CANCEL THE DEAL: Opposition condemns air freight terminal outsourcing arrangement

CANCEL THE DEAL: Opposition condemns air freight terminal outsourcing arrangement

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Opposition has strongly condemned and called for the cancellation of a reported $25 million airfreight terminal outsourcing arrangement at Lynden Pindling International Airport, suggesting that it would impose an additional tax burden on Bahamians.

“What is reported cannot be defended. It simply cannot be that the government has signed onto a $25 million-plus arrangement outside of its own procurement law that would require competitive bidding,” the Opposition said in a statement.

“It cannot be that the Customs Management Act is being breached by allowing an entity to manage landed goods outside of the prescribed legal framework. It cannot be that there is a January timeline to implement this arrangement when the government has given the public no notice and has not disclosed anything about the initiative, the vendor, or its ownership.

“Who will profit from this no-bid contract? Most importantly, it cannot be that the Davis Administration is imposing a brand new tax on every single package or item brought into New Providence by air, with the proceeds to be handed over to a private company without bringing this multi-million-dollar proposal to the Parliament for approval. We shouldn’t have to remind the Prime Minister that only Parliament has the authority to impose new mandatory taxes and fees. All Bahamians who use air couriers to bring in items will face increased prices, even though they are already paying burdensome Customs processing fees to manage all related public facilities.”

JDL has reportedly been tasked with designing, financing, building, and operating a new air freight terminal. Financial Secretary Simon Wilson dismissed suggestions that this arrangement will hike airfreight costs. When asked about the arrangement at the Office of the Prime Minister presser last week, he stated, “No new company is inspecting any goods. The inspection of goods is done by Customs. They are renovating a building on behalf of the government, that’s it. The company’s name is JDL.”

Opposition Leader Michael Pintard has requested a “full breakdown” of the government’s arrangement with JDL, including financial and contractual commitments, the names of beneficial owners, the company’s history in providing this service, and the fees that will be imposed on the public.

A purported memorandum from JDL Cargo Management’s Chief Operations Officer, Tony Strachan, disseminated by the Opposition yesterday noted: “We are pleased to announce the commencement of operations of JDL Cargo Management Company, effective February 19, 2024, at the Air Freight Terminal. This marks a significant milestone in our commitment to providing exceptional cargo and facility management services. We will be scheduling an interactive forum to not only answer any questions that you may have but also to highlight the new operational procedures that will come into effect next month. As we embark on this journey, we wish to outline several important aspects of our operations and forthcoming facility enhancements.”

The memorandum continued: “To ensure a seamless and efficient operation within our facility, each operator will be required to execute an operational license within the next 14 days. This license is pivotal for granting access and use of the facility under the governance of established guidelines and protocols. It is designed to maintain the highest standards of service, security, and safety for all stakeholders. It will cover information related to insurance and deposit requirements (where applicable), tariffs, waste management, and the operation of heavy machinery inside and outside of the facility.

“We are excited to share that over the next 14 to 18 months, our facility will undergo major renovations and construction to elevate the standard of our cargo handling capabilities. Our vision is to offer a world-class air cargo facility that meets and exceeds the expectations of our clients and stakeholders. We understand that the construction phase may present some inconvenience, and we wish to extend our sincerest apologies in advance for any disruptions that may occur. Our goal is not only to enhance the physical infrastructure but also to improve our processes, safety standards, and service offerings.

“We believe these improvements will provide significant benefits to all our users and contribute to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the logistics and air cargo handling industry,” the memorandum statement.