NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday accused airport operator Hutchison Whampoa of not demonstrating an effort to rebuild the Grand Bahama International Airport to its post-Dorian state.
D’Aguilar revealed the government is considering to purchase the facility.
“Certainly it’s under consideration and that’s all I would be prepared to say right now,” the tourism and aviation minister told reporters outside Cabinet.
“Hutchinson is the operator of that airport and they have not demonstrated an effort to rebuild that airport to where it was before. They seem somewhat reluctant and so the government is considering its options.
D’Aguilar continued: “Buying the airport is the easiest thing but it’s what you do when you get the airport. Right now the focus of the Bahamian people is on Hutchison to do something with that airport. Once you buy it the focus shifts to the government and what it will do.”
“To rebuild that airport could cost $20 million $30 million or $40 million. You have to figure out where that money is going to come from. You have to consider who the operator is going to be and figure out how we are going to make money.
“I don’t think the government wants to be rushed into making that decision. We understand that it is critical to the economy of Grand Bahama and we are very sensitive to that. We have to think through the purchase. Everyone is just focused on are you going to buy it.
“The question is what do you do if you buy it, it can’t just sit there. If we buy it we have to work through what is the plan once we acquire it.”
D’Aguilar said the government would likely pursue a Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) model at the Grand Bahama airport.
“The objective is to determine what is going to be the revenue source, how it is going to self-fund itself and that is what we are looking at,” he said.
“We are looking at the business model. Obviously we look at NAD and the model at LPIA. Clearly they have a lot more traffic at LPIA but we are trying to figure out what is the business model and how it is working. Are we considering it, yes but we are working through all the proposals and how we would make it work once we acquire it.”
The Grand Bahama International Airport is expected to welcome its first international commercial flight post Dorian on November 15.
Hutchison Port Holdings and Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) executives in a statement last month said modular buildings for both international and domestic terminals will be procured and outfitted with the necessary equipment required to meet international standards.
Grand Bahama stakeholders have called for a swift rebuilding of the airport given its importance to the Freeport economy’s survival. Hutchison Ports GBAC is a privately owned joint venture between Hutchison Ports and The Port Group (The Grand Bahama Port Authority).
With both the domestic and international airport facilities severely compromised due to flooding, the Grand Bahama Airport Company, owned and managed by Hutchison Port Holdings with Port Group Ltd. as joint venture partners, are working to open the key gateway for tourism, personal travel, returning evacuees and business flights.
Yesterday, D’Aguilar also provided an update on the Grand Lucayan negotiations.
“That process inches closer every day but we are still not at the point where we are prepared to sign a deal,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that have changed since we originally decided to enter into negotiations with RCCL and ITM. A hurricane has hit Grand Bahama. That has caused some damage to the hotel.
D’Aguilar said: “The insurance adjusters have to come in and do their evaluation. That process is ongoing. That has sort of set us back a bit. We are waiting for that process to work its way through. Negotiations are proceeding quite well. RCCl and ITM are very interested in proceeding forward. Negotiations are ongoing.”