Concerns over whether govt will be unbiased in cruise port decision

Worries have arisen over the government’s ability to be unbiased in the bidding process for the redevelopment of Nassau’s cruise port, Guardian Business understands.

The request for proposal (RFP) period comes to a close this Friday, after opening two months ago.

Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Mike Maura said yesterday there is a lot of interest in the redevelopment of the cruise port, suggesting the government could be looking at a large pool of potential developers.

However, concerns center around the unsolicited plan for the redevelopment of the cruise port that came from a partnership between the established and powerful Global Ports Holding, the world’s largest cruise port operator, and Arawak Port Development Limited (APD).

There are concerns that given the APD connections that already exist in The Bahamas, the bid process could already be skewed against other bidders. There is even concern that the RFP document was framed around the unsolicited proposal, which is sure to be resubmitted into the pool of bidders.

“The RFP is being issued by the government following upon an unsolicited proposal submitted to it for the project,” the RFP document states.

“The unsolicited proposal is seeking the exclusive right to design, build, operate and maintain the Nassau cruise port. The government acknowledges that the project, having arisen out of the unsolicited proposal, has been of considerable benefit for the development of the government’s aspirations for the facility becoming a world-class cruise port.”

The government has not yet revealed how the decision process will be carried out when the bids are opened after Friday.

Calls to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar for comment on these concerns were unsuccessful yesterday. The minister has championed the liberalization of the cruise port since coming to office a year and a half ago.

The concerned parties, who spoke to Guardian Business under condition of anonymity, point to the government’s admission that there were inconsistencies with the RFP process for temporary power generation for BPL; the government’s handling of the Oban deal for an oil refinery and storage facility in Grand Bahama, and the concerns raised by the public over the contract given to a sitting Cabinet minister for use of his and his family’s building, the Town Centre Mall, to house the General Post Office, as reasons they are concerned about the bidding process.

The Free National Movement government has vowed to change the public’s perception of the government’s RFP and procurement exercises. However, the most recent ones have left doubt.

The BCCEC continues to probe the BPL RFP and is awaiting a meeting with the new BPL board. The old board was disbanded during the uproar about the RFP process, and the BCCEC has yet to have its questions answered by BPL.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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