Former Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville yesterday questioned why the Minnis administration axed the heads of agreement the Christie administration left in place for a new cruise port on Grand Bahama, and he urged the government to reveal the details of its new deal.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Monday plans for a new cruise port to be developed by Carnival Cruise Lines in Sharp Rock, a few miles out from Lucaya in Freeport.
Before it was voted out of office, the Christie administration signed a heads of agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines days before the May 10, 2017 general election for the construction of a $100 million cruise port on 226 acres of land in East Grand Bahama.
“A few months before the general election we signed the heads of agreement; we lost the election and the baton was passed onto the Free National Movement to continue the project,” Darville said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“We kept asking for the last year, year and a half what’s happening, and all of a sudden, we learned that ongoing work was being done to move the cruise port more to the Freeport area. The logic behind that I still don’t understand. I’m sure in time we’ll learn why it was moved from East Grand Bahama to Freeport.”
At the time of the contract signing, former Prime Minister Perry Christie said the agreement took “painstaking and lengthy negotiations” between his government and the principals of the Freeport Harbour Company, to negotiate a waiver of exclusivity agreement of their exclusivity rights on all ports in Grand Bahama, which had been granted by the previous administration.
“We were the ones who laid the foundation and did the hard lifting with Hutchison, which was not an easy thing, in order to make this thing happen. I felt a little bit touched because when I was there, usually when someone else has done some work. You would get up on the podium and say the last administration planted the seed and we are now moving on, but like many of the projects that are in place, there is no recognition,” Darville said yesterday.
At a townhall meeting in Freeport on Monday, Minnis said this new deal with Carnival Cruise Line is expected to provide over 1,000 direct and indirect jobs on that island, and “will prove to be a significant catalyst for economic growth in Grand Bahama”. However, little details about the development were revealed.
“But being a Grand Bahamian and understanding the importance of the cruise port, when I went to the grand announcement yesterday, I made it very clear that I support anything that is good for the island of Grand Bahama, but the devil is in the details,” Darville said yesterday.
“We want to see the heads of agreement, what’s been carved out for Bahamians; what is happening; how will the taxicab drivers function; what kind of entrepreneurship will be available to Bahamians? The list goes on and on.
“We went yesterday. It was a preliminary announcement and Carnival produced a preliminary drawing. So, it’s really much in its infancy stage, so we really want to know how the project is developing over time.”
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News