When the time comes, I will make myself known as the writer of this piece, but for now, know that I am not in any way vested in either of the parties vying for management of the cruise port in our downtown.
The government of The Bahamas is about to make one of the most important decisions it or any government may ever make. The importance of that statement is even more onerous as that decision relates to our number one and arguably “only’ industry. Tourism.
The last bastion of sovereignty as it relates to our economy rests in the decision the government will make with regard to the granting of the port concession. Just recently the government granted two concessions to cruise giants. One to Disney in Eleuthera, the other to Carnival in Grand Bahama and it is reported another will be granted to RCCL in Grand Bahama as a part of the Our Lucayan deal. These decisions come on the heels of previous acquisitions by the industry in Abaco, Eleuthera, the Berry Island and God knows elsewhere. RCCL has bought up almost all of the western end of Paradise Island and is pushing government to allow them to set up a beach experience there. I am sure the multi-billion dollar development of Atlantis would just love that. None of those enterprises has a drop of Bahamian ownership and Bahamians are relegated to positions of servitude as they are shipped back and forth to the islands for the crumbs the industry refers to as salaries.
And now the likes of Carnival, RCCL, NCL and others have the unmitigated gall to make application to take over the port in our capital. DO NOT DO IT. For years, they have tarnished our image with false allegations of crime rates lower than the crime rates on their own ships. I have sight of the crime report and on numerous occasions police remove either passengers or crew who are in possession of drugs and in some instances firearms. Goodness knows how much contraband is brought into this country via the cruises ship. The FBI, according to this journal, has reported the under-reporting of crime (murders, rapes and assaults) on cruise ships.
The industry has no respect for our leaders and I have witnessed them addressing various Ministers of Tourism in a way that would shock most Bahamians. They have complete disregard for our sovereignty and would use their cartel status to push the government in any direction of benefit to them even if it were to the detriment of Bahamians. I heard with my owner ears when a senior leader uttered that when a cruise industry magnate was dissatisfied with the way an ancillary business deal was not going the way that he wished, he said to the then opposition, “if you want us to shut it down, we will if it will help you win”. That is the power they wielded then. Imagine if they controlled every single port in the country.
These are the people who tell their visitors not to shop in Nassau. Not to take money off the ship. These are the people who make whatever shore excursions we have unattractive because they have to add on their cut for doing absolutely nothing except from bad mouthing it. These are the entities we will be subjected to. Privateers previously defined a warship or person authorised to attack foreign shipping. Will the government give further concessions authorising this bunch to attack our primary industry and hence our economy?
We used to pay them to bring their ships here. Let’s not now give them the port to control and to profit from. This is our last stand.
It is in this vein I believe Global Ports must be granted the concession and for a number of reasons.
They will have some semblance of leverage when negotiating with the cruise industry and that is what the cruise ships are concerned about.
It is ludicrous for the industry to control the port. It is akin to the airlines controlling LPIA. Owning their own port for the singular use of one or two of their ships is one thing, BUT NOT THE CRUISE PORT OF THE BAHAMAS.
Imagine how the cruise ship will treat taxi drivers and the leverage they would have over government to do as they wish with this unruly bunch. Taxi drivers would be lucky to be within a mile of the port.
We understand that Global was selected without opposition by the vetting committee who, by the way, was not even made known to the Bahamian public. If indeed that was the recommendation of the committee, then work with Global to get the best deal for The Bahamas and Bahamians. Make them give shares to the Bahamian people. Retain ownership of the port and give Global a management deal similar to the deal at LPIA.
If the recommendation was made based on the merits of the deal, what would it say to future bidders on government RFPs? That the best man does not win on merit? That surely does not speak to transparency.
Mr Prime Minister and Cabinet, do not allow The Bahamas to become a colony of the cruise ship industry and Bahamians their subjects. Your place in history will be determined by what you do and if you sell us back to masters who come on ships, you may find yourself being compared to others back in the motherland who did the same thing over 400 years ago when they collaborated with those that came on ships.