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Engineer calls for pier damage report to be made public

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Government needs to answer questions about the damaged Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier rather than trying to “sweep it under the carpet” in the hope that people will forget.

So believes engineer Ray Charlton, who is calling on the Progressive Labour Party to “go public” with the entire report investigating the structural damage to the pier at Dockyard.

He believes taxpayers “deserve to know the truth” about the two-year-old $60 million pier, which cost 54 percent more than the $39 million contract price.

The damage to the thruster wall and a warped section in the eastern most mooring pier was caused by wave action during Category One Hurricane Igor in September 2010.

But Government has only ever released a summary of an independent engineering report, which Mr Charlton says “raises more questions than answers them”.

The Ministry of Public Works is now under fire for failing to disclose the cost of the damage, who will pay for repairs and when repairs will be carried out.

Mr Charlton, who is hopeful of being selected as a One Bermuda Alliance election candidate, said “details should be in the public domain” as it was a public project built using public money.

He said: “There are just so many unanswered questions, but the Ministry is just trying to sweep it under the carpet.

“They have released the bare minimum of information in the hope that people will forget

“This is typical of the PLP Government. There’s no transparency and no accountability.”

Mr Charlton added: “As Government has only briefly touched on a few things, the public hasn’t got the answers we deserve.”

Mr Charlton, a telecommunications engineer, originally spotted the damage and his pictures were used for a front-page story in

The Royal Gazette in July.

The Ministry of Public Works ordered the assessment of structural damage at the pier by bringing in an overseas marine engineering firm.

The specialist inspectors investigated the pier’s design and construction and delivered their full report to the Ministry of Public Works, but only a brief summary statement of the assessment has been released to the public.

The statement simply reported that the damage to the thruster wall built at a cost of $4.1 million to shield the coastline from the thrust generated by cruise ship propellers posed no danger to cruise ships and would not disrupt schedules this year or in 2012.

The statement read: “While the Ministry works to ascertain potential liabilities as well as the extent of repairs required and associated costs, it would be irresponsible to make any public statements concerning these aspects of the report.”

The report went on to say that the pier “will not deteriorate further under normal use” and “a solution … is intended to resolve the issue as a matter of priority”.

Mr Charlton is now calling for the entire report to be released, so people can see whether poor design, poor installation or both played a part. He also wants to know who will pay for the failure and how it will be resolved.

It is not known if a performance bond, which provides insurance for construction projects, was in place and Mr Charlton fears taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for the repairs.

Repair work at Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier is not yet thought to have started, but Mr Charlton believes the pier is at risk of further damage if it is not dealt with urgently.

He fears the pier will deteriorate even further, especially under the strength of the large waves during winter storms.

Mr Charlton keeps a close eye on the pier and believes the damage has already started to worsen.

He said: “There’s something seriously wrong here and if it’s not repaired the problem is going to be exaggerated.

“The movement of the [thruster wall] panels remains clearly visible. They are moving like a loose tooth and we all know what happens when you continue to pull on a loose tooth.

“The metal is flapping about in the wind, which will cause further metal fatigue that will affect its strength.”

Mr Charlton estimates the extent of the damage may already mean the thruster wall has to be completely redesigned rather than simply repaired.

He added: “The longer it’s left, the more it will probably cost to repair it.”

In July politicians from the OBA also demanded answers in the House of Assembly with then-Public Works Minister Derrick Burgess indicating that he would “keep the public abreast of findings accordingly”.

Then in September construction boss Dennis Correia spoke out in defence of his construction project saying “the naysayers” should be congratulating him for what he called an “unscathed” structure. He said the cruise ship pier was “still performing as designed”.

The overrun of the Heritage Wharf pier remains the subject of an investigation by Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews.

The Ministry of Public Works did not respond to a series of e-mailed questions.

The Royal Gazette gave the Ministry six days to answer the questions which included why the full report had not been published and when the repairs were being carried out.

Heritage Warf damage (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Falling apart: Damaged sections of the thruster wall are seen at Heritage Wharf
Damaged sections of the thruster wall at Heritage Wharf

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Published November 16, 2011 at 9:10 am (Updated November 16, 2011 at 9:10 am)

Engineer calls for pier damage report to be made public

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