Ministry of Communications and Works
Water and Sewerage
BVI Airports Authority
BVI Electricity Corporation
Release Date:
Thursday, 27 July 2023 - 2:26pm

Statement by the Honourable Kye M Rymer

Minister for Communications and Works

27th July 2023

Communications and Works Update on Airport and Utilities Press Conference

 A pleasant, good day to everyone. Thank you for joining us today.

I think it is necessary to come before the residents of Virgin Islands, the wider public and the media to share information about the work that is taking place under my Ministry, the Ministry of Communications and Works, whether positive or challenges. Joining me are some of the Senior Managerial Staff of the Ministry of Communication and Works who will be present to answer any question that may be asked. Today, I will speak on some of the key infrastructural matters in the territory, so let me first say that I am truly appreciative of the outpouring of positive concerns and developmental ideas that have been shared via various media outlets, calls, and messages regarding the infrastructure of our territory. What I see, generally, are persons who are interested in seeing the territory improve and advance. I want the public to know I am very cognisant of the challenges we all have been facing regarding our airports, water, electricity, and roads. I consider all of these infrastructure and services to be essential for our everyday lives. These are high priorities for myself and the Ministry of Communications and Works in terms of bringing sustainable remedies to all and thus ensuring that you can freely and comfortably enjoy them and as you go about your daily lives.

 Let me reiterate that; these infrastructural issues faced by the residents and visitors of the territory, are all chief priorities for the Ministry and the Government of the Virgin Islands.

 Today, I would like to give brief focus and updates to some of these key issues, namely the recent closure of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport and the pending water and electricity service disruptions throughout the territory.

Terrence B Lettsome International Airport Closure

 I want to personally extend sincerest apologies on behalf of myself, the Ministry of Communications and Works and the BVI Airports Authority, to the public for any and every inconvenience caused during the recent airport closures, and as recent as last week.

  I understand the importance of smooth airport operations, and we regret any disruption that occurred. I would like to assure the public that the Ministry is actively monitoring the progress being made by the BVIAA’s Board and the Management team in resolving the issues that led to the closures. I have full faith and trust in their approach to address the concerns raised and work towards ensuring seamless operations at the airports within the territory.

 Terrance B. Lettsome International is a small airport, with one of the shortest runways in the region. We are transitioning into an international gateway for our flourishing tourism product, and this has been met with some growing pains. The increased flow of visitors has put a strain on various departments, including the Firefighting Brigade, Security, and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC’s).

  Initially, we had to hire additional Firemen and Security Officers to be Category 6 compliant for the new American Airlines daily non-stop flight requirements. This new transition required the workers to work additional hours beyond their normal schedule and time, and necessary compensation to be given to them. These departments and workers play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of airport operations, and the situation requires immediate attention and support so that they can cope with this growth effectively.

  We recognise the commitment of all airport staff to their responsibilities, and we understand that their roles are not without challenges. The Ministry is dedicated to working closely with the airport management and staff to find practical solutions to address both operational issues and the remuneration of our valuable employees.

 To move forward constructively, we are facilitating a collaborative dialogue between all parties involved, including airport management and representatives of the staff. The goal is to mutually agree on steps that will enhance the airport's capacity to handle increasing demands while addressing the concerns of the workforce. While doing all of this, the appreciation and compensation of workers cannot be undervalued or faltered upon.

 The Ministry is committed to fostering a healthy work environment that encourages open communication and ensures that employees are adequately rewarded for carrying out their duties. By striking a balance between addressing operational challenges and compensating our employees fairly, we aim to create a sustainable and successful airport that serves as a viable gateway to our beautiful Virgin Islands for locals and visitors alike.

I acknowledge the direct involvement of Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley, during my absence from the territory last week, to have the airports reopened as well as the Chairman of the BVIAA Board, Mr. Theodore Burke. We appreciate the patience and understanding of the public during this time of transition. Rest assured, every effort is being made to resolve the issues and build a stronger foundation for the airport's future.

 If I may say, there is a reason why “growing pains” are called just that. But what is important to recognise that it is the challenging phases of growth. The BVI, our tourism industry, our economy, our airport industry, and every person and business who benefits directly or indirectly, stands to benefit from this growth. We are seeing where our efforts to draw in new business and new opportunities are lifting off. This kind of stimulation and activity is what our industries and our economy badly needed since the devastating hurricanes of 2017.

 We also have to be mindful that other countries and destinations are stepping up their interest and competitiveness in tourism. So, while persons may have a just cause with respect to a particular issue, we should try to communicate more and to work together – and to work with each other – and let drastic action be truly the last resort. These are very critical times for our tourism industry and our economy, and I am simply asking that persons think about this when it comes to how they choose to deal with grievances and disagreements.

Water and Electricity

 Another dilemma I would like to address is that of the water and the recent power outage issues affecting the territory.

 In a press release dated 25 July, 2023, I stated that the British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation (BVIEC) is working assiduously to restore its power generating capacity to optimum levels, to adequately meet the needs of the territory.

 Assurance was given that the technical and operational issues that are affecting the reliability of the electrical power supply as of late, which is also affecting the water supply will be receiving the highest priority. The General Manager at the BVIEC stated that there are some issues with various generators, all developing concurrently, due to the unprecedented high-power consumption in the territory by households and business.

This spike in energy and electricity consumption by residents and businesses has directly led to the overworking of the functional electrical generators responsible for powering the territory. In efforts to balance or regulate the load on the generators, sacrifices in other areas have been made.

The water plant at the Seven Seas uses 4 megawatts when operating at full capacity and in order to regulate the load and to balance whether to keep the lights on, the water plant is usually first asked to cut production and sometimes completely go offline. The result of this decision has been what residents have been experiencing in their homes and business with the turning-off of the water supply. We are aware that water is a necessity, and the constant breakage of pipes and the current issues are inconveniencing the public. Again, we apologize and ask for patience as we work to resolve these issues.

Though we are seeing some of the hottest temperatures, where appropriate, are appealing to the public to conserve electricity by reducing their consumption. This will in turn lower your electricity bill and contribute to lowering the load on the power system, which will also help in reducing the disruptions to the electricity and water supply.

 Again, today, I offer sincere apologies for the disruptions, but know that we are working diligently to address them all.

Thank you.