By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Nassau cruise port’s new operator last night pledged to lead a crack down on illegal activities at Woodes Rogers Wharf after a video showing a cruise ship tourist seemingly inhaling drugs went viral.
Michael Maura, pictured, Nassau Cruise Port Ltd’s chief executive, told Tribune Business that the social media posting exposed “a very real problem” in the heart of downtown Nassau where drug peddlers sold narcotics to a minority of cruise ship passengers in full public view.
He added that himself and other officials of the Global Ports Holding subsidiary have already met with the police and cruise industry stakeholders in a bid to kick-start efforts to combat “both the criminal activities and deplorable behaviour” that regularly takes place in and around a port that acts as the gateway for 3.5m visitors to The Bahamas annually.
Besides “elevating policing” in the area with the construction of a four-person police office at the cruise port, Mr Maura said Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras will also be installed along Woodes Rogers wharf and the port’s Festival Place market area to capture and deter illegal behaviour.
Promising to tackle any illicit activities threatening The Bahamas’ cruise and tourism industry “head on”, Mr Maura warned Bahamians and visitors engaged in such practices that the cruise port and associated waterfront are “not the place for them”.
Mr Maura’s comments came came after a 21-second social media video emerged showing a bare-chested tourist, openly standing on Woods Rogers Wharf and wearing a Carnival-branded wrist band, using US dollar bills to inhale a powdery substance that appears to be illegal narcotics through his nose.
The video, which shows the waterfront and Nassau harbour in the background, carries a woman’s voice in the background saying: “Wow. Jesus, Jesus.” She then laughs, and repeats the word “Wow” before a laughing man pushes the cell phone down to stop the filming.
“This is a very real problem along the waterfront, as a relatively small number of visitors coming to Nassau search for and subsequently purchase drugs from a few locals happy to sell both real and fake drugs,” Mr Maura, who had seen the video, told Tribune Business.
“The activity, as the social media post reveals, is not hidden from view but takes place in the open. Upon Nassau Cruise Port Ltd assuming control of Prince George Wharf and the associated Festival Place, we have met with the local business operators, taxi and tour operators, and tourism and Port department officials in an effort to work together to address both the criminal activities and deplorable behaviour of some persons in the vicinity of the port.”
The Nassau Cruise Port chief continued: “On November 21, Collin Cleare, Nassau Cruise Port’s port facility security officer and myself, met with police commissioner Anthony Ferguson and assistant commissioner Davis to discuss plans to elevate the policing in the cruise port area. We discussed how effective the police have been along Bay Street and the need to bring the same level of policing to the cruise port area and Woodes Rogers Wharf.
“We agreed that Nassau Cruise Port would construct an interim police office in Nassau Cruise Port, which would be staffed with four officers. We would also install CCTV along the wharf and in the port market area. The Bahamian people, the cruise lines and Nassau Cruise Port are working very hard to offer a wonderful, safe, family friendly experience for all.
“With the support of the police and the commitment of all stakeholders, we will swiftly address both the criminal behaviour and the frequent use of profanity and immoral behaviour head on. Persons engaged in this illegal activity will soon learn that the Nassau Cruise Port waterfront is not the place for them.”
The tourist experience in downtown Nassau and Bay Street has long been blighted by drug peddlers and other “hustlers” seeking to make a quick dollar from visitors to the Bahamian capital. Such activities threaten to tarnish the Bahamian capital with an unsavoury reputation, while also taking business away from the merchants and other legitimate businesses that rely on the cruise industry.
Mr Maura last week told Tribune Business that Global Ports Holding, which won the bid to undertake the cruise port’s $250m transformation, wanted the Prince George Wharf overhaul to be its “signature” development and “most fantastic experience and product” out of all the 16 other ports it owns and manages worldwide.
“The chairman of Global Ports [Mehmet Kutman] wants this to be the most fantastic experience and product that he has done to date,” the Nassau Cruise Port chief said. “It’s his signature. He’s not holding back. If you were at dinner last night to see some of the stuff he’s got planned for this thing you wouldn’t believe it.
“It will cause people to hop on the plane to Nassau. We’re not going from Nassau 1.0 to Nassau 2.0. We’re going from Nassau 1.0 to Nassau 10.0.... I think this will be a game changer for downtown when it’s finished.... People will come to Nassau just to see the waterfront.
“I believe we will, as much money as Atlantis has put into securing every dollar their guests come to Nassau with, find our incredibly unique waterfront experience is going to cause people to leave Atlantis and come downtown, and I believe we will see the same at Baha Mar.”