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Govt Considering Buying Gb International Airport

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TOURISM and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

GOVERNMENT is mulling over purchasing the Grand Bahama International Airport from owners Hutchinson Port Holdings, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday.

According to Mr D’Aguilar, who has responsibility for airports in the country, Hutchinson seemed “reluctant” to rebuild the airport to its former glory.

As a result, he said buying GBIA would be the “easiest” thing for government to do. However, with 28 airports in the country already straining the public treasury, government may be hard pressed to acquire another facility.

Asked about this, he said a determination would have to be made on how the facility would fund itself.

“Certainly it’s under consideration and that is all I would be prepared to say right now,” Mr D’Aguilar said when asked if government planned to buy the Grand Bahama Airport.

“Hutchinson Ports are the operator of that airport. They have not demonstrated an effort to rebuild that airport to where it was before and they seem somewhat reluctant so the government is considering its options.

“Now buying the airport is the easiest thing. It’s what you do once you get the airport. So right now the focus of the Bahamian people is on Hutchinson Ports to do something with that airport. Once you buy it the focus now shifts to the government of the Bahamas.

He continued: “To rebuild that airport could cost $20m, $30m, (or) $40m. You have to figure out where that money is going to come from. You have to consider who the operator is going to be. You have to consider how that airport makes money.

“So before we spend the money of the people of the Bahamas we have to consider all these things and I don’t think the government wants to be rushed into making that decision. We understand that it is critical to the economy of Grand Bahama. We are sensitive to that but we have to think through the purchase.”

“Everybody is just focus on ‘are you going to buy it?” OK what do you do when you buy it? You can’t just buy it and it just sits there.

“You have got to have a plan and so if we were to agree to buy it we have to work through the plan. As to what is the plan when we acquire it? That’s what we’re looking at right now.”

Asked how government would afford another airport, he said: “The objective is to determine what is going to be the revenue source; how is it going to fund itself and that is what we’re looking at.

“Looking at the business model obviously we look to NAD, the model at the Lynden Pindling International Airport. Clearly they have a lot more traffic than Grand Bahama so we’re trying to figure what is the business model, how does that work.

“You can’t sort of make that decision right on the fly you’ve got to do a lot of research, you’ve got to get all the financials, you’ve got to consider all those things, so are we considering it, yes, but we’re working though all of the proposals and how we would make it work once we acquired it.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Hutchison Whampoa (HW) stuck it good to Minnis by making Bahamian taxpayers buy the Grand Lucayan Hotel for a ridiculously high price because HW's refusal to fix it up and re-open it in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. And now they are doing exactly the same thing with respect to Grand Bahama International Airport in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Minnis must have dunce cap on his head as far as HW and the government of Red China are concerned. They can't believe their luck in getting our country's lead dolt to bail them out by increasing our already unsustainable national debt and the horrendous tax burden now on the backs of the vast majority of Bahamians.

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DEDDIE 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Buy the airport! The government should take over the second largest airport in the Bahamas.

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BMW 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree Debbie, take the airport from them. What is wrong with the government, tell both the port and hutchinlson you got one week to get repairs/rebuild going or walk away from the property. We Bahamians are being held hostage in our own country. WTF

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joeblow 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The problem is that the previous GB airport was destroyed after flooding from two back to back hurricanes. They built the new one a stones throw from the old one but elevated the foundation. There was still flooding in the new airport during Dorian. A flooded runway and airport makes it difficult to get supplies into the island in the immediate aftermath of a major storm.

The government should abandon the current location of the airport (because it is in a flood prone area) and build a new airport at a much higher elevation to minimize wasting funds renovating the airport after every major hurricane and to ensure they can respond quickly by getting supplies and support into the island after a major storm.

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Is it in a flood zone? Never floods during a normal rain storm. I've lived here 20 years and it's only flooded during some hurricanes.

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joeblow 2 months, 2 weeks ago

… lived there for almost 20 years. Experienced most of the major hurricanes there. Witnessed firsthand the damage at the old airport. Never said it floods during a "normal rain storm". When people are critically injured after a major hurricane and the Rand is out of service, 48 hrs is too long to wait to have an airport open for emergency flights etc!

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 2 weeks ago

And the runway has been opened within 48 hours of every storm.

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cjohnjtang 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Taking the GBIA from the shareholders by any means including 'eminent domain' would be a blood bath, Hutch will fight it tooth and nail, having far deeper pockets than the Government. The resulting brawl will do irreparable damage to the reputation of the Bahamas in the world investor view. Look at Hutch's annual report, the Bahamas barely makes a mention, however you are kidding yourself if you think they are simply going to walk away. Also the idea of moving the GBIA to higher ground sounds easy but is beyond the reach of the government finances. You are looking at acquisition of land, infrastructure, etc., and a 4-5 year program. As 40+% of the island flooded where do you find a couple of hundred acres above the 'new' flood plain. You really need to work with what you have and try to make it as flood resistant as possible. Also the terminal built in 2002 was elevated based on historic data is this now obsolete? Is Dorian with its 20'+ surge the new norm. If so then 40+% of the island should be off limits for building A suggestion, the Dutch have been living and building airports below sea level successfully since the 1950’s, an expert opinion/ recommendation from them would be money well spent.

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joeblow 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Two points:

1) the Bahamas does not have river dikes (like the Dutch) to prevent flooding, 2) flooding in the Netherlands is NOT caused by storm surge.

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cjohnjtang 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The Dutch coastal defenses were the result of a major flood caused by a heavy storm that occurred on the night of Saturday, 31 January 1953 and morning of Sunday, 1 February 1953. The floods were a combination of a high spring tide and a severe windstorm over the North Sea caused a storm tide. Realizing that such infrequent events could reoccur, the Netherlands, carried out major studies on strengthening of coastal defenses. The Netherlands developed the Delta Works, an extensive system coastal storm surge barriers. All I am saying is that it is worth getting some experts to give an opinion.

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think our government can prove in court that Hutch is a bad corporate citizen and take it form them. Just cause they have more money does not mean an automatic win. Specially if they're wrong.....

And there is no need to move our airport, flooding in a hurricane is pretty much normal and it's usually up and running within 48 hours. It only ever floods during hurricanes.

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cjohnjtang 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Either way it doesn't happen over night, it will be a long drawn out process during which no one is rebuilding the GBIA.

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bahamianson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

with what? Do you think I want to pay an increase in VAT again? I do not want my children's children to pay it of either. Spend what you can afford to spend and stop spending our money like it is your personal account.

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cjohnjtang 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The bottom line is it is going to cost $40M to rebuild the existing and $80M to move to a new site. Nothing is going to happen until the funds are found for this and additional $$$ for the purchase of the assets if the Govt. goes down that path.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Frankly, all we need to do is accept the deal put on the table by the U.S. government to deal with the entire lot of you forever more. ROWL

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