D’Aguilar says govt acquisition of Grand Bahama airport to cost one dollar

D’Aguilar says govt acquisition of Grand Bahama airport to cost one dollar
Grand Bahama International Airport.

Total price tag to include under $1 million in staff-related costs

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government’s acquisition of Grand Bahama International Airport will cost under $1 million, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday, noting that a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be created to redevelop and operate the airport.

D’Aguilar — who kicked-off debate yesterday on the Airport Authority Amendment Bill, which will allow for the airport’s acquisition from Hutchison Whampoa — noted he held the view that the airport should be owned by the Bahamian government.

D’Aguilar noted that Hutchison has owned and operated the airport for the past 20 years, adding that “the jury is still out” on whether it has been operated in the best interest of Grand Bahamians.

“Some have complained that it was an expensive airport to use. Some have complained about its facilities, or the lack thereof, especially since the passage of Hurricane Dorian; and everyone has complained about the lack of interest by Hutchinson to rebuild that airport after the passage of Hurricane Dorian,” said D’Aguilar.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar.

“The purchase price is one dollar; one dollar plus the assumption of a portion of staff-related costs, which should not exceed $1 million dollars.

“The Airport Authority is purchasing almost 2,500 acres of land, an 11,000-foot-long runway that was recently resurfaced, taxiways, ramps, etc, all for under a million dollars.

“Once the purchase of the Grand Bahama International Airport has been completed — the lawyers are currently doing the title searches, the relationship between a Bahamas government-owned asset and the port authority being finalized — the asset will be transferred to the Airport Authority, who will create a special purpose vehicle to operate and redevelop the airport, very similar to what was set up at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.”

D’Aguilar further noted that once the acquisition is complete, designing an airport that is far more resilient to hurricanes than in the past must be a priority.

“It makes no sense, to me at least, to build back a facility that is prone to the same amount of devastation and destruction that has been sustained in the past,” said D’Aguilar.

“We must build back a facility that can sustain wind speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour and is not wiped out by storm surge in excess of 20 feet.”

The tourism minister noted that in due course, the government will devise and issue a request for proposals (RFP) inviting interested parties to put in a proposal for the redevelopment and management of the airport.

He also noted that pending the redevelopment of Grand Bahama International Airport, the government has committed to spending a further $1.5 million to repair some of the devastation from Hurricane Dorian at the airport.

“Funds are earmarked to repair the Air Traffic Control Building and replace the elevator system in that building, create office space in the old domestic terminal and effect repairs to the current cargo building,” D’Aguilar said.

“The government will also explore what is necessary to reopen the US pre-clearance facilities at the Grand Bahama International Airport, although indications are that an increase in traffic between the island of Grand Bahama and the United States is a required first step to restarting this arrangement.

“With regard to the employees who are currently employed at the airport by Hutchinson, when the transfer is completed, from Hutchinson to the Airport Authority, their relationship with Hutchinson will be severed with the usual severance arrangements typically offered by Hutchinson.

“Prior to that transition, the Airport Authority will identify and engage those employees that are needed and wish to transition over to the new ownership, so as to ensure that there is no disruption in services or business while this transition is in motion.”