• Port operator: Breakwater repairs ‘on front burner’
• Staff search hit by ‘extraordinary wage expectation’
• Battling truckers bypassing safety through ‘fraud’
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Nassau’s main commercial shipping port is renewing warnings that failure to repair the harbour’s western breakwater could “result in immense damage to, and threaten life”, in the city centre.
Arawak Port Development Company (APD), in its just-released annual report, said reversing the continued deterioration of this protective barrier against storm surge and high seas remains on its “front burner” given the danger posed not just to its own commercial viability but Nassau’s cruise tourism product.
The BISX-listed port owner and operator, repeating an annual call for action that goes back at least five years, said it had “an obligation” to continue working with the Government in a bid to see repair work begin during its current financial year which closes at end-June 2023.
“For the new fiscal year and beyond, the restoration of the Nassau Harbour western breakwater will remain on the front burner for APD, owing to the threat this vital barrier’s ongoing degradation poses to the safety of ships entering the harbour to do business with Nassau Container Port and Nassau Cruise Port,” the Arawak Cay port owner said.
“Furthermore, this situation impacts the efficiency of, and profitability of, both entities as well as that of the tourism/hospitality plant and other coastal business ventures. Moreover, if erosion of this essential barrier continues, as science and observation have shown us, failure to rebuild could result in immense damage to the city itself and threaten life. We take it as an obligation to continue to work with government to see the project launched in 2022-2023.”
Nassau Container Port and its senior executives have constantly urged that repairs to the breakwater be a high-priority item given the potential threat to tourism, the cruise industry and commercial shipping - all three of which are industries that the Bahamian economy and society rely heavily on to provide a lifeline. Among other entities that could be impacted by waves and storm surge breaking through are The Pointe and its newly-opened Margaritaville resort.
Dion Bethell, APD’s (APD) president and chief financial officer, last year said the company planned to “resubmit” to the Government a shortlist of two firms that could examine the extent of the breakwaters’ erosion and determine the multi-million dollar repair/replacement costs.
The firms involved were Orion Marine Construction and Bermello Ajamil & Partners, and he explained that the Nassau harbour safeguards - which have been in place since Majority Rule some 54 years ago - are “no longer able to absorb the energy from the ocean” especially at high tide or during rough weather.
This impacts “the channel” cargo vessels use to access Nassau’s major commercial shipping port, and complicates the work of APD staff, service providers and ship’s crew in unloading and working on the boat. The “roll”, or pitch, of cargo vessels in such circumstances can be between “six to ten feet up and down”, which is “very unforgiving” on APD’s cranes and other equipment and results in significant wear and tear.
While vessels can still safely enter and exit the Arawak Cay-based port, Mr Bethell added that APD “won’t compromise” on safety. Junkanoo Beach, and the area in close proximity to The Pointe, had previously been selected as one of the sites to benefit from a $35m Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan designed to enhance coastal zone management and related infrastructure, and make it more resilient to climate change impacts.
Elsewhere, APD revealed it has faced challenges recruiting new staff to replace those who departed during COVID due to the “extraordinary expectations” that applicants have when it comes to their salaries and benefits. “APD experienced staff losses during the pandemic lockdowns, requiring human resources to focus on rebuilding manpower capacity,” the annual report said.
“There have also been new hiring challenges. Many job seekers present with extraordinary expectations in terms of salaries and perks that are not consistent with their skills and experience profiles. However, the manpower complement is now nearing pre-COVID levels.”
Many other employers will likely recognise APD’s difficulties in recruiting workers who possess the skills it requires to function with maximum operational efficiency. “Among the challenges in staffing for 2022-2023 will be retaining top performers, making carefully reflected hires and training replacements where there have been losses,” the port operator added.
“A top concern will be to attract people who will provide the best fit. This will require APD to carefully review our corporate culture, compensation, incentives for competitive performance, and operating policies and procedures relating to retention of good employees and attracting new ones.”
The BISX-listed port operator also disclosed its battle with truckers who used “fraudulent means” in a bid to bypass its checks and systems designed to ensure all vehicles admitted meet the required safety standards.
“The protocol of inspecting trucks continued to ensure roadworthiness and fitness to move about the port without compromising the safety of APD personnel and all port users. Here the challenge was to detect and defeat attempts of drivers who try to defraud the system,” APD revealed.
“Another concern was barring from entering the port truckers who do not meet safety requirements to pass gate inspection. There were those who tried to use fraudulent means to bypass this necessary stage that protects port personnel and equipment, and contributes to the safety of the public when trucks are in code.”
COVID-related shocks to the shipping industry and global supply chain, APD added, were likely to drive increased demand for “more flexible shipping services” that could provide new business opportunities. “Meanwhile e-commerce, accelerated by the pandemic, has transformed consumer shopping habits and spending patterns, and driven the demand for distribution facilities and warehousing that are digitally enabled and value-added services,” Mr Bethell wrote.
“This could generate new business opportunities for shippers, Nassau Container Port and affiliated public and private maritime agencies. All the foregoing must be in active discussion to assess the potential challenges and opportunities to discover how this evolution can be exploited for the benefit of APD and the country at large......
“All told, COVID-19, in its continued evolutions, has changed the face of the maritime industry fundamentally across all economic and social strata. It turned the spotlight on the company’s quality infrastructure, its standards, standard operating procedures, its teams, and management,” the APD chief continued.
“Continued profitability will hinge largely on our timely response to changing circumstances and the company’s ability to pivot and adopt new norms, especially in health protection, communications, and staff deployment. This is a global challenge, and the ones who are quickest off the blocks and into the race will reap the greater rewards.”
DWW 4 months, 2 weeks ago
This the company that is posting record profits but they want the empty public purse to cover their expenses? Interesting.
Dawes 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Surely if they pay the required taxes it is Governments job to repair it. Isn't the safety of the harbor the governments responsibility? Or should we expect the people who live on eastern road to pave their own road, i mean after all they should have the money for it right?
Flyingfish 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Yeah but, the reason why the government can provide services is because someone through a Government tax or government SOE pays for it.
If a company benefitting from the port doesn't pay into government pockets then it is economically disvantagious for the government to provide services unless they were getting something in return that was irreplaceable.
sheeprunner12 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Needs to be done via a PPP (APD & Govt) ........ 50/50
tribanon 4 months, 2 weeks ago
birdiestrachan 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Eleven families own 60% of that port thanks to the FNM papa why did he not put something in place for them to do the repairs the FNM Government caters the rich
Sickened 4 months, 2 weeks ago
You need to think beyond RED and YELLOW. Thankfully very few PLP supporters are so jaded and ignorant.
DonAnthony 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Not accurate birdie, 40% owned by these families, 40% owned by government and 20% owned by public
birdiestrachan 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Cuss me up one side and down the other what I said is still True the FNM party makes the richer and the poor who cares The FNM papa should have made an agreement for the rich folks who have the right to increase their cost so that their profits remain high it is a burden on the poor , The Truths hurt and facts can not be denied
birdiestrachan 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Thanks for the corrections it is still a great deal for those families , what about maintaining the profits earned and the increase in the cost of services
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