Engineers Getting In The Way

Submitted by Grenville Phillips II

Portvale sugar factory continues to be closed at this most critical time of our crop season. Shockingly, the factory is still undergoing repairs after a two-week shutdown. Normally repairs happen during the planting and growing seasons, to avoid any shut-downs for repairs during the crop reaping time. Evidently, something has gone terribly wrong.

When CBC-TV finally broke the story that Portvale had already been closed for one week for repairs, the news reporter attempted to give comforting assurance and hope, by stating that: “the engineers are hard at work.” If engineers are seen to be hard at work on a problem that the public is aware of, then the situation must be very dire indeed.


Experienced Engineers normally foresee problems and quietly solve them with permanent solutions – without any fanfare. Therefore, an Engineer’s work is normally thankless, because the public has no opportunity to complain about problems they avoided experiencing. The public are generally unaware that there was anything to give thanks for, when Engineers do their jobs well.

The Barbados media’s decision to treat the closure of the Portvale factory as a national secret, that the public had no right to know, is very troubling. The planters’ decision to spill the proverbial bean, by publicly complaining about the risk of canes rotting, may have forced their hand.

The Barbados media must resist the temptation to be the public relations arm and attack hounds of their political party, and start serving the public with integrity.


The more important issue is: Are there any Chartered Mechanical Engineers employed at Portvale factory to avoid these types of delays? If not, then are there any Chartered Mechanical Engineers working in the Ministry of Agriculture? If not, then is there a single Chartered Mechanical Engineer working in the entire public service of Barbados? Is there a single journalist in Barbados who can ask these questions?

If the Government of Barbados has decided to stop hiring Chartered Mechanical Engineers, then the public must prepare for a wave of: rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, more frequent breakdowns and closures, and unnecessarily higher taxes to prematurely replace poorly maintained infrastructure.


The effective solution is obvious. But we do not seem to want effective solutions in Barbados, because it robs us of an opportunity to show who we really are. We much prefer to let things deteriorate, because that gives the public the opportunity to complain.

The more loudly people complain, the more likely the problem will be temporarily addressed – at an unnecessarily high cost. These short-term solutions give the public many opportunities to show who we really are – a grateful people. We long to express our gratitude. But Engineers’ competence keeps frustrating that cultural attribute.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at

116 thoughts on “Engineers Getting In The Way

  1. That problem with water under the houses would be caused by improper grading of the properties and no drainage around lots leading to a storm sewer. But then, I understand Barbados does not have a Building Code. I did not know that Maloney had a P.Eng behind his name.

    • To repeat: the problem of underground water is not on the Coverley Villages compound, it is an adjacent property.

  2. … but in all likelihood it is coming from the Coverly Villages compound!!

    What other source of water can you think of in the area uphill of the adjacent property?

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