By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
EACH day that Baha Mar sits unused is costing investors hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a veteran engineering inspector, who urged the future buyer of the $3.5bn mega resort to demand due diligence.
Retired inspector Tom Rickards warned that lengthy delays at the stalled project increased the risk of the structure having to be stripped down and completely reconstructed from the ground up.
Mr Rickards insisted that due diligence was an inevitable step in maximising the value of Baha Mar, and advised that officials prepare for the process and assist in a professional manner. He underscored that openness would result in the greatest payoff to the citizens of the Bahamas, as he outlined testing techniques vital to such an endeavour in a letter to The Tribune.
“Any serious owner or buyer will demand due diligence,” he said, “and bring in new and completely independent engineering resources to determine if the original engineering, including structural, HVAC, and all other design elements were in general accordance with commonly accepted building standards.”
“If the engineering is found acceptable, any serious potential buyer will then require detailed examination of the strength of the concrete used in the project, and the proper placement and coverage of the reinforcing steel within.”
Mr Rickards added: “If the supporting structure reveals the correct strength of concrete, and correct construction and coverage of the reinforcing steel, a rigorous examination of the air conditioning duct work will be required, so that the degree of mould and mildew present, if any, is manageable.”
Mr Rickards, 68, lives on Windemere Island, Eleuthera. Prior to his retirement, he managed the physical testing section of Pittsburgh Testing Laboratory in Miami, Florida for more than a decade. At the testing lab, he evaluated and tested the materials and methods of construction in very large structures, some he said, even larger than the stalled Cable Beach resort.
“After investigating hundreds of projects overall, and dozens larger and more complicated than Baha Mar, we found many common findings and reached conclusions owners or potential buyers of a stalled project had to accept,” he said.
“Data was gathered over a period of days and weeks, sometimes months, depending on how long the project lay dormant, and the depth of the inquiry by the owner or potential buyer.
“We used a wide array of testing techniques, including x and gamma ray radiography, magnetic inspection, and multiple methods of testing concrete strength.”
Baha Mar was initially slated to open December 2014, but faced a series of delays, which it blamed on its general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas.
The resort filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a US court last June; however, the cases for the resort’s Bahamian properties were thrown out.
Last October, the Supreme Court put the resort into receivership at the request of the Export Import Bank of China.
A formal sale process for the project began in March when Baha Mar’s court appointed receivers hired a Canadian real estate firm to market the project to potential buyers.
Last month, Prime Minister Christie touted the government’s success in negotiations with the EXIM Bank and CCA’s parent company over the stalled resort, saying all parties have entered into a “framework agreement” to complete the project “as expeditiously as possible.”
However, he gave no concrete resolution on the issue of payment to unsecured Bahamian creditors, only saying they would be “considered” during the re-mobilisation process, adding that negotiations were underway to agree to appropriate timelines and a schedule for completion.
Yesterday, Mr Rickards said: “Assuming all engineering and architectural elements are found built to code, then the final question is asked: does the building work? Do the water and waste systems, electrical and air-conditioning systems, and the multitude of other elements all combine to produce a working building? Is it cool, does it smell good, is it appealing to the eye?
“Everyday a complex structure like Baha Mar sits unused, it costs someone, a bank, investors, or owners, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars per day.
“Delay too long, and the structure may reach a point at which it will be stripped down to the bare concrete, assuming the concrete and steel themselves are acceptable, completely reconstructed from the ground up.”