By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
TRANSPORT and Housing Minister Jobeth Coleby-Davis told boaters that a major project will soon commence for the installation of navigational lighting and buoys throughout the country.
While attending a town meeting in Eight Mile Rock at Zion Baptist Church on Monday evening, Mrs Coleby-Davis revealed that a Bahamian group has been approved to carry out the project, which should take about 18 months to complete.
The lack of lighting at sea has been an ongoing issue and a big concern for boaters, particularly in Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Additionally, boaters are calling for more boat ramps and dock repairs, and have raised concerns about the removal of wrecks still out to sea that pose a safety issue to them.
Concerned boater Gary Russell told the minister: “Safety is important to me, but one of the things I realise when trying to get home after dark, it is usually a problem because there are no navigational lights.”
He also noted that the amount of floating wreckage is another problem they face out at sea. “There are lots of things floating in the ocean; there was a yacht floating (around) out there for a year. There are a lot of things out there. If you hit them at night, you are a goner.”
Mrs Coleby-Davis acknowledged that her ministry is aware of those issues and is working to address them.
“Last year, we were presented with an excellent presentation by a young Bahamian … and we have tentatively decided on a group for new lighting and buoys throughout the entire Bahamas,” she said. This statement was loudly applauded.
“They have been approved, and we are getting ready to get them started before this summer. That is a large project, and they told us it would take 18 months to complete to tackle every single area.
“I have been getting letters from the day I took office about boat lighting in Abaco and Grand Bahama. So, we have tackled that and are looking to get them started as soon as possible.”
She noted that the project would encompass the entire Bahamas.
The minister reported that the yacht wreckage to which Mr Russell referred has been removed.
“We moved that,” she said. “We are cleaning up; we have been working.”
Acting port controller Bern Wright said the Ministry of Transport has a wreckage cleaning programme to address the issue of wrecks at sea.
“We are aware of many challenges in terms of wrecks, and as the minister indicated we have a process to move all this stuff, but we are working on some things, and we are on it,” he said.
In addition to the lack of lighting, Shervin Tate, of Sweeting’s Cay, noted that the dock and the channel there continue to be challenges, especially when ferrying their children to McLean’s Town to attend school.
“This has been going on for 30-40 years, which is very sad. I would like you to visit East Grand Bahama and Sweeting’s Cay to see the challenges that we face, especially with future leaders who have to travel six o’clock in the morning in the channel with no light,” he said.
“We also have a problem with the channel that was dredged, we can’t take our kids out of Sweeting’s Cay when the weather is bad. So, we do need docking facilities, and there is still lots of debris after Dorian.”
Mr Tate commended Mrs Coleby-Davis for the work she is doing and taking time to come to hear their concerns.
Mrs Coleby-Davis plans to reschedule her trip to meet with boaters in East Grand Bahama, even though a few of them made the long journey to West Grand Bahama to attend the town meeting.
Another initiative that her ministry is planning to get on stream by summer, she said, is a portal for boaters.
“The portal, we are hoping to have it up and running before the summer. But, I am not certain where the IT team is with that. They have been working on it since the beginning of January, and we are asking them to have it up and running before the summer because we know it is busy,” she explained.
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