NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government will delay its evaluation period and ultimate decision on which entity will develop and operate the Port of Nassau until the first quarter of 2019 to allow stakeholders and public servants involved in the process an opportunity to recognize the upcoming holidays, Eyewitness News Online can confirm.
Bids were submitted to the government on December 7 and opened on December 11.
Three entities have submitted bids: Providence Advisors (representing Nassau port partners); Cruise Ports International Ltd, (representing cruise ports international, Carnival, Disney, Norwegian & Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines); and Global Ports Holding Company.
The evaluation process was slated to take 21 days.
However, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar told Eyewitness News Online that the deadline will not be met.
“We’ve run into the Christmas season and a lot of persons are on vacation and taking holidays, so we are going to, in the new year, evaluate exactly how long it’s going to take,” he said.
“I certainly think well within the first quarter we will have it sorted.
“A specific date will be better ascertained once everybody gets into the weeds of the proposals and have reviewed them, and will be in a position to opine.”
According to the minister, until that evaluation process has been completed there could be “radio silence” on the specific stages of the process.
“We would much prefer to keep — I know there are a lot of opinions being professed by people who put in bids, but certainly from the government side we don’t want to opined on anything.
“We don’t want to have any comments on the process. We don’t want to say anything until we’ve had a chance to review it and come to a conclusion; there is a presentation to Cabinet; and once we’ve all gathered around an outcome and the way forward, I think we’ll then be in a position to opine it.”
He pointed out that the development of the Port of Nassau represents a major project for The Bahamas and the government does not wish to “compromise the integrity of the process by saying anything that is inappropriate or out of line”.
Noting that the government does not have to accept any of the proposals submitted, the minister said if and when a proffered bidder is selected, the government will consult the Bahamian people on all necessary details related to the development and its potential impact.
“Everyone is going to go on a radio silence until the process has been fully vetted and we are ready to come to the Bahamian people via the press to say okay, these are the projects we have received: we have vetted it; we have discussed it in Cabinet; this is the decision that we are going forward; [and] now we are going to go to the Bahamian people…
“If we pick a preferred bidder — you know we obviously have an ability to reject all of them, but if we do pick a preferred bidder I guess then we would then roll it out to the Bahamian people [and say] this is what we are thinking; this is what the project involves; this is how all the necessary groups that work and are a part of the port, how this will affect you; what are the positives; what’s the project; what’s the timeline; and then people will be able to opine in on it at that process, at that time.”
It was pointed out to the minister that there have been concerns expressed in some quarters of the public about the government’s ability to be fair, given that the request for proposals (RFP) process was triggered by an unsolicited proposal from GPH, the world’s largest independent cruise port operator.
GPH’s potential joint venture partners include BISX-listed Arawak Port Development Company and CFAL (Colina Financial Advisors).
Some members of the business community and civic society have also advanced a view that the government should have consulted stakeholders and the public on what it envisions for the Port of Nassau and what criteria the government sought to have met — a process some have said could have allayed much of the concerns about transparency of the process.
In response, D’Aguilar said, “We’ve had three bidders come forward. From the government standpoint, we will look at all three. We’ll evaluate all three. We’ll hopefully pick a preferred proposal and then we will all coalesce around that proposal on how the Bahamian people will then become involved in that process. Once you pick a preferred bidder, this is what they are proposing; what does everyone think; how can we make it better; how can we fine tune it.”
The minister noted that the government will not be able to please everyone and there is likely to be naysayers, but “this is a very, very important project for the government to make happen”.
He added that the potential development of the Port of Nassau is expected to act as a catalyst to bring relief to Bay Street and the revitalization of downtown
He said few would argue that revitalization of the area is needed, and given the tremendous capital required to do so and keep the cruise port competitive with all the new ports being developed “it behooves us as the largest cruise port in the Caribbean to truly invest in not only the product, but the experience”.