FRIDAY, DEC. 2: A controversial cruise ship wharf at Dockyard has more than paid for itself in just three years, Transport Minister Derrick Burgess said this week.

Mr Burgess said the $65 million Heritage Wharf had brought more than $70 million into Bermuda — around $24 million a year.

He added: “It’s paid for itself and more — you don’t get any investment like that anywhere where you invest $65 million and it pays for itself so quickly.

“The figures speak for themselves.

“That tells you it was a good job done. It shows that it was money well-spent. If it had taken 30 years to pay for itself, then you could question the investment.”

Mr Burgess said that Government was committed to value for money and lessons could be learned from any major projects.

But he added: “There were changes throughout the project — that was why the cost went up. All we were doing is projecting a course based on findings — when you actually start the work, it’s not the same.

“That’s what happens when you’re doing work of this sort and scale. This was one of the biggest Government projects of recent times.”

The cost overrun — from an estimated $39 million to the final cost — drew fire from the then-Opposition UBP and environmentalists.

Then Premier and Tourism Minister Dr Ewart Brown, whose Ministry was in charge of the massive development led by Correia Construction, later admitted that design changes and “Government inefficiency” with regard to planning issues had all contributed to the over-run.

He added the addition of a thruster wall to protect the nearby dolphin enclosure from surges and silt churned up by cruise ships’ massive propellers had also added millions to the final cost.

Damage

The thruster wall itself has recently become a focus for criticism, after it was revealed parts are damaged, thought to be a result of Hurricane Igor a year ago.

But Mr Burgess insisted: “If we hadn’t built the dock, we probably would have had no cruise ships because these bigger ships can’t get into Hamilton or St George’s. We had to do that dock pretty quick. It finished on time and Bermuda has benefited from that.”

Mr Burgess said the sharp decline in the number of hotel beds — down to 5,000 from the 10,000 in the island’s tourist heyday — made the work even more urgent.

He added: “We had to get revenue from elsewhere for the critics, they need to think about more than $70 million in three years. That’s what they need to look at.

“What was built was like a dock out in the ocean. Speaking as a layman, I don’t think that was ever going to be an easy task.”

Mr Burgess added that the cost of repairs to damage to the thruster wall — which cost around $4 million to install — was the subject of a report and he expected the issue to be “satisfactorily resolved.”

But Shadow Transport Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said if the cost had not ballooned, even more money would have been available.

She said: “One of the things the Minister has to understand is that if they hadn’t overspent by so much, that money would still have been in the kitty and available for spending on things which have had their funding cut or cancelled.

“The argument remains that care needs to be taken with all capital projects — the fact is that they didn’t take care, irrespective of much revenue has been raised subsequently.  There would have been far more revenue available if the costs hadn’t been allowed to escalate way beyond what was reasonable. That’s the crux of the issue — the Government hasn’t managed the public purse very well at all.”