The construction of a new harbor at Black Rocks on Saba was an important component in the recent visit of Commissioner Bruce Zagers and Island Secretary Tim Muller to The Hague.
At the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW), the Saba delegation, which also included harbor project manager Ton van der Plas and policy advisors Nicole Johnson and Zelda Meeuwsen, met with the Steering Committee Harbor Project.
Van der Plas gave a presentation for the committee in which he gave an update on the project. Multiple preparation efforts are ongoing with regard to the new harbor. The reference designs for the caisson breakwater, the marina with 33 serviced slips for 10 to 40-meter yachts, and the connection roads and utilities are ready for the most part.
The design that is presently on the table is based on the inclusion of a 60-meter Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) facility, a future-proof breakwater and quay, and a RoRo extension to accommodate 90-meter vessels. A lot of research has been done with regard to the soil, the waves at Black Rocks and the on-land situation.
The Steering Committee gave the go-ahead to continue with the landside part of the project: the road and utilities. The landside design includes a 750-meter road and slope stabilization, utility connection, drainage structures and the harbor area. The roadworks will include the building of rock walls. These works will be done by the Public Entity Saba and on-island contractors which is good for the local economy.
The members of the Steering Committee were impressed with the progress, said Commissioner Zagers. The permit process should start in the third quarter of this year so the tendering can take place by the end of 2021. The biggest problem is the budget deficit for this project for which, so far, the Dutch government has made some US $40 million available. The project is several million short. Different options are being looked at to save cost: a reduced scope and a phased approach.
Commissioner Zagers emphasized at the different meetings in The Hague that with such a large project, the biggest in Saba’s history, it was of utmost importance that it is carried out right the first time. “Making cuts now will deliver a project which is not future proof. Our reliance on St. Maarten for food was tested after the hurricanes and again during the pandemic. Cargo ships in the region are only getting bigger as they are more efficient. Having a future-proof harbor helps in many facets. It reduces our reliance on St. Maarten, it will reduce the price of shipping as we can accommodate larger ships, it creates jobs and more tourism possibilities. All of which will help to boost and diversify our struggling economy.”
A next Steering Committee meeting is scheduled in about three months at which time decisions have to be taken on how to proceed, and whether to tender the project in full or in parts. In the meantime, Saba will continue to lobby for more funding, said Zagers. Efforts will be made to have a meeting with all relevant ministries in September to discuss how others can help with the budget deficit.