Grand Bahama News

Conditions at GB private airport a ‘disgrace’, locals say

Pace of airport upgrade proving frustrating to some

As the government seeks to secure a public-private partnership (PPP) for the development of a new public airport in Grand Bahama, almost three years after Hurricane Dorian, residents contend that the private airport facility has been neglected to the detriment of employees, travelers and business people.

Operations for private aircraft arrival and immigration clearance are still being conducted in trailers, while customs clearance is being done outdoors.

After receiving complaints last week about the conditions at the private aviation section, GB News visited the site and observed customs officers carrying out their duties on the tarmac, under an umbrella. There was no proper shade for the goods or workers.

While a closer inspection of the activities was prohibited by security personnel, Craig Donahue of GPS Bahamas, an airfreight, brokerage and purchasing company, said 

conditions are “unacceptable”.

Donahue added that after Hurricane Dorian, tents were erected for air cargo arrivals, and custom officers were able to clear items under the covering, despite the heat and the rain.

However, a few tents were removed and only one remained.

“I can only consider the conditions at the Grand Bahama International Airport as deplorable,” Donahue said.

Donahue said he wrote letters to the Customs Department regarding the unpleasant conditions.

“Basically, every time, it was deflected with those in authority saying that it was out of their control,” he said.

This is a hindrance to his business, and negatively impacts customs agents and passengers on private aircraft, according to Donahue.

“I think the airfreight industry is an essential aspect of our infrastructure in Grand Bahama, and when productivity is hindered at the airport, there is a trickle-down effect,” he said.

Donahue added, “When passengers arrive at this major port of entry, the first thing they see are trailers, tents and debris. It’s just unacceptable.”

Noting that while he was initially excited to hear that the government had purchased the airport, Donahue expressed frustration that nothing has been done to the facility at this point.

“There have been a lot of promises made, but nothing has been done,” he said.

“We’ve been faced with a lot, but it is taking quite some time to bring the airport back to where it needs to be.”

The Minnis administration bought the airport for $1 from the previous owners, Grand Bahama Port Authority and Hutchison Whampoa, in 2021, with the promise of developing a world-class facility; but with the transition of a new government, the airport negotiations were left in limbo.

Officials renovated the fixed base operation (FBO) building, which was the private airport facility, to cater to domestic and international arrivals.

Donahue said that business owners are forced to supply their own trailers for storage.

“We’ve been trying, not giving up, trying to get anything done at the airport. Right now, we really don’t know where to go next,” he said.

Another individual, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called the conditions “disgraceful”.

The individual, employed at the airport, said that three years after Hurricane Dorian, an adequate facility should have been made available for the private jet arrivals and customs clearance at the airport.

“You have tourists coming on private planes and there is no shade where they are to clear Bahamas Customs and Immigration. When it comes to airfreight, there is no shade to protect the cargo. If it rains, everything gets wet,” he said.

Describing the situation as frustrating, particularly during the hot summer days, he noted that something must be done to improve the conditions.

He said, “Not only for the tourists and private aircraft owners [who] enjoy coming to our island, but for the workers … the customs and immigration officers deserve better.”

Conditions at the domestic and international terminals have been a hot topic since 2019, especially following the purchase of the facility by the government.

Minister of Tourism, Aviation and Investment Chester Cooper has promised improved conditions at the airport.

Cooper said in the House of Assembly in May, “Preliminary works will begin at the airport next week under the direction of the Airport Authority and the Ministry for Grand Bahama as it relates to new generators, new elevators, repairs to the air traffic control tower and demolition of certain derelict buildings.”

He added that the government will also undertake remedial repairs to the domestic building to remove workers from the unfit working conditions that they have been subjected to since Hurricane Dorian.

In response to questions regarding the complaints received, Cooper told GB News on Saturday, “The tents are still on site and providing basic shelter. Nothing has been changed. Only the hangar has been removed.”

Minister for Grand Bahama Ginger Moxey and airport officials did not answer requests for comment on the current situation at the airport.

Donahue believes the government has let Grand Bahamians down.

“Our government has let us down in not bringing this airport back to where it needs to be in order to promote tourism and have return tourism,” he said.

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