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An independent evaluation team is now reviewing proposals from four firms for the development of the Vernamfield Cargo Aerodrome in South West Clarendon.
By mid-September, it is expected that the potential developers would have submitted their development plans, Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry has announced. He was making his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 28.
“The Ministry has received very positive responses from a number of major local and international firms in terms of interest in carrying out this development. Four firms responded to the tender, which closed on May 5, and the Ministry has taken pains to ensure that an independent evaluation team is in place, which is now reviewing the proposals,” he informed.
Mr. Henry disclosed that the Ministry is seeking to facilitate private sector investment in potential development opportunities at Vernamfield including a cargo/logistics hub, which could involve the setting up of a commercial free-zone that would serve the Caribbean, Latin America and other territories.
The project, a combination of an industrial park and airport, will also provide storage and display space for manufacturers and customers. The facility would be served by a multi-modal transport system and a state-of-the-art cargo handling system, the Minister said.
The property also holds potential for an aircraft maintenance facility. “The complex will be developed to provide maintenance services for single engine to large transport aircraft and where possible, a major aircraft manufacturer could be encouraged to set up a major maintenance facility at Vernamfield. I have already completed discussions with Singapore Airlines and others in respect of that whole development process, which must flow,” the Transport Minister said.
The air cargo facility will cover more than 1.96 million square feet of floor area in a three-storey sorting facility, housing cold storage and sorting equipment to handle more than 120,000 parcels per hour; centralized cargo sorting and clearance centres; and a state-of-the-art aerodrome with telecommunications centre and runway capacities.
It will be staffed by local personnel and training will be provided for persons recruited from the surrounding communities, especially those who are displaced by the development.
Mr. Henry further informed that there will be regional aviation training for specialised areas in the industry; and practical training for aircraft maintenance engineers and other technical disciplines in the aviation sector. There will also be an air-sea logistic distribution centre, supportive office and fire and rescue station equipped to handle emergencies specific to the facility.
“Vernamfield already has airstrips longer than Montego Bay or even Norman Manley.with the toll road, it will be 25 minutes to connect what is happening at the port with what is happening at Vernamfield, which will link to the railway (coming in) which will enhance Norman Manley and Sangster, because you will move smaller packages more quickly on your normal carrier planes overall. That will open up the facility for the development of the Milk River Spa, and the South coast development,” Mr. Henry stated.
He informed that the airstrip, which was officially handed over to the Jamaica Defence Force for the relocation of its air wing would be incorporated into the overall development plan.
Meanwhile, the Minister explained that development of the site as an aviation facility will necessitate the relocation of residents, who occupy the property and some adjacent areas.
“The lands will have to be zoned for airport development, to prevent the possible future squatting.the surveys and land administration matters will be carried out under the direction of the Ministry,” he said.
He informed that the project has received very positive responses. “All the economic surveys are complete, all the documentation is ready, all of the finances are lined up. I am only restricted from starting tomorrow, by procurement procedures,” he stated.