It will be at least another month before international commercial flights will be able to land on Grand Bahama, as the airport’s management team prepares a temporary facility consisting of U.S. Department of Homeland Security TSA (Transportation Security Administration)-certified modular units.
Acting Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) Sarah St. George said after the Grand Bahama International Airport sustained damage “in the high double-digit millions”, it will take time to properly plan and construct a new airport for the island.
“I’m happy to say that Godfrey Smith, the chief executive officer of the airport, told us just the other day that they’ve made tremendous strides and progress now in putting together a temporary facility, because obviously all the buildings, every building in the airport was destroyed and the equipment, so it’s going to take time to bring that back,” St. George said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“The most important thing, the priority is to get it open for international commercial traffic. So, while we have domestic commercial flights able to come in from Nassau – for example the hundreds of people who work here have to fly from the Unites States to Nassau and then into Freeport, which is obviously time consuming – the sooner we get the airport open for the flights out of the U.S., the better for tourism, for everything.
“So, we’ve been told the temporary facilities will be coming and there will be modular units for the international and domestic terminals and they will be operational by November 15. They are TSA certified, so that’s the important thing. It has to meet the international standards required for those flights to come in out of the United States, so that was an absolute priority.”
The airport sustained catastrophic damage during Hurricane Dorian last month, after storm surges swept seven- to eight-foot waves of water over the property, the GBPA acting chairman said.
“What is extraordinary is that it didn’t damage the runway. The airport company had invested a tremendous amount of money in building that runway and the runway withstood the flooding, which is quite extraordinary. It’s undamaged and that means all the relief flights, cargo flights, all the things that needed to come in after the hurricane have been able to come in and land successfully,” St. George said.
Asked about the cost of the damage to the airport, St. George said, “Put it in the high double-digit millions, that’s what I would imagine.”
It has been argued that Grand Bahama’s economy cannot rebound without a proper airport with the ability to accept international flights.
St. George said she is assured that Hutchison Whampoa, which co-manages the airport with the GBPA, has a sensible approach to restoring the airport.
“Obviously everyone is going to have to look at what you put there this time around. You wouldn’t necessarily have the same setup as you had the last time. Clearly you have to look at flooding on the scale we saw in terms of elevations and you have to plan for a flood event or a wind event because these hurricanes, every storm is different,” she said.
She added: “The people who look at this may decide to put the international and domestic terminal in one building, who knows, so all of that needs careful planning, you don’t want to rush at that and get things wrong. But Hutchison, I’m confident that they will be very sensible, very responsible in the way they approach this going forward, so we’re coming back.”