Ti'avea to become alternative international airport
Ti’avea will become Samoa’s alternative international airport after a study found that Faleolo International Airport will be left unusable due to waves caused by cyclones, the Samoa Observer can reveal.
The Samoa Airport Authority Chief Executive Officer, Silimana’i Ueta Solomona, told the Samoa Observer plans to turn the project, which has been plagued by budget variations, into a fully-fledged alternative international airport necessitated another new contract variation.
The airport is already running more than $3 million over budget after the Government has already spent $17 million on its construction.
But will now spend an additional $190,000 on expanding the runway to ensure safety standards are met and so it can function as an alternative airport.
“The extension of Tiavea came about after initial findings of a report being prepared by a research team from Japan stated an elevated risk of Faleolo being inundated from wave action during cyclones due to its proximity to the sea," Silimana’i said.
He explained that such occurrences would render Faleolo airport unusable for extended periods of time.
The Government had previously said Ti’avea Airport would be exclusively used in case of emergency landings.
“Government believes that whilst works are ongoing at Ti’avea, it is the ideal time that the overall airport planning considers an extension to ensure that an alternate is available for continuity of air operations,” said the C.E.O.
Silimina’i did not reveal when the study was conducted.
The Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, told the Samoa Observer that the expansion of the Ti’avea airport is vital.
“We are expanding the runaway. There’s anticipation this airport will be used for bigger planes but the current runway is too short.
“The government is also considering the importance of building the airport to international standard right now, because if we wait it will cost more money,” said Papali’i.
According to the C.E.O. the expansion of the runaway at a cost of $190,000 is extra to a $3.57 million contract for land clearing at the site.
The project's initial budget was composed of $10 million for construction and $4 million in compensation for locals.
When asked if the “extra work” would be put out to tender, Silimina’I said the Authority is currently seeking to do so.
“In response to your question if this is being tendered? [The] SA.A. are taking the necessary steps and preparations to obtain the appropriate approvals afforded by the existing Treasury Instructions," Silimina’I said.
Aldan Civil Engineering Company Ltd was awarded the $3.57 million to clear the area for the Ti’avea Airport back in 2018.
That company is owned by the son of Associate Minister Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.
According to Silimina’i, should the S.A.A. proceed for the extension of the airport, the runway will be at least 1,500m in length with adequate available space for required international safety standards.
In January, Minister Papali’i revealed the Government has had to alter the original design of the Ti'avea Airport due to interference from villagers and as a result, a $3 million variation to the project's cost had to be approved by the Tenders Board.
The variation was necessary, the Minister explained, because the $3 million variation for the project required the remediation of waterlogged ground on the site of the airport.