By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
ROYAL Caribbean’s top executive yesterday said the cruise lines’ expertise and understanding of their industry meant they were ideal candidates to oversee Nassau’s port transformation.
Michael Bayley, the company’s president and chief executive, speaking after its job fair at the National Training Agency (NTA), said the cruise line group that has partnered with Bahamian investors and a local merchant bank on a bid to take over Prince George Wharf’s management, were not necessarily interested in running the port’s operations.
He added that their main interest was in ensuring essential infrastructural development occurs, and suggested the industry group’s - featuring Carnival, Disney, Norwegian & Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines - involvement was a strong vote of confidence in the future of The Bahamas’ cruise industry prospects.
“Our intention is to be able to build infrastructure facilities that work really well for bringing the cruise ships to The Bahamas,” said Mr Bayley. “We have a massive amount of expertise and energy in this space. The fact that the cruise line are coming together to offer that proposal is a really strong endorsement of the future of The Bahamas as it relates to the future of the cruise industry.”
He added: “Another way of looking at it is the significant benefit of having the cruise lines engaged in this project. The cruise companies are not necessarily interested in operating the port. We have the projects all over the world, and they are primarily aimed at making sure that there are efficient facilities to accommodate the number of ships that come in.
“We are less interested in trying to operate the port itself. I believe the Bahamian government has an authority that oversees that [the Port Department] so there would be a mechanism in place to ensure that it operates in a very distinct way.”
Tribune Business reported earlier this week that the Government has received three bids, ranging in investment value from $130m to $250m, for the contract to manage and operate Nassau’s cruise port.
Sources identified the three bidders as the Global Ports Holding consortium; the Nassau Cruise Port group; and the Nassau Port Partners collective. The Nassau Cruise Port group, a consortium featuring the major cruise lines and the 50-strong Bahamian investor group, Cultural Village (Bahamas), together with their local financing partner, RoyalFidelity Merchant Bank & Trust, submitted a bid valued at $130m.
Cultural Village (Bahamas) is headed by Gerald Strachan, the former Family Guardian president, and other key players in the group are understood to include former Central Bank of The Bahamas governor, Julian Francis, and Craig Tony Gomez, the Baker Tilly Gomez accountant and principal. Ex-tourism minister, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, is an adviser to the group.
Mr Bayley yesterday suggested the cruise lines were best suited for the port development project, adding: “It’s our business. This is what we do and have done for decades. I think we can bring a huge amount of expertise and commitment to the proposal that is slightly different from private entities that don’t really understand the business. It’s also about commitment.”