By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Grand Bahama Shipyard will become “the biggest industrial concern in the Caribbean by far” if it proceeds with a $100m-plus investment to build the world’s largest floating dock.
Giora Israel, Carnival Corporation’s senior vice-president for port and destination development, told Tribune Business that the Shipyard and its owners are currently exploring the “options and opportunities” to build such a dock in China to replace the one that was lost in April 2019’s accident.
Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating fall-out has impacted the ability of the Shipyard’s cruise line shareholders to fund this investment directly, he added that some financing may be raised in The Bahamas to help cover the costs of associated land-based infrastructure work that would accompany the new dock.
Mr Israel, who sits on the Shipyard’s Board representing Carnival as a 40 percent shareholder, with the remaining ownership split 40/20 between Royal Caribbean and the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s Port Group Ltd, said investing in a larger dock was under consideration prior to the April 2019 accident involving the Oasis of the Seas cruise liner.
“Royal Caribbean’s ship was being taken only partially out of the water because the dry dock could not carry such a big ship,” he recalled. “The manoevere had been done before, but this time something went wrong and the dock was destroyed. It was a total loss and had to be cut to pieces and taken out.
“That incident causes a lot of setbacks as we were unable to operate on other ships. The shareholders started the process of recovering the wreck and claiming the insurance proceeds. That process has not been completed.”
The accident meant GB Shipyard lost its status as the world’s busiest cruise ship repair facility, having serviced three-and-a-half times the number of vessels seen by any rival yard. The accident left the company functioning at just 25 percent capacity.
Mr Israel, though, said its shareholders had been anticipating “building a larger dock” in response to the increasing size of cruise ships that would have been “the biggest floating dock in the Americas”.
Subsequent inquiries confirmed that such a dock has to be built in Asia rather than Europe, but the cruise industry’s enforced COVID-19 closure and billions of dollars in losses has disrupted financing plans.
“We are looking at our options and opportunities to build such a dock in China,” Mr Israel told Tribune Business. “The COVID-19 situation put a strain on the ability of the shareholders to directly fund it. We’re looking at various options and opportunities as to how to build it and fund it. We’re looking at this process.
“We have to talk to the Government in due course as we get more advanced in this process. It [the dock] will definitely be the biggest in the world; by far the biggest in the world. We have a lot of engineers working on it. We have to bring it over from China.
“I would say this investment will be north of $100m. There are parts that include the dock itself, the cranes needed to support the ship, and infrastructure on land. If this project comes about, and when it comes about, it will make the Grand Bahama Shipyard the largest industrial concern in the Caribbean by far.”
Mr Israel said just 20 percent of the Shipyard’s clients prior to the April 2019 accident were cruise ships, with the 80 percent balance featuring cargo vessels, bulk carriers and naval ships such as Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) vessels.