Construction of the $17-million-dollar convention centre on the Charlottetown waterfront was on hold Monday after the steel seawall around the site buckled and twisted for the second time under the pressure of shale dumped onto the site.

The steel wall that was pounded into place bulged outward and became unstable and a hazard. The steel support cable snapped.


Artist's conception of convention centre on Charlottetown waterfront. (Province of P.E.I.)

"Working in a marine environment is very challenging. I've had it characterized as trying to change the fan belt in a moving vehicle," said Ron Waite, General Manager of the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation and project manager for the convention centre.

He said project engineers are working on a plan to stabilize the site and allow construction to proceed.

He could not predict the direction of the plan or the potential extra costs involved.

"The structural nature of the soil is such that it's not strong enough to hold it so whether additional anchoring and bracing systems are required or whether it's a totally different solution, I can't answer that."

The project is now five weeks behind schedule.

Waite refused to say who was to blame for the wall's second failure.

"We have to alleviate the stress on the wall. We've got people working on that right now but we just don't have the answer. It would be premature to determine [who is to blame]."

The province and Ottawa are each paying half the cost of the convention centre – about $8.6 million each.

Public Works Minister Rob Vessey said he hasn't been fully briefed.

"I haven't really received anything from CADC telling me what the issue really is," he said.

Waite said the delays will escalate costs and noted that the large crane alone, which is sitting idle, costs $15,000 a day.

Waite couldn't say whether or not the convention centre would meet its targeted opening date of March 2013.

"If it's a three-weeks fix we can make the date; if it's a three-month fix the date's definitely in jeopardy."