FORMER Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
TEN months after plans to purchase four Doppler radar systems were announced, Transport and Aviation minister Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday confirmed that a phased acquisition of the new “state-of-the-art” equipment will not start until next year.
Mrs Hanna Martin explained that her ministry was in talks with the Ministry of Finance over the major expenditure, adding that the matter has been prioritised given the critical nature of weather services.
The cost of the new radars is just under $20m, she said.
“Based on (international) advice and concurrence of our own technical team at the Meteorology Department, it was agreed that more effective coverage, sovereign coverage, could be achieved by a series of Dopplers throughout the country. The government made a policy decision to take the country beyond, and we will seek to provide comprehensive coverage.
“It is a major expenditure but the government deems it a necessary one,” she said. “We intend to, if we are able, to keep the current radar and use it in conjunction with the new ones. The first of the new acquisitions will take place early next year and within a very short period it is intended that the remaining Dopplers will be acquired.”
Mrs Hanna Martin emphasised that the country has a longstanding working relationship with the radar manufacturing company. She added that while manufacturing of the radars have not yet begun pending payment, it has been assured that the country’s order will be expedited.
“The Doppler is just one of many aids used in meteorology,” she said. “No country uses one thing. Several different technologies are usually used in conjunction with each other in the tracking of storms.”
The Department of Meteorology’s Doppler radar “came off its gears” during the passage of Hurricane Matthew last Thursday. Parts have been ordered from the manufacturer to repair the radar, an official confirmed yesterday.
The Forecast Office also sustained damage during the hurricane and staff had to be relocated to the Lynden Pindling International Airport for safety reasons.
The country’s only Doppler radar was first purchased in 2005, and has been a subject of contention following the passage of Hurricane Joaquin last year, when it was alleged that it was inoperable during the height of the storm.
The government and Met Department have repeatedly refuted the claims made by its forecaster Wayne Neely as erroneous, pointing out that the issues with the accuracy of the category 4 storm’s track had to do with the erratic nature of Joaquin and not with forecast equipment in the Bahamas.
Met Department Director Trevor Basden said the new radars will be placed on Abaco, New Providence, Long Island and Mayaguana.
“The first will obviously be New Providence because that’s where two-thirds of the population live,” Mr Basden said. “Along with the Doppler, we get airport weather observing stations. They will give more accurate weather parameters, especially wind shear which is critical and other parameters necessary for better safety with aircraft landing and takeoff.”
The government first announced plans to strengthen the country’s weather tracking services in November, 2015. In January, Mr Basden reiterated the government’s intention to purchase four new radars.