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GB Airport: A Sad State

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Torn apart from top to bottom, the Grand Bahama International Airport - both its domestic and international sections - have sat in a state of drastic disrepair since early September 2019 - a staggering nine whole months - since the passage of hurricane Dorian.

It’s temporary closures, first due to the storm’s damage, and then again in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Minnis Administration’s response to it, has dealt a severe blow to an already crippled economy with virtually no passenger travel to the nation’s second city for the nine months since Dorian, and a loss of jobs and income for some.

Minister of State with responsibility for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson told reporters recently that the government is moving ahead with its intent to purchase the airport, which is currently jointly owned by Hutchison Port Holdings and the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Back in January of this year, GBPA Acting Chairman, Sarah St. George revealed that the purchase price would be “nominal” and the sale would be “almost like a straight handover.”

Both the GBPA and Hutchison came under fire from residents because of their seeming reluctance to rebuild the airport, which residents say is the responsibility of the current co-owners under the provisions in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.

But here we are and the Minnis Administration has agreed to buy the battered airport from them, described after Dorian as a ‘field of debris,’ assuming responsibility for its multi-million dollar reconstruction. While no specific details of any agreement to seal the purchase has been shared with the public up to this point, it could be reasoned that the ITM Group/Royal Caribbean joint venture’s demand for a government guarantee, or commitment, for the airport to be restored to internationally-accepted standards by the time its $275m investment on the island opens, has helped to force the FNM government’s hand.

The reconstruction effort was previously estimated to be anywhere from $20-$40m.

An added unknown in all of this is whether there was any Dorian-related insurance claim on the airport, and if so, who gets that claim - Hutchison and the GBPA or the Government of The Bahamas? The payout, likely to be in the millions, would be crucial to help with the reconstruction price tag, and given that the ITM/Royal Caribbean project is expected to take approximately 24 months to complete, the government has about 2 years to see to that reconstruction.

Adequate airlift to Grand Bahama is needed to ensure the success of the project which is being touted as a saviour for the island’s wider economy, as it promises to create some 2,000 jobs and bring a much needed two million extra passengers to the island.

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