By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) is aiming to help Irma-hit businesses in the southern Bahamas “get back on their feet as soon as possible”, its chief executive said yesterday.
“The fact that there was not a direct hit, and Nassau was completely spared, was a very good thing and we should be thankful for that,” said Edison Sumner.
“We are thankful that Grand Bahama, which is still recovering from Matthew, did not take another hit either. When the centre of government goes it impacts the entire country, and makes it difficult to assist other islands impacted by these kinds of events.”
Mr Sumner added: “We have been following the news out of the south-east islands. Based on the information that we have received so far we know that there has been some structural damage in Inagua, Crooked Island and those.
“Hopefully, restoration will be done quickly, but it may take so time to get utilities and businesses fully restored. We want to see how we can put some resources and measures in place to assist those businesses in getting back on their feet as soon as possible. Commerce is what drives the economy.”
Mr Sumner said a “close eye” was being kept on Florida, which was impacted by Hurricane Irma over the weekend. “We are also keeping an eye on Florida. It is the main hub, logistically, for the country,” he explained.
“Most of the products that come into the country either come through or are from Florida. If the ports in Florida are affected, that could create some challenges for us.”
Mr Sumner added that while many Bahamian retailers had enjoyed a spike in sales ahead of Irma, the reduction in their inventory - coupled with potential logistical issues in Florida - would prove challenging.
Michael Maura, the Nassau Container Port’s (NCP) chief executive, last week warned Bahamian businesses to brace for “significant supply chain disruption”, with no freight vessels arriving at Nassau until possibly “late next week”.
The ports at Palm Beach, Miami, Port Everglades and Jacksonville supply 75 per cent of freight destined for New Providence, and the NCP chief acknowledged that the likely damage to Florida’s port infrastructure will be a “major concern” for Bahamian companies in the short-term at least.
However, he yesterday said Irma’s more westerly track would spare Florida’s ports the worst of the wind and storm surge, reducing the supply chain impact.