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Pitcairn Islands finally gets EDF 9 underway! by Leslie Jaques, Jacqui Christian & Sue O’Keefe

The heavy equipment for the long awaited construction of the alternate landing facility on the western side of Pitcairn Island, Tedside, finally arrived during the month of August so the project is underway. The purpose of the landing facility is to allow landing options when conditions are unfavourable at Bounty Bay so that more tourists can land during the cruise ship season thus generating income for both the government and private sector economies.

Tourism is currently Pitcairn’s main income stream. In a 2009 survey of the cruise ship market, more companies pledged to put Pitcairn on their itineraries if there was a higher chance that their passengers could land. Currently between 1 and 3 ships land people during the season. Already the marketing effort from Pitcairn’s Tourism Department has increased the number of cruise ships stopping from an average of 6-8 per season to 17 this last season.

The project, funded by the European Commission (EU) under the 9th European Development Fund was part of a long process which began back in 2006 when Pitcairn first applied for funding from the EU. Getting the equipment for the project to begin was in itself a mammoth task and there was eager anticipation on the Island. A special ship to carry the load had to be found and scheduled, and a barge built to land the equipment on island.

M/V Norfolk Guardian arrived at Pitcairn in the early afternoon of Saturday 16 August carrying over 1500 tonnes of heavy equipment. To get this into perspective the tonnage on board equated to 30 trips from the regular supply ship, Claymore II, which normally brings around 50 tonnes of cargo each quarter.

August is traditionally a month of unpredictable weather with rough seas and high winds. Thus it was not surprising that when the Norfolk Guardian arrived, it was bad weather. This made it difficult and only a few small loads were able to be landed at Bounty Bay in the first 5 days while the ship waited anchored off Tedside.

The initial 5 days were utilised in testing the 30 tonne capacity barge and working on logistics with the longboat and shore crew. It was a tense time. A huge team effort was required with the Norfolk Guardian crew, the team on the barge and those on shore. Everyone played their part to ensure the success of the operation.

It was quite remarkable that from Friday 22 August to Wednesday 27 August, there was a six day window where the team worked, from first light to well after dark, to unload all the cargo. Not long after the last load landed, the weather blew up again.

There was nervous tension as some of the equipment came ashore. A fully loaded 30 tonne barge had never entered Bounty Bay before and it needed to be carefully manoeuvred by the longboat and shore crew with ropes, great skill and impeccable timing.

All together the team of Pitcairn’s 12 working men plus 2 from the ship landed the equivalent of seven years’ worth of the regular supply ship’s load in six days. The barge with the Longboat in support, made around 50 trips into the landing at Bounty Bay.

The equipment safely brought ashore included: a 20 tonne digger, a 16 tonne digger, 3 tractors, 2 loaders, 480 tonnes of cement, 200 drums of fuel and 84 tonnes of 12 metre length steel sheet piles. These loads could not be landed with Longboats.

Since the equipment landed, work has begun on establishing the different work sites required for the Alternate Harbour Project. A concrete holding area has been constructed to hold overburden which can then be fed back into the crusher for finer processing to make the fines for the concrete work from the locally sourced rock.

As the crusher requires its own power supply, in order not to be a drain on the power supply for the township, a shed has been constructed to house a dedicated generator to provide the necessary electricity.

The arrival of the heavy equipment has allowed the widening and resurfacing of the road down to Tedside to access the landing site. The current road has been stabilised for the weight of the new vehicles traveling on it and allows for the oversized machinery to reach the worksite for the landing.

Inclement weather has already had an effect on the workforce with the sites being shut down on occasion due to rain but project management is pleased with the level of work being achieved. One advantage of enforced shutdowns is that workers are able to perform some of the everyday jobs required to maintain the usual routine of the island.