The government yesterday tabled legislation allowing it to acquire Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA).
The Airport Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021 came two weeks after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government was prepared to takeover the facility.
The bill seeks to make several amendments to the original act to provide for the acquisition, management and control of the GBIA and its “relationship” with the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
“The current Airport Authority Act does not allow the government of The Bahamas to own an airport in Grand Bahama, it doesn’t specifically mention Grand Bahama. As a result, the act has to be amended to accommodate the future of possible acquisition of the airport in Grand Bahama and that’s the bill that was tabled today. So now that, that bill is tabled, when it’s passed, it will allow the government to purchase the airport in Grand Bahama. So, it’s like putting the ducks in a row,” Director of Aviation Algernon Cargill told Guardian Business yesterday.
“If the government has tabled that bill, it is in the process of acquiring that airport in Grand Bahama. I would prefer the agreement to be finalized and then the government can talk about that.”
After GBIA was severely damaged during Hurricane Dorian in 2019, the government said it was considering the possibility of purchasing the airport from its current owners, Hutchison Port Holdings and Port Group Ltd.
The government has said that the current owners have shown no interest in restoring the airport, despite the commitment to provide an international airport in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
Cargill said once the bill is passed and the acquisition is complete, the Airport Authority will seek to redevelop the facility through a public-private partnership (PPP).
“The first thing for the government if it acquires the airport, the airport would fall under the Airport Authority, it would be managed by the Airport Authority in Nassau and the second step would be to redevelop the airport through a PPP. So, we in the Department of Aviation will be managing that process to redevelop the Grand Bahama airport and facilitate the transition to the government of The Bahamas,” he said.
Asked how close the authority is to finding a partner to redevelop the airport, Cargill said, “That’s what we’re working on. We’re issuing our request for proposals for our Family Island airports and we are finalizing the contract for that now.”
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has said the airport suffered $40 million in damage during Dorian.
The government has not announced how much it would be acquiring the airport for, or a definitive cost for reconstruction.
The bill stipulates that fees for environmental and building permits be no less favorable than the other licenses held by the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
The bill states: “For the avoidance of doubt, the GBIA shall remain a part of the Port Area and therefore the authority shall be entitled to all benefits and liable to obligations as if it were a licensee of the port.”
The bill was tabled by Marco City Member of Parliament and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard.