Information Minister Melford Nicholas said the dredging of the St John’s Harbor – a project that has been on the cards now for some time – is again being held up due to apparent technical challenges.
The dredging work is meant to enable OASIS-class ships to berth at the new pier, but issues relating to the material to be dredged and the dredging equipment being used are preventing that milestone from being reached.
Nicholas said some hard and dense rock has been difficult to dislodge, to widen and deepen the channel through which the vessels will travel and as a result, the dredging equipment utilized by the contractor has been repeatedly damaged.
In response to that challenge, special equipment is reportedly being acquired from Panama, and the work will be completed in just a few weeks, once the equipment arrives in Antigua.
“We are hopeful,” Nichola said at the Cabinets press conference on Thursday, saying that “hopefully by the time the new craft arrives from Panama, it will be able to work on an overtime basis to ensure we can achieve the shortage possible route. We remain hopeful…” he said.
A similar challenge was reported last December, despite previous claims that the country would welcome its first Oasis-class ship before the end of the year.
Back then, it was said that a special cutting machine was acquired to remedy the situation, with work being done around the clock to complete the process.
In the latest update, no definitive timeline was offered for the historic arrival of the country’s first Oasis-class vessel.
The absence of such vessels traveling to tourism-dependent Antigua has been deemed a blight on the industry, due to the sheer number of passengers they transport, and the potential earnings that could come as a result.
The Oasis Class ships are the largest cruise ships in the world, with some of the vessels capable of transporting more than 6,000 passengers at any one time.