The $1.3 million stage one of the Avatiu port extension project is nearing completion ahead of the official opening on Friday, August 29.
Ports Authority Don Beer Jr says the project, started on January 7 this year, has progressed pretty much according to schedule in spite of initial concerns about the difficulty of excavating coral, rock and sand to a depth of four metres.
“I am very pleased at the way it has taken shape. At first we weren’t sure exactly what we would be up against with the excavations, but S&T Contractors have done an excellent job, with the assistance of the Ministry of Works on certain parts of the project,” he said.
Bollards for the new wharf are expected to arrive on a container boat next week and will be installed immediately. Workers are now installing water, power and lighting services and finishing off the concrete apron area behind the sheet piling.
Beer says completion of stage one of the project is timely given the unexpectedly rapid growth of the Cook Islands’ longline fishing industry which could see up to 30 boats berthed in the new harbour area.
Harbourmaster John Fallon is drawing up mooring plans to accommodate the vessels and Beer says the southern wall of the port will be used to accommodate large boats, while smaller craft of up to 10 metres will use the new area.
“When this project was started fishing was in its infancy and only one 30 metre long fishing boat, the Viking Spirit, was using the port,” Beer says.
“However with all the recent interest in fishing more large vessels like the Viking Spirit have arrived and our main concern has been to think in terms of providing a dedicated area for these ships.”
The next stage of the overall project will be a feasibility plan for stage two, which will involve strengthening the breakwater on the western boundary and increasing the size of the basin so that outer berths can be developed to accommodate more vessels west and out towards the reef.
No money is available to pay for the second stage at present, but Beer is confident funds could be supplied through the European Union.
“They are keen to advance money for infrastructure such as ports and airports etc, so I don’t believe it would be a big problem.”
The official opening will involve government, representatives of the fishing industry and members of the landowners, the Uritaua family, who Beer says have been instrumental in the success of the project.
“The development has only been made possible because of the assistance of the family, who have two members serving as representatives on the Ports Authority.”
The harbour enlargement project is one of a number of infrastructure improvements for Rarotonga and the outer islands announced by Prime Minister Dr Robert Woonton last year.
It will add an area about the size of one and a half rugby fields to the present harbour, which has suffered severe congestion problems over the last couple of years.
During the sailing season large numbers of yachts berth at the harbour, hampering the movement of container ships and larger fishing vessels.