By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A BAHAMIAN group with 30 years experience in the maritime industry have made a bid to manage and operate Abaco’s container port as the $40m development in Cooper’s Town nears completion.
The North Abaco Port Company (NAPCO), has put in an offer to the government to operate the new transshipment facility which is poised to create 300 jobs for Bahamians and hundreds of spin-off jobs.
According to a reliable source, the company is looking to bring onboard a Bahamian with the expertise and vast knowledge in the container port industry.
The multimillion-dollar project by the government was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) was awarded the contract to build the port and a culvert at the Little Abaco Bridge.
The government has yet to make an announcement on which company will manage and operate the new port.
However, The Tribune understands that NAPCO is being considered, and if successful in its bid, it would be the first time a port built by China would be managed and operated by Bahamians.
According to the source, NAPCO executives has a combined experience of over 30 years in the industry in marine pilotage, tugboat management, and logistics.
The company is eyeing former container port and harbour executive Raymond Jones II, who has over a decade of experience in container port and harbour operations in Grand Bahama.
Mr Jones is the former Chief Operating Officer of the Freeport Container Port, Freeport Harbour Company, and Grand Bahama Airport Company for 14 years, in The Bahamas and overseas. He was also appointed the first Bahamian president at BORCO and left in 2012 to open and operate his private businesses.
Mr Jones said that port facilities today are operated and managed by Bahamians in Freeport and Nassau and this is a testament to our Bahamian expertise.
“Taking into consideration my own professional history, the countless Bahamian executives, managers and operations personnel that are in the industry already, the Abaco Port is well within the capabilities of Bahamians. Bahamians have extensive global experience and local knowledge, as well as a lot of technical skills in operating a variety of businesses, and the port is no different,” he said.
“I spent 14 years with Hutchison Whampoa at the container port, harbour, and airport inside and outside The Bahamas. We in The Bahamas need to take a more active role in ownership and operations of key economic drivers. It is important that we not only recognize the capabilities of Bahamians that are available to us in all aspects of business in The Bahamas but put it to use and not always think we have to bring people in because the technical expertise is not available, they are available in The Bahamas.”
Mr Jones said that he had had discussions with NAPCO. “They are looking at operating a world class facility built around a strong Bahamian team set up to manage the commercial, operational and financial aspects of this port; I think it is well within our capabilities to do so, and I think it is important for the government to see the key roles that Bahamians already play at the harbour and container port in Freeport as well as the port in Nassau,” he said.
He noted that he had seen the physical layout and aerial shots of the container port in Abaco. “It is a great opportunity for Bahamians to partake in from the ownership and operational ownership of doing a port facility, and it actually brings significant economic benefit to Abaco and the rest of The Bahamas,” he said.
Mr Jones indicated that the port can be “a huge economic driver” for Abaco.
“It facilitates the economically attractive import/export of cargo into Abaco in a purpose-built port facility with warehousing on the dock, and the export of cargo, especially from the agriculture and fisheries sectors,” he explained.
“This new facility is important because it brings efficiency in terms of the ability to put in modern equipment and warehousing in a facility that has not just grown organically over time but actually built to service the needs of the shipping line and customers that import goods to the island.”
The source believes that if NAPCO is chosen to operate the port “it will boost confidence for Bahamians in the local economy on a national level, and will solidify the Minnis Administration’s stance and its vision for Bahamian empowerment based on its campaign promise to develop Bahamian entrepreneurship.”
Transport Minister Frankie Campbell was contacted for comments regarding the matter, but did not return a call to The Tribune up to press time today.
In November, the minister toured the container port in Abaco. He had also confirmed in a ZNS report that the government was taking a look at a Bahamian group to manage and operate the container port and that some announcements would be made soon. At the time, the port was 95 percent completed.
“I am aware a Bahamian group has made a pitch to the government to operate the port in Abaco. They were asked to go and review some of their plans and come back. I am satisfied that if they meet the criteria, then they too will be given an opportunity,” he said.
He said that Bahamians could successfully run a container port, and noted that the Arawak Port Development is a perfect example of this.
“The Port at Arawak Cay is fully Bahamian operated and rated number one in the region. It is proof that Bahamians can do it,” he said.
Mr Campbell was satisfied that the port would be successful once the government can put in place the proper management structure.
Mr Campbell had noted that the port provides opportunities for employment and shipping needs for Abaconians.
He had stated earlier that there would be a need to hire stevedores and other persons within the industry to provide the necessary services. “For Abaconians, (there is) the opportunity to get their local products out, and the opportunity for the shipping line to pass through Abaco and transshipment to be affected to other points in the world. There is no secret that The Bahamas is strategically located within the shipping line. It is an opportunity all around,” he had said.
Bonefishpete 5 years ago
Is there or not enough water depths in Sea of Abaco to get container ships into said port?? I'm told maybe no. Hope the port thrives, drove through last fall it looked nicely built.
sealice 5 years ago
This is more BS - this is Hubert's port - it's big enough for most mail boats and probably Tom Hanna's vessels. Yes there isn't adequate water around the entrance to the port and the whole run out past spanish thru the reef....
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