Minister does not support RCI project

Hanna-Martin still opposed to cruise development at PI

Education Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin said yesterday her views on Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) $100 million beach club project on Paradise Island remain unchanged – she’s against it.

In 2021, Hanna-Martin called the then proposed deal “hare-brained”.

“My views have not changed,” she said when asked by reporters.

“The cruise industry does not require an island [off] New Providence. What we should be doing is developing cultural and entrepreneurial opportunities for the cruise ship visitors when they disembark.

“They keep saying there’s nothing to do. Well, let’s get something done. That argument has run a long time and it has shaped policy in a different direction. We need to see how we can get that going.

“I also believe that Crown land should be very carefully utilized because it is a limited resource. It’s owned by all of our people and I just have very strong views on it.

“My views have not changed.”

She said, “This is a deal that we inherited from the Free National Movement administration. I did not support it then and my views have not changed on it.”

Last week, the Davis administration announced that it has approved the project, which includes four acres of Crown land, and that it is subject to environmental approvals.

Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper said the government intends to convert the Crown land contribution into an equity stake in the project and that equity stake will be conveyed to the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

“At full capacity, the beach club can accommodate less than five percent of the cruise passenger arrivals each day,” Cooper said last week.

“We anticipate this development will attract more tourists off the ships and will, therefore, have minimal adverse impact on existing businesses.”

Cooper has said the deal approved by the Davis administration has taken a different approach than the one taken by the previous administration.

Royal Caribbean is interested in developing a beach excursion on Paradise Island, noting that it plans to greatly increase the number of passengers it brings into Nassau in the future and citing a need for more options for guests when they leave the ship while in port.

In a separate interview with Eyewitness News yesterday, Hanna-Martin repeated her position.

“I don’t think people who come off of a boat onto New Providence, cruise ship passengers, that we have to find some private, I call it an island within an island,” Hanna-Martin said.

“They already have those cays but now they want to take passengers onto their own private island.”

Royal Caribbean owns CocoCay, which exclusively serves the cruise line’s guests, in the Berry Islands.

Hanna-Martin continued, “I don’t think that is the model that we should adopt. I think when they come to New Providence they should participate and partake on what is on offer …”.

The Royal Caribbean project was first proposed under the Minnis administration.

In 2020, then-Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis, the now-prime minister, had expressed worries over the possible environmental damage RCI’s project would cause.

He also questioned why the government would lease land on Paradise Island to RCI when the company already owns CocoCay, an exclusive private destination for the company.

“This is grossly unfair to Bahamians and the next PLP government will terminate this agreement,” he said at the time.

Hanna-Martin’s comments yesterday are certain to create questions over whether it will be appropriate for her to remain in the Davis cabinet.

Cabinet ministers are expected to present a united front on all decisions in keeping with the principle of collective responsibility.

“All major decisions of policy must be made by Cabinet,” the Manuel of Cabinet and Ministry Procedure reads. 

“A fundamental principle of Cabinet government is unity. It is important to present a united front to the public; if any minister feels conscientiously unable to support a decision taken by Cabinet, he has one course open to him and that is to resign his office.”

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.

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