By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Arawak Port Development Company (APD) is assessing multi-million dollar development opportunities beyond this nation’s borders, as it moves to “significantly raise the bar” for all Bahamian port operations.
Michael Maura, the BISX-listed company’s chief executive, told Tribune Business that its bid to become a Recognised Security Organisation (RSO) would allow it to provide port and ship assessments and related security training.
With the Port Department having recommended to the Ministry of Transport & Aviation that APD receive such a designation, Mr Maura said the Nassau Container Port operator planned to first provide these services to Bahamian-flagged vessels and this nation’s ports.
Emphasising that exporting such services internationally would be among APD’s goals, Mr Maura said it also wanted to be “a wonderful tool” to train the operators of other Bahamian ports - especially the $39 million North Abaco facility to be constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).
With APD also seeking other port operator contracts in the Bahamas, Mr Maura said another “huge opportunity” lay in the Government potentially switching the arrival point for all auto imports to Arawak Cay from Prince George’s Wharf.
Confirming that APD’s sights were not resting on its almost-completed $98 million Nassau Container Port, Mr Maura told Tribune Business: “We see some opportunities outside.
“We have gone through a lengthy approvals process to receive a designation as a Recognised Security Organisation (RSO). The RSO designation is awarded by the Minister of Transport, and the Port Department has written to the Ministry of Transport advising that we have met all the requirements.
“That will allow us to provide port security training to other companies throughout the world,” Mr Maura added. “And given the Bahamas’ ship registry, we will place attention and focus on that. It’s an opportunity to work through the Bahamas Maritime Authority to provide ship and port assessments, and ship [security] plans.
“We have trained our personnel in all steps. That’s something we are focusing on.”
Mr Maura said APD was also offering its services as a training facility for the personnel selected to run the North Abaco port when it starts operations. Those executives would be able to gain ‘hands on’ experience at the Nassau Container Port before running matters themselves.
“We believe we are well-positioned to assist the Government in its port development plans,” Mr Maura told Tribune Business. “We see the Nassau Container Port as a wonderful tool to bring those persons charged with the management and operation of the [North Abaco] facility to train with us for a period of time.
“We see that as something we can do to get money and assist the company. It’s in the Government’s best interests, in our opinion, to have the right administrative and operational control of these facilities.
“We’d also like to see ourselves getting into port administration outside the Nassau Container Port and Arawak Cay. There’s opportunity for property development ancillary to the type of services we provide.”
The APD chief executive said the RSO security work with Bahamian ports and Bahamas-flagged ships had “the potential of several hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional business”.
“What we would want to do is develop and refine our approach within the Bahamas; to work with ports and ships operating in the Bahamas,” Mr Maura told Tribune Business, “and once we feel we’ve assisted those businesses, we will go international. Once we go international, we could get into the millions.
“More than a profit and loss perspective, it’s another opportunity for Bahamians to export their expertise, and for us to export our expertise and services outside the Bahamas.”
Richard McCombe, APD’s operations manager, told Tribune Business that the Nassau Container Port “can be the standard of excellence for the Caribbean. We don’t let a day go by without finding ways to do something better”.
“We’re not insular in terms of how we operate,” he added. “We find out the best in the world, look at it and see if it’s applicable here.... We’re proud to see - we’re not necessarily trend setters - but we’re as good as anyone else. If there’s a gap, we’re going to fix it and we’re not going to stop as far as we’re concerned.”
Mr Maura, meanwhile, expressed optimism that the Nassau Container Port would soon become the New Providence arrival point for the several thousand vehicles imported to this island annually.
Apart from removing the issues caused by their arrival at Nassau’s principal cruise passenger disembarkation point, which Mr McCombe described as a “tourism nightmare”, the new vehicle business stream might also help reduce APD’s tariffs via the increased cargo volume.
“That’s a huge opportunity,” Mr Maura told Tribune Business. “There’s 4,000 vehicles that land at Prince George’s Dock, so that’s 350 cars per month that go across the dock.
“That creates security issues, port congestion issues, and those berths are specifically geared towards our number one industry, tourism. There’s a direct relationship between cargo volumes and tariffs. That is an opportunity for us, once moved over here, and will positively affect the port tariffs.
“We hope it will happen. It’s up to the Government to decide, but we’re ready for it and are prepared as of today. When they decide it’s the right thing to do, we’re ready.”
Mr Maura also revealed that Albany has become tenant at its Gladstone Road Freight Terminal in preparation for its multi-million dollar expansion project. The developers will now be able to receive all material imports, break them down and pay the necessary import duties at one location.