The redevelopment of the Grand Bahama Shipyard has become a prime focus of Carnival Corporation & PLC executives, who are now in discussions to build one of the world’s largest dockyard services and rebuild the industrial site into a Maritime Center of Americas.
Details of the upcoming project was revealed by Carnival Corporation & PLC Senior Vice President of Global Port and Destination Development, Giora Israel on Wednesday, February 13, in Miami Florida, where he explained that the initiative to build the dockyard was a long overdue idea.
During the interview, he reminisced on the mishap that took place on Monday, April 1, 2019, at the shipyard, where dock number two collapsed while repairing the Royal Oasis.
Israel noted the time has come to reform the industrial site to a number one world-wide source and that $100 million may be an investment needed to do such rebuilding.
“As you know, on April 2019 our largest dry dock what we call dock number two suffered a catastrophic structural failure, while servicing a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship. Unfortunately, the dock was deemed unsafe, unsalvageable and unrepairable and it is therefore being taken into bits and pieces and sold.
“It was the work horse for the dry dock and was able to take on a lot of ships; it couldn’t, however, take all the super large ships and as this incident occurred, we were already in discussion with the Grand Bahama Shipyard Board of Directors relating to the needs to one day having a large dry dock. So, when that incident happened, it expedited to process of evaluating needs of the GB Shipyard for its sustainable future in The Bahamas,” Israel.
“What happened also, we had some damage from the hurricane in September. Luckily, dock number three, which is our second largest dock, was not damaged and we were able to open the Shipyard eight days after the hurricane and continue the operations. But the loss of the workers at the Shipyard and the damage of dock number two, has left the Shipyard at, maybe, 25 percent of its capacity and ability to service ships prior to April 2019.
“We are now in a situation that obviously is not very welcoming for Grand Bahama due to having the Caribbean largest industrial facility, and that is what we were, the world’s largest cruise ship repair facility,” he added.
Israel stressed that the dock is something that cannot be repaired, because it is a total lost and it is already being dismantled. “But we are breaking down the dock and selling it as scrap, which has cost us over $10 million by just taking it apart and taking it out of the water.
“We do not have a firm investment amount of the new dock, but it is probably in the $100 million area that will cost to build such a dock. It will be the biggest floating dock to have been built in the last decade anywhere in the world and it is likely to be built in China. We are in discussion with the yard and therefore, the need to talk to the government about the investment.
“The $100 million also include infrastructure that is needed in the Shipyard to expand the land needs at the yard.”
Israel noted that shortly after the 2019 incident officials looked at the labour roster, which resulted in hundreds of ex-patriots returning to their country.
“We kept some that are key to the operations and have decided to take the extraordinary step and advised the government that we will keep every Bahamian on a 40-hour week time schedule. We will try not to fire any Bahamians, although we don’t need all those workers at all.
“We really can let a few go, maybe even 100, but we have decided not to do so and to sweat it through a little bit until we are able to get the operations back,” Israel revealed.
He admitted that the Shipyard will be losing a few millions of dollars this year. “So, the pressure that we have from being shareholders to support our operating expenses, obviously labour, but also our debt service for the loans are outstanding at the yard. The cruise line has 80 percent shareholders of the Shipyard, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Carnival, and since the opening of the yard 20 years ago, have not yet taken out one penny of a dividend. Indeed, we have a Shipyard to service our ships, but we paid market price for it. But we have recently decided that we will proceed and look at the possibility of making a major investment and building a new dry dock and replacing the one that was damaged.”
The Vice President said, he and his team are set to meet with government sometime this month or the second week in March to discuss the expansion of the dock yard and they are looking forward to the working with other departments that play a special role in the possible new dock.
“We are planning to meet with government late February or the second week of March to discuss this new expansion of the yard and we are looking forward to working with the things that are needed by government; the things that are needed from Freeport Harbour Company and to the lease extension. As the Shipyard enters 20 years of existence, we will also need to update our relationship with them as well.
“The way the shipyard works is a place of Bahamian labour and we have a core group of people close to 380 to 450; this core group of people work in the yard today.”
He added that although some employees were let go because of the incident, the company was carrying this entire labour force although there was no revenue.
“We are working with about 25 different sub-contractors who provide services and labour to the yard. So, when the new dry dock comes, the labour directly will increase.”
Although faced with the challenge of losing some of its business to competitors, he remains optimistic that the new dock will be one of the best.