Construction, Engineering & Transportation

Updated: September 2019

These sectors reflect Trinidad and Tobago’s rich industrial legacy and the trickle-down effects of experience and technical progression continue the fine balance of progressing their respective portfolios to meet the requirements of the nation, while coping with rising project costs, availability of funds and meeting 21st century standards of infrastructure and implementation. On paper, the list of projects satisfies the needs requirement for an ever-expanding population. Though execution of said plans still garners criticism from some quarters regarding timeline/delivery, they point to a future-minded approach to modernise parts of the nation often overlooked by the industrial expansion eye (e.g. Tobago, Toco). While these intertwined sectors adapt to keep pace with a radically changing world, the one constant is the heavy reliance upon the Government to conceptualise and fund these mainstays of society. Regardless, the sectors continue to advance.


Construction

The H’s dominate this sector, with homes, highways and hospitals top of the agenda and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley declaring his pleasure at the pace of such projects, particularly in Tobago. Work on the new block of the Port of Spain General Hospital began in late 2018, while the brand-new Point Fortin Hospital is expected to open in 2019.

The State Board, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) pioneers the need to meet the demand for affordable homes, a tough task when there are 176,000 applicants. However, besides the opening of new housing estates in Mt Hope and Moruga, HDC has employed innovative ways to lessen the burden upon the public sector. These include:

  • Public-Private Partnerships on future projects
  • A ‘sweat equity’ (whereby applicants can assist with the construction of the estate)
  • Adherence to the new Mortgage Caravan scheme, to create real homeowners out of the Rent-to-Own and Licence-to-Occupy persons in the HDC homes

The decision by Sandals to not build a resort in Tobago greatly affected the outlook for the commercial construction sector. An estimated 3,000 jobs were earmarked for the project, but it was soon negated by the announcement of the building of the La Brea dry dock facility, creating 3,500 direct jobs. Also, the Crown Point Airport renovation will still go ahead.


Engineering

Mother Nature put the spotlight onto the engineering sector in the past year, with widespread flooding highlighting the continued need to adequately arrest this annual occurrence. But there was pride that August 2018’s 6.9 rated earthquake rattled the nation but its infrastructure held. With the number of large scale projects increasing as Trinidad and Tobago ploughs it way out of recession, the local civil and electrical engineering community can look forward to involvement upon their own shores. For the mechanical and chemical engineers however, a major boon is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Guyana in late 2018, to make full use of the Trinidad and Tobago engineer’s expertise in the petrochemical sector. Guyana’s President, David Granger espoused, “We have abundant raw materials, natural resources; we are confident that by collaborating we will be able to combine the natural resources of Guyana with the entrepreneurial expertise, capital and investment from Trinidad and Tobago.”

The engineers are also being given a role to diversify the landscape as Trinidad and Tobago takes baby steps towards better environmental practices. Taking its lead from the local universities, aspects such as soil science, bioengineering, waste water management and recycling, are now being given greater importance as the country follows the global lead on addressing these matters with haste. Trinidad and Tobago’s engineering have a major contribution to make in the coming years, at home and abroad.


Transportation

While Trinidad wrestles with the major issue of traffic and its effect upon production, lost hours and the like, there has been little headway in the creation of alternative transportation to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

Major Challenges Include:

  • DEVISING AND DECIDING UPON AN ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF TRANSPORT TO CREATE SAID REDUCTION
  • THE PUBLIC SECTOR – THROUGH STATE BOARDS – STILL OPERATES THE NATION’S INTER-ISLAND TRANSPORT, A SOURCE OF WOE FOR SOME TIME, PARTICULARLY IN THE PAST TWO YEARS
  • PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT, GIVEN THE NEED TO REJIG THE PROCESS FOR THE SAKE OF THE LOCAL ECONOMIES, EFFICIENCY, PRODUCTION, COMPETITIVENESS AND CITIZEN WELLNESS

THE STAPLE OF INTER-ISLAND TRANSPORT ALSO HAS TO BE MEANINGFULLY ADDRESSED.

Continued maintenance problems often sideline the ferry service between the islands, especially in peak periods. As a temporary measure, the Government has leased another fast ferry; in June 2019, the HSC Jean de la Valette, arrived safely from Spain. The vessel will now undergo routine inspection and clearance as the required cadre of local staff is trained for its operations. To end the continued leasing of boats, Government has ordered the building of two ferries from Australia as a permanent solution. These are scheduled to arrive by mid-2020.

The Caribbean Airlines air bridge continues to increase its capacity, now transporting 962,000 passengers between Trinidad and Tobago per year, however bookings still have to be made well in advance to ensure travel on the desired days, particularly during peak holiday periods. Added flights are still a requirement to be met.

PROJECTS THAT HAVE BEEN PUT ON HIATUS:

  1. The Fast Ferry from Toco to Tobago with the accompanying first-class road from Valencia to Toco
  2. The exploration of a viable Rapid Rail system as an alternative means of transport

The Curepe Interchange is the next major transportation project within the country; now in phase 1, the expected completion date of early 2021 will alleviate the congestion issues.

Forever interlocked, these pillars of Trinidad and Tobago are in good stead to carry the nation forward, with tweaks needed to enhance the advancement.

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