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Published 15th November 2011, 10:42am

With two contracts now awarded to European companies and a construction tender going out locally, the Cayman Islands' Doppler weather radar station will truly be an international effort, reflecting the project's global significance.

The contract to manufacture, supply and install the digital radar itself was awarded to SELEX Systems Integration, based in Germany, while another German firm ICON-INSTITUTE won the bid to provide a Technical Assistant (TA), on contract, for the duration of the project. Reporting to the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA), the Technical Assistant is responsible for ensuring that all financial and procedural activities of the project are in accordance with the requirements of the European Union (EU) - the scheme's primary sponsor.

The project's lead agency, the CIAA, has also recently published a Request for Proposals locally for the construction of the four-storey concrete tower that will house the radar on part of the former Prison Farm in East End.

"It is anticipated that the construction tender will be awarded in December and the tower should be completed by July next year, to coincide with the radar's arrival. The final phase will be the set-up of equipment within the building and staff training," the CIAA's Chief Executive Officer, Jeremy Jackson, explained.

"The long-awaited facility will not only benefit the public and airlines by providing accurate weather information to forecasters and pilots, it will also serve the entire region by filling a black hole in terms of regional radar coverage," Mr. Jackson added.

Minister for District Administration, Works, Land and Agriculture the Hon. Juliana O'Connor-Connolly also praised the project: "The radar station will no doubt serve the country's long-term national interest as this is an invaluable opportunity for the Cayman Islands to become an integrated regional player in respect of hurricane preparedness, through a much more robust regional early warning system, thereby contributing to improved disaster risk management and reduction for the Caribbean.

"Securing the funding for this important resource from the European Union took years of advocating by the Cabinet Office and I thank everyone involved for their ongoing commitment to see this through to completion."

Minister O'Connor-Connolly added "With increasingly volatile weather we sorely need improved forecasting abilities - something this project will deliver."

The Doppler radar project got off the ground after the CIAA and the EU signed a contract in March 2009, whereby the EU agreed to provide Cayman with a grant for EUR4.16 million (about CI$4.6 million) to construct the early warning weather radar. The Cayman Islands Government is making its own contribution to the project by providing the site, the access road, and funding a technical consultancy service from the Caribbean Meteorological Organization.

"Apart from giving Cayman access to real-time local weather information, the radar station will also strengthen regional severe weather forecasting, linking with radar stations in Belize, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago," Cayman Islands National Weather Service (CINWS) Director General, Fred Sambula, explained.

"This means that Cayman will get more accurate, timely and up-to-date information when storms or any other weather systems threaten our area, and, as such, our residents can better prepare," he noted.