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Port Chief Brands Nassau Harbour Repairs 'Non-Issue'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

and NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Nassau Harbour's deteriorating breakwaters are "no cause for alarm", a senior official said yesterday, even though a Cabinet Minister has described repairs as "an absolutely critical project".

Captain Cyril Roker, the Port Department's controller, downplayed fears raised in a recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report that the damaged breakwaters "threaten the Bahamian economy's viability" by impacting the flow of commercial and cruise shipping coming into the Bahamas' capital city. Concerns over the breakwaters were also raised in a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) report last year, but Captain Roker told Tribune Business: "The breakwater has been like that for years.

"The ships coming into the harbour are not affected. There may be an issue at Arawak Port, but 95 per cent of the time that is not an issue. It is only when we have a cold front; when we have huge swells, they are affected by the breakwater. The breakwater as it is right now was damaged years ago by a hurricane and it was not repaired. It is not affecting the exit and entrance into the harbour."

The CDB report suggested that the Port Department's "financial constraints" were preventing it from carrying out essential $20 million repairs, and recommended that institutional reforms transfer the legal responsibilities for these from the government-run agency to Arawak Port Development Company (APD).The report, entitled 'Transforming the Caribbean port services industry', said such reforms would allow the Nassau Container Port's BISX-listed operator to cease paying port dues to the Port Department.

Captain Roker, however, contradicted the CDB report by saying: "Money was not the issue." He reiterated: "It doesn't affect the transit of the ships. What has been damaged is the eastern breakwater. It can be repaired.

"It has been that way for such a long time that it just became a common practice that persons coming into the harbour would pay attention to that. That issue for us is a non-issue."

Captain Roker's comments appear to place him at odds with Desmond Bannister, minister of works, at least when it comes to the importance of repairing Nassau harbour's breakwaters.

Describing the repairs as "a critical challenge", Mr Bannister told Tribune Business in a recent interview that the Government was aiming to include the work as part of a $35 million Inter-American Development Bank-financed (IDB) project to upgrade the Bahamas' coastal management and infrastructure.

"It's a critical challenge, and the Government is cognisant of it," the Minister revealed. "We are fully committed to ensuring that we get this work done. We are committing to an IDB loan with respect to what needs to be done for the breakwater, the harbour, the whole works. It's part of that loan.

"I can tell you that I have it all on my desk. Everything is set out in the arrangement we've made, and we're confident we can do what we have to do with the funding we have."

Mr Bannister backed the importance attached to the repairs by the IDB and CDB reports, given that the breakwaters impact a harbour that facilitates both the Bahamas' largest cruise port and New Providence's only commercial shipping port.

"It is a critical project for the country," he told Tribune Business. "It's critical for commerce in the Bahamas. It's critical to protect our harbour and city, and it's something the Government is fully committed to. We know the risks, we know the dangers, and are going to make the repairs."

Mr Bannister said he was unable to provide a timeline for when the project would start, and how long it would take to complete. But he reiterated: "It's critical to the Government, absolutely critical. We're not going to overlook it all. We're not going to sit on it."

The Minister's concern and focus likely stems from the fact it was Ministry of Works personnel who told IDB representatives about the urgency and importance of repairing Nassau Harbour's breakwaters.

An economic analysis, accompanying the $35 million IDB project, warned that the harbour's deteriorating breakwaters were affecting the flow of ships to both Prince George Wharf and Arawak Cay.

It added that Ministry of Works personnel had described the breakwaters' repair as "a top project priority", given the potential impact to the Bahamas' main cruise passenger gateway and the sole entry point to New Providence for commercial goods.

"From the perspective of stakeholders at the Ministry of Works and Urban Development (MOWUD), rehabilitation of breakwater infrastructure for the Port of Nassau and cruise terminal is a top project priority," the report by Dr Craig Landry, a natural resource economist at the University of Georgia, revealed.

"The eastern breakwater is currently in a heavily degraded state, and the western breakwater has several breaches, complicating navigability of cruise ships and commercial freighters. By limiting the flow of imports and exports, and inhibiting tourism arrivals, this situation threatens the viability of the Bahamian economy."

But Captain Roker told Tribune Business: "Even with the swells, vessels are able to dock at Arawak Cay. Does the breakwater need repair? Not the western wall, but the eastern wall,"

"Is that a cause of concern that we should be spending money on that? Not at this time. We have had many storms since that. It was damaged back in the 80s or early 90s. If there are ships that can't come to Prince George Dock, it has to be under serious conditions where hurricane force winds or tropical force winds are imminent. We don't see it as being a cause for alarm. Ships have been been coming in for years unaffected."

Yet Dr Landry's study further reinforced the critical importance of enhancing the Port of Nassau's infrastructure, pointing out that sea arrivals accounted for 77.2 per cent of the Bahamas' 6.11 million visitors in 2015, with some 47.8 per cent coming through Prince George Wharf.

"Stakeholders at the Ministry of Works indicate that maintenance of navigation infrastructure at the port and cruise terminal in Nassau are critical for maintaining tourism and commodity flows," the IDB economic analysis reiterated.

"The breakwaters, in particular, are of primary importance for viability of navigation within the harbour, but they are currently in very poor shape, with numerous breaches in the eastern section and weaknesses in the western section. Investments in coastal infrastructure can include upgrading and augmenting the current breakwaters to provide for enhanced serviceability and sustainability for the Port of Nassau and cruise terminal."

Comments

John2 1 week, 3 days ago

Captain Cyril Roker, the Port Department's controller sure has a very lackadaisical view of a piece of iimportant infrastructure like the breakwater....typical public sector mentality. All the more reason why the goverment should privatize the cruise port and let APD and a reputable port operator manage and maintain the harbour.

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bahamadog 1 week, 3 days ago

Let APD manage the Port and see rates triple. The Port Controller is correct when he says that the breakwater has caused little concern for the ships going to APD and PGW. Going further in debt seems to be the only thing lackadaisical.

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proudloudandfnm 1 week, 3 days ago

Good lord all they have to do is crane the blocks in position. Any competent Bahamian contractor can do it. This is nonsense. Just fix the damned breakwater....

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 3 days ago

Who do you believe ....... a lawyer-politician or a professional senior technical officer????????? It is refreshing that Mr. Roker is not cow-towing to Bannister and is speaking truth to power.

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hoodwinked 1 week, 3 days ago

Ground Broken At Phase Two Of The Pointe Development

“The Pointe will include a marina and yacht club, 50,000 square feet of retail and office space, restaurants, upscale shopping and exciting entertainment venues such as a performing arts centre, state of the art movie theatre, nightclub and roof top bar”.( Tribune March 13th) Obviously; to spend borrowed money on a breakwater that was damaged from the 1980’s raises some flags. These Heads of Agreements that are signed in the dark; could very well sell the entire beach front along with advertisement, dredging and breakwater. The Port Controller is making a very valid point; APD doesn’t pay port fees and the breakwater responsibility was transferred to them when they privatized. Breakwater is a barrier built out into the sea to protect a coast or harbour from the force of waves and erosion.

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MonkeeDoo 1 week, 3 days ago

There was no need for alarm on the Post Office, Hospital, Garbage Trucks, BEC Generation Infrastructure, Adderley House, Rodney Bain Building, Bahamasair, LOP Airport, Landfill. There has never been any maintenance on anything since 1967. And it shows !!!

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 3 days ago

Agreed ......... Now all of them must be condemned and imploded and rebuilt. Or just continue to rent the webshop cartel and PEP cartel buildings at the Public Treasury's expense............ a classic Catch22 situation due to incompetence and lack of planning.

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 3 days ago

Thank you Capt. Roker for speaking up. Had it not been for your courage, we the public would have NEVER known about this - yet another - secret IDB loan. We would have simply been told in January that our national debt had then crossed the $7B mark and that it was due to prior spending by the PLP.

It's so funny that both "reports" quoted in the article were produced by banks. A fisherman never shouts "Rotten fish for sale !"

I'm sure Min. Bannister is very upset that you've exposed this continued raping of our Public Treasury.

Just two weeks ago Tourism Minister was talking about adding another berth to the cruise ship docks.

One has to wonder just how many shackles of debt these two gentlemen want us Bahamian slaves to wear on our necks.

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 2 days ago

Bannister(MOW) .......... Brent (IDB) ........... D'Aguilar ..........(MOT). HMMMMMMMMM

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