WSP has won an Ontario Consulting Engineering Awards (OCEA) Award of Merit for Project Management for work on the Salt Cay Airport – Airside Improvement project.
The project involved working closely with the client, the Turks and Caicos Islands Airport Authority (TCIAA), as a multidisciplinary team. WSP provided professional engineering and onsite inspection services.
The project team was tasked to assess and evaluate the existing airside infrastructure, and propose, design, and manage a cost-effective rehabilitation of the airside facilities. Time was of the essence to complete the rehabilitation, as the airport was operating under temporary permissions granted by the TCIAA following a risk assessment. The project involved runway reconstruction, new airfield lighting, a new field electrical centre, site preparation and earthworks, fence removal and construction, drainage pipe installation and more — all within a tight timeframe.
This project was a particularly complex one, addressing the unique construction challenges of small, tourism-dominated islands. The team had to procure and transport materials and supplies to the island from the continental United States. Staffing also presented some challenges, due to a small resource pool of island-based skilled labor. Most contracting staff needed to be relocated from a larger mainland center for the entire duration of the project construction phase, and accommodations were limited.
Several unforeseen issues became apparent during construction as well. Island terrain and wet condition made some aspect of construction difficult, and equipment malfunctions or failures caused schedule delays. The high seas severely damaged the landing area and offloading ramp during each shipment arrival, even destroying the offloading ramp during one offloading procedure. The landing area and ramp had to be reconstructed for each shipment arrival.
Wind and sea conditions were also a challenging factor. With high winds came rough sea conditions, which disrupted shipping services. Shipping services were crucial in transporting and delivering equipment, construction parts and supplies, and labour to the project construction site. Approximately 15 per cent of the scheduled shipment services were cancelled due to rough sea conditions. During hurricane season, there were many moments where the project had to be shut down early to evacuate the staff safely and quickly. The destructive effects of hurricanes were strongly considered during the cost estimation, design and construction phases.
The multidisciplinary team, led by Patricia Vieira, National Manager for WSP’s aviation engineering team, overcame this long list of challenges to deliver significant benefits for the local community. As a small community of 100 people, the island relies heavily on tourism as its economic engine. Without a functional and upgraded airport, tourism would be limited, disrupting the local economy. WSP is proud to have provided professional engineering and contract administration services for the Salt Cay Island, so that the island’s economy has the opportunity to flourish and grow.
“There are many reasons to highlight the relevance of this project,” said Patricia. “But the most important is that Salt Cay reinforces something I always say to my team and colleagues: An airport brings much more than just economic development.”