PM implores Gold Rock owners on Port dispute

Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis.

Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis.


Tribune Business Editor


The Prime Minister last night said he had implored Gold Rock’s owners to “spend every effort” to resolve their differences with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and its affiliates despite signs the impasse cannot be resolved.

In a statement issued by Clint Watson, his press secretary, Philip Davis QC said he had updated his Cabinet after speaking with Gold Rock’s owners, the Florida-based Del Zotto family, in an effort to convince them to reverse their decision to exit Grand Bahama and leave an estimated 130 Bahamians without a job.

The Prime Minister said he had indicated they should seek to resolve the dispute with the GBPA and Grand Bahama Development Company (DevCO) so that their concrete manufacturing, hardware and home furnishings and accessories businesses remain in operation for the benefit of Grand Bahama’s economy and its people.

However, the Del Zottos replied that their relationship with Freeport’s quasi-governmental authority and DevCo had broken down to the point where it was likely irretrievable. “Regrettably a number of Bahamian jobs were lost. It’s the main reason why we’ve asked them to reconsider their position,” Mr Davis said in a statement, noting the public positions taken by both sides.

“Despite the very difficult issues, again, we asked the Del Zotto family to spend every effort to resolve the matter.” The Prime Minister’s intervention came as a former MP said the Gold Rock episode brought “the GBPA’s relevancy” to Freeport, Grand Bahama and its role in the island’s overall development “into question” again.

Frederick McAlpine, the ex-Pineridge MP, who was a key figure in a march on the GBPA’s headquarters earlier this year to deliver the concerns of residents and businesses about Freeport’s seeming lack of progress, said: “It has become a little bit perplexing to the Bahamian people in Grand Bahamas because, again, it means we’re losing jobs.

“It doesn’t seem that Gold Rock has good sentiments towards the Port Authority. They basically describe the Port Authority as a stumbling block to development in Grand Bahama. It puts us back to the point where we have to ask the question: Is the GBPA relevant? The closure of this company, it puts a lot of things in question. The question is who will be doing the concrete blocks, who will be making the blocks?

“This is just a question people want to know. Is the GBPA forcing them out to bring someone else in? That’s worth taking a look at, and is certainly not the first time I’ve heard of this. Outside of this family [the Del Zottos] I’ve heard it in other quarters as well, other investments in the past,” Mr McAlpine added.

“Although we hear about some of these things supposedly taking place, things are still extremely slow. We’re not hearing about the contract for the sale of the hotel, and the airport is still in shambles. It’s too small for the citizens of this island; it’s not the best of times. There’s still a lot of ambiguity around the hospital. A lot of these things we’ve heard about we have to lay at the feet of the Government and the Port Authority.”

A successful intervention by the Government could also be extremely difficult to achieve given that relations between Gold Rock and the GBPA, plus its Grand Bahama Development Company (DevCO) affiliate, appeared to have completely broken down with little prospect of reconciliation given the hostility exhibited to each other in their respective statements.

The spark that triggered the conflict appears to have been Gold Rock’s negotiations with DevCO over access to aggregate/fill in the latter’s Devonshire subdivision that was critical for its ready mix, block and pre-cast concrete products. DevCO, though, has argued that Gold Rock’s continued monopoly over this source cannot be justified because it had under-performed the previous contract by not taking the stipulated tonnage.

Unable to make headway over the terms they want, Gold Rock and the Del Zottos branded the GBPA as “the leaders of the most grossly underperforming island in The Bahamas” as they unveiled the shuttering of not just their concrete-making business but also their Grand Bahama-based hardware store and furniture and home centre.

The GBPA, though, said DevCO wanted to “right size” the deal such that Gold Rock would still have access to the same level of aggregate it previously mined, and be able to sustain its operations, but give up its exclusivity to let other Bahamian contractors have access to the same fill and thus create a “more equitable” arrangement for all industry players.

Arguing that the Home Design Center and Do It Center closures are “unnecessary”, because they are not impacted by the aggregate talks, the GBPA said: “This move, seemingly motivated by nothing but spite, will cost yet more hardworking families their livelihoods and further shrink the options available to consumers in a struggling economy.”


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