By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A Canadian consulting firm is developing master plans for the redevelopment of the Family Islands’ four leading airports, a Cabinet minister said yesterday.
Minister of Transport and Aviation, Glenys Hanna Martin, said Stantec was focusing on ‘tier one’ key ports of entry as the Government moves to overhaul all 28 airports in the Bahamas.
In an interview with Tribune Business, Mrs Hanna Martin said that with Stantec having completed an analysis of all Bahamian airports, the firm was now set to produce master plans for the facilities in Exuma, San Salvador and North Eleuthera and Governor’s Harbour - Marsh Harbour having already been completed.
“Airports have been placed in three tiers, and the placement is based on the profitability anticipated. In the first tier, for instance, you have Exuma, North Eleuthera, San Salvador, Governors Harbour and Marsh Harbour,” Mrs Hanna-Martin said.
“These are the high traffic airports. Other airports were placed in tier two and tier three, with the least active placed in tier three, but they are all critically important.”
She added: “The undergirding philosophy is to create equity in all economies wherever they are throughout the country, and airports are a catalyst for economic development.
“Beginning Friday we have given instructions for the same firm o do four master plans for the development for four airports. They are all in tier one. Marsh Harbour is completed, so that’s not in it, but it’s Exuma, North Eleuthera, San Salvador and Governor’s Harbour. The master plan will involve things such as looking at noise, land use and possible expansion, new terminal development and other associated matters.”
Mrs Hanna Martin continued: “I’m very excited because, in conjunction with this, we are putting leadership and trained personnel in airport management, and that has not really happened before except in North Eleuthera several years ago. We have put an officer in North Eleuthera and she is now managing that airport.
“We took on someone with an extensive aviation background and they will be heading to the Exuma airport. He is going to bring leadership to that airport. While we are looking at the physical development we are also bringing the leadership, so we can build capacity in terms of the human resources at those airports. This is an absolute new paradigm for our country.”
Mrs Hanna Martin said the development of the master plans is expected to take three months. “Then thereafter, once we have the template or the blueprint for redevelopment, the issue of how we finance those projects will be the focal point, and that is what we are looking at now,” she added.
“There has been some preliminary dialogue in terms of public private partnerships (PPPs), but we have not commited to anything. We are looking at the array of options. The intention is to immediately, when we are able, begin with Exuma and then North Eleuthera.”
The Government is estimating that a $185 million investment is necessary for a “complete overhaul” of all the Bahamas’ 28 airports, with only six identified as key ‘port of entry’ gateways that can be economically sustainable.
The Moss Town airport in Exuma, as well as the North Eleuthera, San Salvador, Marsh Harbour and Bimini airports are included in that group.