By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Society of Engineers (BSE) president says 2023 is the “hottest” year for construction-related development that he has seen in a long time as there are “projects all around".
Quentin Knowles told Tribune Business he is struggling to keep pace with the volume of contracts and bids on offer, saying: “Things are looking good. I see projects all around. I can look at in two perspectives. I’m a consultant engineer and I also am an electrical contractor, so I get a real good understanding of what’s going on and I have to say things are looking really good now. I can’t complain.”
He warned, however, he reiterated previous industry warnings about the negative fall-out for the construction industry if the majority of petroleum retailers stop selling diesel. Sales of that fuel resumed on Wednesday, following a two-day stoppage as part of gas statin operators' impasse with the Government over a margin increase, but a consistent, reliable supply of diesel is vital to the construction industry because so much of its equipment runs on it.
“This is extremely inconvenient, because the other day a member of my service crew was complaining to me that they had to go around Nassau looking for diesel for three hours," Mr Knowles said. "That is not sustainable. There is no way we can go around scrapping for diesel, but there was an official that said a few days ago that there is diesel is on the island and you just have to look for it.
Mr Knowles was referring to comments made by Michael Halkitis, minister for economic affairs, who referenced the fact that Shell-branded stations, owned and operated by BISX-listed FOCOL Holdings, were continuing to sell the fuel.
"Mr Halkitis’ comments don’t help us in the least," Mr Knowles added. "That doesn’t help the industry. When you’re running a business, and to have to rely on those comments is no comfort at all. When I have guys sitting on the back of a truck looking for diesel, who pays for those guys? I hope they get it sorted out soon. It doesn’t affect me all that much, but for the businesses that rely on diesel, they must be hurting.”
With construction “red hot", Mr Knowles said: “You see the guys go to work on those backhoes, and on the backs of those vehicles being transported to and from the site.... those vehicles are diesel for the most part. But I guess the gas retailers decided enough was enough and it was time to stand up for themselves. I have empathy for them because I am in a low margin business myself, and Business Licence fees are a substantial portion of any profits you do make.
“I see a lot of projects, I hear a lot of input. We're landing projects. We got awarded a contract recently. We are constantly bidding and, as an engineer, we see there's a lot of interest. People asked us to provide fee proposals for engineering work and, on the construction side, we're bidding projects. So from my perspective, I think things are going well.”