Not long after the Christmas/New Year stand down, I received a request to support a structural survey of the Main Jetty at Road Bay in Anguilla, British West Indies. After a 15 second Google image search, I realised that this was one opportunity that I could not turn down and immediately responded to my Unit Headquarters that I was available! I had only just taken command of 509 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (509 STRE), the Army Reserve Port Infrastructure specialists from 65 Works Group RE, 170 Infrastructure Support Engineer Group, based in Chilwell near Nottingham and I was keen to react to the tasking.
Anguilla is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin. The territory consists of the main island of Anguilla itself, approximately 16 miles (26 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide at its widest point, together with a number of much smaller islands and cays with no permanent population. The island’s capital is The Valley. The total land area of the territory is 35 square miles (90 km2), with a population of approximately 13,500.
Road Bay is the only port of Anguilla. It is the port at which RN and RFA Ships anchor when visiting the island. There is one sole jetty in the harbour and it required a complete structural survey in order that it can be deemed fit for purpose. Anguilla lacks the professional expertise to undertake the task and asked if the MOD could assist, rather than having to tender out the task to an external commercial company.
The original jetty at Road Bay was built out of timber during the late 1960s by 33 Field Squadron Royal Engineers following the Anguillan revolution and the split from St Kitts. The current concrete structure was built in 1978 and extended in 1986 when a concrete jetty link was also added, replacing the original timber structure. It has previously been inspected in late 2002 and some repairs were carried out as a result of that inspection.
Early on Sunday 3rd March 2014, Warrant Officer Class 2 Carl Green and myself, Major Andy Nixon MBE both from 509 STRE (Port Infra), boarded a plane at London Gatwick Airport to Antigua en-route to the island of Anguilla to carry out the structural survey. On arrival, we were met by Mr Bancroft Battick, the Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Infrastructure for the Government of Anguilla, who was to be the host throughout the trip, which was planned to last 5 days.
The survey required both surface and sub-surface inspections of the jetty, which in turn meant much of the task was spent either below water or underneath the jetty structure. It quickly became obvious that the jetty has had a hard life, with significant damage caused by impacts from ships and over loading of the structure with significant delamination of the concrete caused by corrosion of the steel reinforcement where the structural members have been overstressed and cracked, allowing ingress of sea water.
Damage to the structure is evident throughout and a significant amount of urgent repairs are needed in order to extend the life of the jetty. These repairs and some other long term options will be detailed in the report, to be issued some time in mid April 2014.
The jetty is of vital strategic importance to Anguilla as it is the single point of entry for all of the islands imports such as food, construction materials, vehicles etc. and without the jetty, all cargo will need to be transhipped onto much smaller vessels in neighbouring St Martin (FR) with the resulting increases in freight charges.
At the end of the survey, an initial report on the Teams findings was presented to the Governor of Anguilla, Her Excellency Ms Christina Scott, who thanked the Team for the work and requested that a presentation be delivered to the Executive Council the following week. This presentation was produced, as well as some immediate, no-cost recommendations in the way that the Port of Anguilla operates the jetty. These recommendations were well received by council and the Acting Chief Executive of the Airport & Port Authority, Mr Remington Lake who agreed to implement the changes immediately. Without these operational changes and the recommended repairs (to follow), it is unlikely that the jetty will last another 12 months, without suffering a serious failure.
The task to carry out the structural survey of the jetty at Anguilla is exactly the sort of task that is suited to the Engineer Specialists of the Army Reserve.
65 Works Group is one of five Works Groups within 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group; the others being 62, 63, 64 and 66. All 5 Works Groups collectively work to the 170 Engineer Group mission which is:
“to prepare and deliver Operational Command capability elements to provide infrastructure engineering to all Joint Task Force components and other government departments as directed in order to enable operational effect for Defence and the wider UK Government.”
If you would like to initiate a similar task in the region, you should contact the Defence Attaché Caribbean, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Brown RE, (Patrick.firstname.lastname@example.org) through your local mission (High Commission, Embassy or Governor’s office) to his office in Kingston, Jamaica.