By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
AMID concerns from watercraft operators about Baha Mar’s alleged renting of motorised watercraft to its guests, Transport Minister Renward Wells yesterday confirmed the resort is not licenced or authorised to do so directly.
Mr Wells, in an interview with reporters outside of Cabinet, said he understands the resort has contracted a “100 percent Bahamian [owned] company” to provide its guests with a variety of water-based activities. According to the Bamboo Town MP, the company is operated by two young Bahamians.
He said the matter, which was first highlighted by industry operators during a protest last week at Goodman’s Bay, does not involve the resort veering into an industry historically reserved for Bahamians, as has been claimed.
Mr Wells said the government is not “duty bound” to grant such licences to any resort or foreign direct investor associated with a resort, unless it is specified in that property’s Heads of Agreement (HOA). He suggested there were no such allowances in Baha Mar’s HOA.
Mr Wells said: “…We have not given any Jet Ski licences, any water sports licences to Baha Mar. We have not. Every licence that has been granted by the Port Authority has been granted to Bahamian businesses and Bahamian operators, period.”
Last week, Pedro Sinclair Bannister, vice president of the Cable Beach Water Sports Association, said watercraft operators from Paradise Island and the Sandals resort came together in solidarity at Goodman’s Bay to address the Baha Mar ordeal.
“It’s not fair… if one hotel opens up the door for the hotels to use Jet Skis and rent any motor watercraft that will hurt the small business man who [work] out here. We want them to know this is an industry for the Bahamian people. Water sports is not for foreign investors to be investing their money and trying to get involved in our business.”
“When you have a new activity and you want it to be in the hotel, you’re supposed to put it in the newspaper for at least two to three weeks in case someone wants to object; they have the right to object to that. I don’t think they were vetted, they were not put in the newspaper for people to see. They did this in a slick way.”
He also alleged the chairman of the Port Authority also serves as security chief at Baha Mar and the association views this as a conflict of interest.
At the time, Mr Bannister also implored the Port Authority to keep its word on renewing the licence of watercraft operators from a hotel on the Cable Beach strip, explaining that operators who serviced the former Nassau Beach Hotel have had a hard time returning to that property since its demolition.
Responding to these concerns yesterday, Mr Wells said his office was progressing on an audit of previously issued licences as a means to ensure that stated claims are in line with the Port Department’s records. He said once completed, the department would be in a position to accurately reissue licences. “If they had the five before, it is only fair that you would have given them back the requisite number that they would have had. So we are doing our audit and making sure that the requests that are being made by these Jet Ski operators,” he said.
“Because at the end of the day, Renward Wells may come and say that I had 10 plates, that may have not necessarily been the case. So where Renward Wells comes as say. ‘I had 10 plates,’ the Port is looking through that and seeing whether or not Renward Wells had 10 plates.”
He continued: “If Renward Wells was issued 10 Jet Ski licence plates, then this current minister is going to see to it that Renward Wells is not disenfranchised, that we do not keep you in that state, that we give back to you the requisite number of plates that you had in the past.”