Improvements to the wharf at Jamestown are on hold – because there’s not enough money to pay for them.
Councillors were called to The Castle at short notice to be told about the threat to the project to provide cruise passengers with a safe place to come ashore.
A “preferred bidder” has been chosen for the project, but it could take months to raise extra finance to meet the price quoted by the unnamed company.
Without it, the island is expected to continue losing thousands of pounds a year because cruise ship captains refuse to allow passengers to land in poor sea conditions.
The potential lost revenue has been estimated at more than £300,000 a year by 2023 – on the basis that the number of ships calling will increase if a sheltered landing stage is built.
Executive councillors were called in for an unscheduled meeting on Tuesday, 3 April 2012, but the bare details of a briefing from Dr Corinda Essex were not made public until eight days later.
Governor Mark Capes said: “Dr Essex explained that although a preferred bidder had been identified, there was still a gap between the bid and the funds currently available.
“More work was needed to identify and assess all of the possible options. That process would take several months and involve further discussion with the European Commission and others.”
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.
The breakwater and short jetty would create a sheltered landing basin, making it safer for people to step on and off small boats.
It 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.
Sea rescue craft could also be launched with less difficulty, down a slipway inside the breakwater.