Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused a delay in construction for its planned Bahamas projects, Carnival Corporation yesterday also lamented the “exhausting” process of receiving permits to begin construction on its projects.
Carnival signed a heads of agreement (HOA) in September 2019 for the development of a new port on Grand Bahama for $100 million and the construction of a pier at its private island, Half Moon Cay, for $80 million.
Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Global Port & Destination Development Giora Israel said the corporation had hoped the process would move more quickly than it has been.
“The timing of the start-up depends on two things. We need to get our permits to get it done. We need a seabed lease that we have executed, we need to get the environmental permits and the Department of Public Works permits to build the maritime structures and the land structure in Grand Bahama. So I think that once we get those – and they were in the works for the last two years – we can proceed with the start-up,” he said during an interview with Guardian Business..
“I think the fact that we will be sailing a big part of our fleet by the end of the year gives us the confidence that once those permits are granted, shortly thereafter we will be able to commence the works.”
Pressed about what challenges remain in obtaining those permits almost two years after signing an agreement with government, Israel said, “Look, there is a process. We have to comply based on the agreement that we reached with the HOA that requires us to get a variety of permits. It’s a long, exhausting process and it’s not the government, we respect the government.
“First of all we respect the Bahamian laws and regulations as it relates to permits. But because our partnership with The Bahamas is probably for the next 50 years we want to do it right. So we don’t want anybody to skip steps, but we just hope there will be some kind of an increased sense of urgency to get those done considering the circumstances.
“But I must tell you that permits like this are a process in other countries as well. The Bahamas I hoped was a bit quicker, but we appreciate the due process and the thoroughness of giving us these permits. The government knows Carnival, we’ve done a lot of things and we hope that this process will be expedited soon and we will get those. I have gotten many permits in The Bahamas and they always take their time.”
Israel added that as it stands the corporation has no plans to reduce planned spending on those projects, whenever they commence.
“The plan is to keep those projects within those framework budgets, yes. The Bahamas projects, we had some idea of making a little more fancier, so we may scale it back, but it will still be a $100 million project in Grand Bahama, absolutely and still maybe over $100 million, even in the COVID-19 conditions,” he said.
Carnival currently calls on four Bahamian ports: Nassau, Freeport and its two Half Moon Cay ports.
Israel said Carnival is committed to expanding its relationship and investment in The Bahamas, particularly in Grand Bahama.
“The current port is an industrial area and it’s a little bit far away from activity, there is no beach near the port and it’s a really industrial place. We have nevertheless never left Freeport through thick and thin, be it hurricanes and other calamities unfortunately,” he said.
“We have stayed very close to Freeport and kept on going there, but we felt we need to have a new destination port that could also take our beautiful new ships like the Mardi Gras and other ships like Celebration, which will be coming by the end of next year.”