By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bimini’s boating-reliant tourism industry was yesterday said to be facing another “devastating blow” from fuel shortages just ahead of the US Independence Day holiday weekend.
Multiple resorts and marinas confirmed the island’s economy was bracing for a new threat amid uncertainty over when a new supply of gasoline would arrive on the island. The latest woes come just as Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) appeared to be making progress on addressing power outages that have lasted for weeks.
Donovan Roberts, marina supervisor at Bimini Sands Resort & Marina, told Tribune Business the fuel shortage had “made a bad situation worse”.
He said: “All of this is affecting our business. We had guests recently that wanted to stay for a few days and decided to leave because of the power outages. Our generator is down right now. Three days ago the power was off for eight to ten hours. Now, North and South Bimini are out of fuel. Only Cat Cay has fuel right now. We’ve been working with the fuel company to see how quickly they can get to us.
“This is devastating. This is happening at the worst possible time. This is a very busy weekend. We have power issues and now fuel supply issues. I have been getting lots of calls regarding what’s going on here. I hope these things can get resolved as quickly as possible.
“I have seen the guys at BPL. It looks like they have been working overtime to get the issue sorted, but since the fire at the plant the power situation has truly been terrible. I’ve been explaining the situation to the fuel company and hopefully they can sort it out.”
Mr Roberts added that there were only a few months left in what is typically Bimini’s busiest period. “These months are going by quickly. After September this will be pretty much a ghost town. Thankfully, Resorts World is doing a lot of promotion and advertising and is attracting a lot of persons,” he said.
Bimini’s Blue Water Marina was also said to have been impacted by the fuel shortage, but calls to management were to returned up to press time. One posting on the popular ‘The Real Bimini’ Facebook page simply said: “Just a heads up to boaters; there is no gas anywhere in Bimini.”
One homeowner added last night: “The update on fuel on south Bimini is there is is no update. Distributor non-committal, maybe tomorrow. No idea on north.”
The fuel shortage has compounded the problems created by BPL’s energy crisis. Facebook postings by residents and guests said that power on South Bimini was out for 10.5 hours on Tuesday as a result of 10 separate outages.
Deandra Sweeting, general manager of the historic Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina, told Tribune Business yesterday: “The power has been off and on, and that’s just the general situation. There’s still load shedding. Boaters have been unable to get power to their boats, and most of the boaters have had to use generators.
“We have a generator coming in in at least another two weeks. In short order we will be able to provide our guests with power in some areas. I think BPL is trying their best. July 4 is a very busy time. They are trying to get everything up and running in order to accommodate this holiday weekend at least. From around March to September is the busy period for the island.”
Ebeneezer ‘Ebbie’ David, owner of Ebbie’s Bonefish Club in Bailey Town, added: “The power situation is really bad and, of course, it’s hurting business. We’ve lost business and a lot of other places have lost business. People find out there is no power and they’re not dealing with that.”
BPL’s spokesman, Quincy Parker, last admitted that the power supply situation on Bimini had been “tenuous” due to “persistent problems” with one generation unit that the utility had been forced to rely on following the Labour Day blaze that took out its two most efficient units.
However, he added that BPL staff on the island had informed him that all the Aggreko rental units shipped to Bimini together with a 2 Mega Watt (MW) Caterpillar trailer unit had been installed and were fully functioning.
“At this point they should be in a pretty stable position,” Mr Parker said. “Prior to some of the rental units going in they did have some stability issues.” This was confirmed by residents who last night said power had been on all day in south Bimini.
BPL executives said late last month the company would launch a bidding process to seek permanent replacements for its fire-ravaged Bimini generation units. A fire at BPL’s Bimini power station in late May destroyed almost nine megawatts (MW) of generation capacity.