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Vernamfield Development Project to get under way this month

Published:Monday | October 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
The Vernamfield airstrip in Clarendon.

The Government's US$2.5-billion Vernamfield Development Project in Clarendon is to get under way by the end of October, with the runway for the touted "aerotropolis" to be completed by mid-2019.

Citing the World Bank's warning of devastating effects to the Jamaican economy due to coastal dislocation, Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Derby, who is leading the project, said if Jamaica is to mitigate its economic challenges in the future, major projects, such as the Vernamfield project, must be encouraged.

"The aerotropolis project and the JISCO project, those investments are good because it will be a substantial percentage of Jamaica's gross domestic product (GDP). Why do I mention this? The World Bank's climate-change projection is that Jamaica is likely to lose 22 per cent of its GDP through coastal dislocation caused by sea-level rise. Jamaica really needs those major projects to offset that which is projected over the next few decades for the island," Derby said.

He pointed out that the location of the aerotropolis is a good safeguard against effects of sea-level rise.

"The location is above any impact from the sea level rising. In this region, sea-level rise is estimated at approximately one metre, and, therefore, it should not be affected. The other big advantage is that it has a vast amount of flat areas for expansion. We are talking about thousands of acres just for the airport itself. Other airports internationally don't have that kind of acreage or expansion opportunities that Vernamfield offers."

Derby noted that there are also multiple routes to access the facility, unlike other airports in the country that have a single access road that, if closed, would leave the airport inaccessible.

"The estimated employment within the area of the aerotropolis, over a period, is some 606,000 persons working and living in the area. We are talking about an airport city; a city developed around an airport, which provides logistics, cargo, and everything. When you talk about time frame, the runway should be rehabilitated and back in use for aviation operations on a limited scale by mid-2019," he informed The Gleaner yesterday.