New $240M Airport in Southern Caribbean

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), a collection of 32 islands and cays in the Southern Caribbean, announced at the 16th World Route Development Forum that terminal construction will begin later this year on its new US$240 million international airport.

It is claimed to be the largest development project ever undertaken by this small country. The new Argyle International Airport will replace the existing E.T. Joshua Airport when it opens in the spring of 2012, said an official statement issued today, Sept. 20.

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With vastly increased capacity, the new airport is expected to attract direct flights from major North American and European destinations, and spur increased investment in the country’s growing hospitality sector.

The new terminal building will have about 11,500 square meters (123,784 square feet) of floor space, and is designed to handle about 1.4 million passengers per year, nearly four times the capacity of the current airport.

“The full realization of the potential of our country’s growth and development hinges on this international airport. And tourism is likely to be our main foreign exchange earner for a long time to come,” said Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Argyle International Airport is being built on about 175 acres of land, with a paved runway 2,743 meters (9,000 feet) long, and 45 meters (150 feet) wide. The airport is designed to accommodate jets as large as Boeing 747-400s.

“Our current airport’s short runway can only accommodate small planes traveling from neighboring islands, and its design and location prohibit planes from carrying cargo to capacity,” said Dr. Rudolph Matthias, CEO of the International Airport Development Company.

“As expansion of the current airport was technically unfeasible, SVG developed a plan to build a new international airport.”

The project broke ground on August 13, 2008, and is expected to be complete by April 2012. The earthworks phase, now underway, involves moving three mountains, spanning a river, and filling two valleys to completely level the site.

In the final quarter of 2010, construction of the terminal building will begin, as well as the paving of the runway, taxiways, and aprons.

The airport is being developed by the International Airport Development Company (IADC), a private limited liability company wholly owned by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Grenadines stretch for 45 miles south from the main island of St. Vincent and include eight inhabited islands: Young Island, Bequia, Union, Mayreau, Mustique, Canouan, Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent.

Tobago Cays is a horseshoe shaped reef that shields five deserted islets and is renowned as a sailing and snorkeling mecca.

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