BAKSHEESH TIME! Governor introduces group tapped to develop USVI airports

BAKSHEESH TIME! Governor introduces group tapped to develop USVI airports

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Virgin Islanders can now put faces to the names of the people hired to rebuild, modernize and operate the territory’s airports.

Government officials introduced leadership from VIports Partners during a ceremony Friday at Government House on St. Thomas.

The Virgin Islands Port Authority’s Governing Board made its decision during a special meeting in late March, selecting VIports Partners for the job.

VIports Partners is a purpose-built consortium comprising Canada-based construction company Aecon Group, infrastructure management group Tikehau Star Infra, airport operator AvPorts and architects Corgan Associates. Consigli Construction and J. Benton Construction are also attached in a joint venture with Aecon.

The mood during Friday’s special ceremony was especially festive, as government officials and representatives from the group celebrated the end of a three-year selection process.

Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe, palpably enthusiastic, thanked and recognized just about every person in the room — and many people who weren’t in the room — for their roles and contributions toward Friday’s agreement signing.

“This is a historic moment for the Virgin Islands,” he said. “Historic in the sense that it took real innovation, creativity to get us where we are today.”

Dowe said the Authority sought a public-private partnership because the method has been employed successfully for large-scale projects all over the world.

“But most of all, we’re not asking the taxpayers of this community to bear the burden of finding the money to do this project,” he said. “We are using private money to do a major public good.”

During his remarks, Dowe also stressed that ownership of the airports would remain with the V.I. Port Authority and, by extension, the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dowe said also that all VIPA employees working in the aviation sector will be offered employment under the new airport managers.

Speaking on behalf of VIports Partners, Tikehau Star Infra Chief Investment Officer Mark Melson said that while it was a great day to celebrate, the partnership was just starting.

“We’re going to be together as long-term partners for a long time,” he said. “That partnership is committed to the redevelopment and modernization of both airports. And then we’re gonna operate those airports.”

Melson assured those present that his organization had the means and experience to see the project through.

Governor Albert Bryan, fresh from several trips to Barbados and St. Vincent & The Grenadiness, stressed the importance of keeping up with the developments being made across the region to stay competitive.