Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said yesterday that the government has proceeded with discussions regarding the purchase of the Grand Bahama International Airport after Hutchison Port Holdings laid off at least 11 airport employees and failed to rebuild facilities damaged nearly five months ago by Hurricane Dorian.
“The airport will require a long-term, sustainable rebuilding plan,” Thompson told The Nassau Guardian.
“It has been destroyed by [hurricanes] a number of times. [Hutchison] has not proceeded with rebuilding the previously occupied facilities and have terminated approximately 11 staff members.
“The government has therefore proceeded with discussions with [Hutchison] and the Grand Bahama Port Authority on the future of the airport. This involves future ownership and operation.”
He said discussions are ongoing.
The airport is owned by Hutchison Ports and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA).
It was one of thousands of buildings damaged by the deadly Category 5 storm in early September.
Yesterday, Thompson said, “We understand the importance of the airport as it is critical to our rebuilding of Grand Bahama and critical to our major projects.
“We will make the difficult but necessary decisions in the best interest of Grand Bahamians as we have already done with the Grand Lucayan hotel.”
In the aftermath of Dorian, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar revealed that the government is eyeing the purchase of the airport.
He said Hutchison Ports had not demonstrated an effort to rebuild the airport to the state that it was prior to the storm and described the company as “somewhat reluctant”.
Last month, The Guardian flew into and out of Grand Bahama’s makeshift arrivals and departures terminals, which had to facilitate the proper protocols in order for the flight to be cleared into the United States. It was a testament to the island’s need to expedite the process of returning international flights to the island and restarting the all-important tourism engine.
A shipping container connected to the building houses the airport’s baggage scanning equipment.
The authorities that oversee Grand Bahama’s airport have packed ticketing, security screening, customs and immigration, bathrooms and a table for coffee into a space no bigger than Rawson Square.
Earlier this month, D’Aguilar said the government was not happy with the state of disrepair the airport remains in, nor with the pace of repairs.