MPs clash over habour amendment bill

MPs clash over habour amendment bill
Former Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Former Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday called the Harbour Dues (Amendment) Bill  2019 a “blank cheque” as the Official Opposition called for the new port deal to be tabled in Parliament.

The bill seeks to change the fees levied against cruise lines that call on the Port of Nassau and allow for Nassau Cruise Port Limited ‘s management of the port.

The Englerston MP argued the cruise port deal was highly advantageous to Global Ports Holding, adding the bill’s passage represented a “blank cheque written on the backs of the Bahamian people”.

“Nothing has been laid in this Parliament. It’s a disgrace. We’re talking about the premier port facility in the commonwealth of The Bahamas. It belongs to Bahamians. We are the owners. This is a blank cheque,” she said.

Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells noted the Port Department and the Ministry of Tourism spends approximately expenditure $2.5 million dollars annually on port operations.

Renward Wells, Minister of Transport and Local Government.

“This amount includes port security, operations of their facilities, conducting repairs, and capital expenditure,” said Wells.

“Under the circumstances and with this level of expenditure, at best, operation of the facilities at the Prince George Wharf break even every year.

“The amendment to the Harbour Dues Act will accommodate a public private partnership arrangement that we promised in our manifesto. This demonstrates our commitment to fulfil our promise to the Bahamian people and carry out the work they elected us to do.  In effect, the amendment will create a designated cruise ship port area where the operator will be able to levy and collect three types of charges.”

Wells noted that there will be a port facility charge, which attributes a cost to ships to dock and provide services to ship that attract VAT; a  passenger facility charge; which covers the services  provided  to passengers while they are in the port area and also attracts VAT; and other services charges for utility usage by ships such as water, electricity, garbage collection, etc.”

Back in February of this year the Government of The Bahamas announced the selection of Global Ports Holding (GPH) as the winning bid for the redevelopment and operation of Prince George Wharf, the main cruise port in Nassau, The Bahamas.

The Heads of Agreement signed in August between the Government of the Bahamas and Nassau Cruise Port Limited  granted a 25 year concession to NCPL to operate the Nassau Cruise Port at Prince George Wharf.

The Nassau Cruise Port Ltd. includes three entities: Global Ports Holding (GPH), the Bahamas Investment Fund, and the YES Foundation, which stands for Youth, Education and Sports. Global Ports Holding (GPH), is headquartered in London, and is publicly traded on the London Stock exchange.

It is the largest cruise port operator in the world.

Yesterday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar defended the selection of Global Ports Holding.

D’Aguilar said while the cruise lines had bid on the project, they would have likely run the port in to their best interest.

He said the Global Port’s holding arrangement would lead to a revitalization of the cruise port area, increased cruise arrivals and more opportunities for Bahamians.