New deal for GB airport

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper yesterday announced the conclusion of a deal with a consortium to undertake a $200 million redevelopment of Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) with Phase I scheduled for completion no later than the first quarter of 2025.

Addressing Grand Bahama Business Outlook at Grand Lucayan Convention Centre, Cooper, who is also the minister of tourism, investments and aviation, said the government of The Bahamas last month entered into an agreement with Aerodrome Limited, a Bahamian company; Manchester Airport Group Limited, an airport management company based in Manchester in the United Kingdom; and BHM Construction International, a company based in London.

Cooper said financing for the project will be provided by UK Export Finance.

“These three companies represent a joint venture consortium that successfully bid to design, build, finance, operate, maintain and redevelop the Grand Bahama International Airport and to generate traffic to grow revenue and to further enhance Grand Bahama International Airport,” he said.

“Aerodrome is a Bahamian company headed by Bahamians Anthony Farrington, engineer; Anthony Ferguson, financial analyst and businessman; Anthony Myers, businessman and Greg Stuart, businessman.”

Cooper said, “Their mission is to transform GBIA into a carbon neutral, climate resilient, commercially viable, world-class airport.

“Subject to final designs, this is expected to be an investment of $200 million in that range and this investment will begin its preliminary works this quarter, this month of March.”

The airport was badly damaged in Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and its poor state is considered a key impediment to the revival of the Grand Bahamian economy.

US Customs and Border Protection Preclearance never returned after Dorian.

Cooper noted, “One of the critical factors in getting the Grand Lucayan sold and getting the Grand Bahama economy revived is to have a world-class international airport that can accommodate US Preclearance.”

The deputy prime minister advised that the airport will consist of two phases which are expected to generate 1,200 construction jobs consistently over the next five years.

“Ninety percent of these jobs are to be reserved for Bahamians and work permits will only be granted where Bahamians cannot be found in accordance with our immigration laws and policies,” Cooper said.

He advised that during the construction of Phase I of the new Grand Bahama International Airport, 300 construction jobs will be created, with another 50 engineering, management and accounting jobs.

Phase I will consist of the domestic terminal, and the US Preclearance terminal, new initial taxiways and aprons, new initial roads and car parks, a flood mitigation system, a flood attenuation basin, renewable energy systems, a sea defense berm and support bridges and air freight cargo facilities, Cooper informed.

Phase II will consist of new expanded taxiways and aprons, a new domestic parallel runway, new expanded roads and car parks, and its focus will be on heavy lift air freight cargo.

“And I want to tell you that we have many international airlines and partners already interested in making Grand Bahama an air cargo hub for the region and Latin America,” the deputy prime minister said, adding that Phase II will commence two years after Phase I.

He said the construction of the Cargo Zone is expected to commence within three years.

“The new business at the Cargo Zone will create additionally 50 permanent new jobs consistently each year over the next 10 years, resulting in at least 500 new jobs in Grand Bahama,” Cooper said.

“Aero will develop and finance the airport, as well as manage the project under contract with the Freeport Airport Development Company. BHMCI will be the design builder.

“Manchester Airport Group will operate the airport. Aero will enter into an agreement with Manchester Airport Group to come up with a facility and management fee structure.

“Net profits from the airport operations of funds will go into an Airport Infrastructure Fund.”

Cooper added, “Let me just say that this comes with excitement for all of us because we expect, as I’ve said before, that works will begin before the end of this quarter; full design works are underway, assessments; there will be a full team on the ground on March 27.

“Demolition of the old international terminal storage facility will begin before the end of this month or the first week in April.

“Repairs at the air traffic control towers will begin immediately as well as staging in the repairs of the customs storage building. These works will begin and given to Grand Bahama contractors for the benefit of residents in Grand Bahama.”

Cooper said this is an example of how this administration is using public private partnerships to move Grand Bahama forward.

He said, “We have already renovated the domestic terminal after creating efficiencies, improving the lighting after Hurricane Dorian and putting in place new generators.

“We’ve increased the operating hours to 8 p.m. beginning Monday past. We have installed new modular units on the ground to accommodate customs and immigration.

“And we have ensured that in the meantime, as we build this new airport, that we are able to accommodate the increased bookings and that we can facilitate the growth in tourism that we have already seen over the course of the last 17 months.”

Cooper said airlift is increasing and will increase even further when the new airport is open.

On the issue of US Preclearance, he told the audience at Outlook, “… the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation are in active negotiations with US Customs and Border Protection, and that has been going on now for several weeks.”

The deputy prime minister also advised that the airport and the plan are still subject to environmental approvals.

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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