By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Opposition’s deputy leader yesterday questioned how much the Government had committed in subsidies to Resorts World Bimini’s now-ceased cruise service, suggesting it had generated few taxpayer and economic benefits.
K P Turnquest said: “The people of Bimini, and the nation as a whole, want to know more directly what has the Bimini cruise ship cost the Bahamian taxpayer and the people of Bimini.
“The Bahamian public would recall the vigorous battle engaged in by Save the Bays to protect the sensitive areas dredged to accommodate the new pier specifically for the SuperFast Ferry.”
He added: “Reports are that the operation of the fast ferry was inconsistent with the operations of the onshore hotel and casino, contributing little trickle down to the community, as guests ate and gambled during the voyages, leaving little residual for the onshore property and community.
“This model had been tried before in Nassau, with a major cruise line pairing a cruise vacation with its land-based hotel, with similarly failed results. The highly-paid consultants engaged by the Government to advise it on foreign direct investments should have known better.”
Mr Turnquest questioned how much the Government contributed to the acquisition of the Bimini SuperFast via subsidies and tax breaks granted to Resorts World, a subsidiary of the Malaysian conglomerate, Genting.
“Did the Government of the Bahamas provide any financial subsidies to Resort World, Bimini SuperFast or any of its affiliates to facilitate or support its operations and, if so, how much has been spent to date since inception,” he asked.
“Did the Government of the Bahamas commit to any financial subsidies to promote the SuperFast and, if so, how much has been spent to date and how much has been committed, and over what period?”
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.
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told Tribune Business this week that the developer said it would soon replace the SuperFast with a more efficient ferry operation.