the funding currently available, so a contract cannot yet be awarded.
“SHG is considering a wide range of options for addressing this situation and Enco/Marine Lagan is investigating the possibility of price reduction. This process will take some time.”
The scheme involves building a breakwater extending 140 metres from the shore, with geometric “tetrapods”, similar to those at Tristan da Cunha, to deflect waves.
A breakwater and short jetty at Jamestown would create a sheltered landing basin, making it safer for people to step on and off small boats – and probably avoid repeats of the incident in which the Arcadia cruise ship captain refused to allow passengers ashore in “millpond” conditions.
The ship’s owner, P&O Cruises, has so far ignored all requests to acknowledge the loss suffered by islanders.
A breakwater would also make it easier to lift cargo on and off lighters – a tricky operation in a rolling sea at present. Fishermen would also be able to land fish more easily.
The latest statement makes no reference to Mr Mitchell’s doubts about the scheme. St Helena Online has asked the government press office to comment.