By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian majority-owned group plans to transform Nassau's cruise port into a "must call destination" that will attract an extra 1.3m visitors annually by 2028.
The Global Ports Holding-led group, in their "unsolicited" July 2018 offer to the Government, forecast that its project will combine with anticipated cruise industry expansion to increase annual passenger volumes through Prince George Wharf by almost 28 percent over the upcoming decade - from 3.575m in 2019 to 4.938m by 2028.
Referring to their planned $200m capital spend, the consortium's proposal said: "The planned investment, combined with Global Ports Holding's unparalleled management expertise, will entice cruise lines navigating the Caribbean to designate Nassau as a must-call destination.
"The growth of the industry and Nassau is so dynamic that the business has overwhelmed the infrastructure and impacts on the community, leading to deterioration in the passenger experience and, at the same time, significantly impacting the quality of life for residents."
Global Ports has partnered with Nassau Container Port operator, Arawak Port Development Company (APD), and Bahamian investment advisory firm, CFAL, in its offer to take over management and operational control of Prince George Wharf - a contract that the Government now plans to obtain competitive bids for via a public tender or Request for Proposal (RFP).
The consortium, which will be 51 percent majority-owned by Bahamian investors and entities, described Nassau and its cruise port as being at "a paradox" in readying itself for the predicted explosive growth in vessel numbers and sizes - all of which requires expansion of Prince George Wharf's berthing capacity to meet the sector's needs.
Noting that previous masterplans for redeveloping downtown Nassau's harbourfront and Bay Street have "not been executed fruitfully", the Global Ports Holding-led group said: "Downtown Nassau needs to be re-imagined, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind experience based on the businesses, historic architecture and colourful street life.
"The most significant way to redevelop downtown is to reconnect it to the water. Today, the port is designed to prevent this connection. Passengers are intercepted through a series of buildings, blocked with walls and fences that do everything possible to prevent integration between the passenger and downtown Nassau.
"These structures create chokepoints which are used to channel customers through points where vendors are accumulated to create an unwelcoming experience and prevent people from flowing through the downtown area..... The redevelopment of downtown must start with a new waterfront."
The consortium described Nassau as "having some of the longest walking distances in the industry" between cruise ship and reaching downtown attractions, such as retail, restaurant and tour facilities.
"From the outer most pier to the existing port exit, some passengers must walk nearly half a mile, which is unacceptable," the Global Ports Holding group argued. "As much as the current piers include planters and shade structures, it is not a welcoming experience.
"Thus the plan proposes the use of trams and the creation of conveniently located tram stops that will move people quickly and efficiently from those outer piers to the arrival harbour."
The consortium added that their planned redevelopment of Nassau's waterfront involved the creation of open spaces, parks through the reclamation of land from the existing harbour - a proposal that would involve filling in the space between the existing frontage and nearest cruise berth.
"The new waterfront is not a platform for creating additional retail, as that will have the opposite effect on the current merchants on Bay Street but should focus on open space, parks and creating a world-class waterfront that will attract people focusing on entertainment and food and beverage," the Global Ports Holding group said.
It added that it plans to replace the Festival Place building with a new arrivals plaza that will function as a gateway to downtown Nassau, not as a retail centre.