THE prime minister yesterday said fears that Freeport’s two mega cruise ports pose a threat to Nassau “make absolutely no economic sense” and are “devoid of facts”.
Dr Hubert Minnis, speaking at the groundbreaking for Colonial Group International’s new Freeport headquarters, said the cruise industry’s rapid growth meant there was sufficient business for both cities and they would each benefit from new ports.
“Both cities will also benefit from related facilities, amenities and experiences which help to boost revenue from cruise ship passengers,” he said. “The cruise lines and international investors recognise the great potential for both New Providence and Grand Bahama, which is why companies are willing to invest in The Bahamas in tourism, technology and other sectors.”
Tourism industry sources had previously questioned why the cruise lines would continue to call on Nassau with their present frequency if they were developing their own ports on Grand Bahama.
Besides Carnival’s $100m port, which is billed as its largest wholly-owned facility in the world and is expected to create 1,000 jobs, Tribune Business exclusively revealed that the Mexican cruise port developer, ITM Group, is proposing a second Freeport-based destination that will also include the acquisition of the Grand Lucayan resort.
ITM Group is understood to have partnered with Royal Caribbean to develop four new cruise berths in Freeport Harbour, tripling its current capacity,
Dr Minnis, meanwhile, said Colonial Group was the latest Bahamian and international investor to show confidence in Grand Bahama’s prospects of an economic revival. “This is the very same confidence that we are seeing in the bids to purchase the Grand Lucayan, the temporary purchase of which by the Government of The Bahamas was absolutely necessary,” said the prime minister.
“Today’s groundbreaking is a bellwether of things to come. After so many long decades of downturn and economic stagnation, the revival of Grand Bahama has begun.”
The Bermuda-headquartered financial services group’s new Freeport office will service Grand Bahama and Abaco. It “provides group employee benefits to more than 60,000 individuals and dependents in Bermuda and the Caribbean”.
Colonial Group, which will keep its Bahamian head office in Nassau, owns and operates Atlantic Medical Insurance, Colonial Pensions, Security & General Insurance, and Nassau Insurance Brokers Agents.
Its 12,000 square foot Freeport office has a modern design and will be located on a 1.5-acre site on The Mall. The building, which represents a $4m investment, will employ green technology with an emphasis on energy conservation and water consumption.
“Many people promised plenty times to do plenty things for this island,” said the prime minister. “It was all talk that came to nothing.” Dr Minnis will return to Grand Bahama on Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony for Grand Bahama Power Company’s solar plant. This will be the “first utility scale solar plant” ever built in The Bahamas.