Jimmy Johnston is the project officer for the St Helena airport project. He gave an update at the Jury’s Inn Hotel in Swindolena, UK, as part of a meeting with International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell. This is a rough transcript of what he had to say.
“I’m aware of the problems of people in the past being stuck on St Helena and very sympathetic.
“We have about 140 people on the island, about 25 expats, and I must say it has gone very well.
“We had our concerns going there. We have found some good skills and a tremendous work ethic.
“We are busy with the temporary jetty, we have a fuel farm we are building, a capacity of one and a half million litres just for our purposes.
“Our offices, those who went to Longwood Primary School (someone in the audience) we’re keeping it in good nick for you.
“We have about 70 people working on design aspects so there’s huge activity off island.
“The guys on the island are getting itchy feet they want the big machines. We have 20 tonne excavators at the moment just seeing what can be done.
“Just out of interest, that bulldozers (pictured on a screen) was lying unused on the island for five years and we bought it at auctin and fixed it up.
“We are pulling materials around the world, from India, from Stockholm, so it’s quite a logistics exercise.
“I believe (our ship) is going to be the first ship to dock on the island, so we’d better get that one right.
“We will be moving about 5 and a half tonnes of explosives and in total about 100,000 tonnes of cargo.
“The main works will be 8 million cubic tonnes of material to fill into dry gut. 14km of access road to Prosperous plain, and the terminal buildings and the other buildings.
“In fact the terminal buildings have just been given to SHG to make sure they’re aesthetically okay.
“Our ship should be leaving Singapore on the 27th and moving across to Walvis Bay and that’s when the serious stuff starts.
“We are still looking for staff, mostly for heavy plant.
“I met the cricket team (in . Graham and myself went across. They were playinbg the greats of Zambia, Cameroon, and they did pretty well. It was a bit of an eye-opener for the younger guys. They did brilliantly.
“I hope in October 15 there will be flights going.
“We are hoping to put in a temporary runway so we can get people down there earlier but mainly for people working on it.”