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Qc: Bimini’S Dive Tourism Sacrificed For Minimal Gain

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas has sacrificed Bimini’s “world renowned dive sites” and coral reefs for nothing as a result of Resorts World’s decision to cease its ‘SuperFast’ cruise ship service, an outspoken QC said yesterday.

Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, told Tribune Business that the resort developer’s decision to end its cruise service from Miami, effective as of yesterday, confirmed environmentalists’ worst fears.

Recalling his own warning during Judicial Review proceedings that the Bimini ‘SuperFast’ “could not work” and was likely to be abandoned, Mr Smith said the episode reinforced “the continued tragedy of these Heads of Agreements and ‘anchor projects’.”

The Save the Bays legal director argued that the seabed dredging to facilitate Resorts World’s cruise ship service, which had negatively impacted Bimini’s existing dive tourism business and marine environment, had benefited a foreign developer at the expense of the Bahamian people.

“Save the Bays and the Bimini Blue Coalition are dreadfully sorry for the people of Bimini,” Mr Smith told Tribune Business.

“They have been the unfortunate victims of short-sighted politicians who can’t see further than the tips of their noses, and who are constantly outsmarted on business deals by foreign developers.

“I said the fast ferry could not work; that it was an environmental catastrophe; that it was a repeat of the destruction of the cultural, social and environmental heritage on Bimini.”

Mr Smith said the Bimini ‘Superfast’ situation was a repeat of what had occurred at Great Guana Cay and Freeport Harbour with Disney Cruise lines.

In the latter situation, he disclosed that the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) invested $17 million in renovating the harbour as a dedicated private port for Disney, only for the cruise line to abandon the project - as it did on Great Guana Cay.

Mr Smith also recalled that the ‘Big Red Boat’ walked away after the GBPA closed off and refurbished Obera Beach for it, and said: “The Bahamas is littered, like anchor projects, with the rotting carcasses of these dedicated cruise ship facilities.

“In the Judicial Review [over Resorts World’s dredging], I said the same thing that happened at Guana Cay and Freeport Harbour with Disney Cruises would happen here. We said the Bimini SuperFast was just temporary.

“As soon as the developer does not need it any more, they will close it down with the loss and detriment to the environment.”

Explaining the Bimini ‘SuperFast’s’ cancellation, Resorts World said it was effectively being replaced by new commercial airline services that would transport guests to the island more quickly and efficiently.

Daily commercial services via Cape Air, Silver Airways and a luxury flight offered by the developer will bring nearly 500 guests to Bimini on a weekly basis.

The replacement of the three-hour cruise service with 20-minute flights was, Resorts World said, timed to coincide with the opening of its 305-room Hilton branded hotel.

The developer said it would soon replace the SuperFast with a more efficient ferry operation, and was “committed to continuing to provide ferry service for guests wishing to enjoy the trip via sea.”

While the proposed ferry service will dock at the same 1,000 foot pier and man-made island used by the SuperFast, it is unclear whether dredging would have been required to accommodate it.

The Bimini ‘Superfast’ service was launched in mid-2013, meaning that in return for permitting the controversial dredging activities to facilitate it, the Bahamas received just two-and-a-half years worth of guests.

Mr Smith yesterday described the Government’s Heads of Agreement deals with foreign developers, and the so-called ‘anchor project’ strategy, as “anathema to good governance” in the Bahamas.

Demanding that the Christie administration revise its development model, the outspoken QC also urged it to retain the existing Planning and Subdivisions Act and the requirement for every Family Island to have an approved development plan.

“This demonstrates the continued tragedy of these Heads of Agreement and anchor projects,” Mr Smith said of the latest developments in Bimini, “which are embarked upon in secret, done in a rush and are not properly regulated.

“We keep selling out the Bahamas with these Heads of Agreement and anchor projects, started by the FNM and taken to stellar heights by the PLP.

“Heads of Agreement and ‘anchor projects’ are anathema to good governance in the Bahamas and should be stopped.”

Mr Smith questioned whether the dredging’s main aim had been to generate thousands of cubic yards of fill, which could then be used by Resorts World for land reclamation and expansion worth millions of dollars.

He added that while this could potentially generate huge profits for the developer, little benefit would accrue to the Bahamian taxpayer and Public Treasury as a result of the numerous tax and Crown Land concessions provided to Resorts World.

The Bimini Blue Coalition’s Judicial Review raised concerns that the Government had failed to follow its own permitting processes in approving the Resorts World dredging.

“This is why we need to keep the Planning and Subdivisions Act, and the executive needs to do what Parliament told them to do, and create a development plan for every Family Island, so that any development would fit in and help these island to grow,” Mr Smith told Tribune Business.

“To put things in perspective, Resorts World promised to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Alice Town, which has a population of not much more than 2,000 Bahamians.

“Yet our Government was not able to ensure compliance with the Planning and Subdivisions Act, Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape Act, and the Building Regulations Act.

“We need to ensure development is regulated, proportionate and planned, and we don’t simply rush to the destruction of Family Island cultures, and the marine and terrestrial environment, just because someone is dangling thousands of dollars in front of a politician’s nose.”

Mr Smith added that major investment projects should be tied to enhancing an island’s infrastructure needs, including those of its workforce and social services.

Comments

Economist 3 years, 4 months ago

A lack of transparency and a complete failure to follow the law are a big part of this. And government wonders why there is a crime problem......just look in the mirror government.

What example do you think you have set?

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birdiestrachan 3 years, 4 months ago

The out spoken QC had nothing to say when the Exuma sea Park was dredge. He said on TV that the man had given him a retainer fee., And Joseph Darville was right there present. early. sitting pretty close to hm.

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asiseeit 3 years, 4 months ago

Well at least the guy in Exuma is still using the channel he dredged with all the proper studies and permits in place before he started dredging. See Birdie there is a right and legal way of doing things and then there is the PLP corrupt way of doing things. The courts have said that this government has broken it's own laws so I am factually correct in my view that this government is criminal.

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asiseeit 3 years, 4 months ago

The Government of The Bahamas resembles a criminal organization to the T. If there is any question why we have such bad crime just look to the HOA and the reason for crime will be apparent. Lead by example, well the example set is criminal, thus you have a criminal population.

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BiminiHomeowner 3 years, 4 months ago

If only someone would have predicted this..... Oh wait, everyone did.

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truetruebahamian 3 years, 4 months ago

We knew that this would happen. Perry Christie has no concept of what is good for the Bahamas. It appears that he will revoke Tony Myers lease on Ocean Cay, and give it wholesale to another future failure which will only benefit the company - as long as it lasts - and leave the Bahamas broken and poorer.

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Godson 3 years, 4 months ago

I LOVE THE BAHAMAS... and that means... ALL OF YOU TOO. My friends... I sincerely feel your frustrations. The callous disregards for the natural environment for illusion of financial gain is what irked me. Remember, however, that the PLP did not come into power without the support of the majority of the eligible voters.

In this regard, I AM THE ONLY BAHAMIAN, under the Constitution of The Bahamas, WHO CANNOT BE BLAMED, OR HELD RESPONSIBLE, FOR THE FIASCO that Our Beloved Bahama-land is now having to go through and must endure. Not to taunt you, my Beloved Fellow Citizens, but during the time of the last general election, I HELD NO BAHAMIAN STATUS. Of course,... the administrations of the Prime Minister, both now and prior, would not want you, the general public to know this.

The pure wretched ways of those governing The Bahamas had gotten to me and I was compelled to flee the Country... yes... the Land in which all of my forbears, right on back to the days of slavery and the Loyalist, were born. You see I had applied for refugee status in the United Kingdom and I was there from March of 2012 to the 23rd of July, 2012. And so, I am sincerely feeling the pain which we all are having to go through, and, what can oftentimes leave us all feeling like we are in a state of hopelessness.

Since my returned, but now with a reinvigorated mind to try again, I reflect on the course of my decisions and actions... and after seeing all these social unfoldings and disappointments and tragedies etc... I have no regret for taking the course that I did. This place can cause you to go crazy, if you let it... That is, if you don't prepare yourself with an exit strategy that is aimed to get you away so as to put some distance behind you; in the event, you can then re-energize and catch yourself. Who knows, you may come to be of some good to somebody else if not The Bahamas.

Therefore I can relate to you All and I hereby reiterate that I can feel ALL OF YOUR FRUSTRATIONS... IT HURTS TO SEE YOUR COUNTRY GO TO THE DOGS!!! Yes... I am frustrated too. But let us not give up... Let us begin now to fight this darkness that comes from the ignorant...

A friend once said to me, "IF WE FAIL, LET IT NOT BE FOR NOT TRYING". Friends... if this is the case, that we are to fail... let's us fall with our face flat out but pointing to the direction in which we ought to have been going to make it better... Love you ALL.... Stay strong... because we still got more miles to go...

Godson 'Nicodemus' Johnson

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asiseeit 3 years, 4 months ago

If you run the numbers, more people voted against the PLP than for it in the last election. If there was no DNA the PLP would not be in power.

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Emac 3 years, 4 months ago

LOL @ lkalikl. LMAO...I guess we all get frustrated to the point where we sack f$%^ it all. I just can't stop laughing! ;-)

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Godson 3 years, 4 months ago

Yeah... laughing is our most convenient attempt to mentally block it all out. In psychological terms its called transferring... hang in there though! :-).

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sealice 3 years, 4 months ago

HAHA - sad for Bimini yes - but you know how badly the PLP hates it when Fred Smith get's it right again. AGAIN YES DUMBARS PLPS AGAIN!!!

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