GBCC Chief: Time for Govt to take control of airport operations

HURRICANE DAMAGE – The GB International and Domestic Terminals were severely damaged as a result historic flood levels, due to Hurricane Dorian. (PHOTO: TFN FILE)

“There is a need for critical and regular updates from the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s (GBPA) City Manager on the airport and on water conditions,” said President of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC), Greg Laroda.

As it relates to the airport, Laroda said, updates are requested for the temporary and long-term resumption to an appropriately sized and resourced international airport for Grand Bahama.

Both the Grand Bahama Domestic and International Terminals were severely damaged, due flooding because of Hurricane Dorian in early September.

Laroda noted that the airport is such a critical aspect of Grand Bahama’s economy and now is the time for the government to take control of its operations. 

“That is something that we should no longer leave up to others or to a foreign investor,” he stated.

Hutchison Port FHC, airport co-owner along with the GBPA, initially revealed how the company planned on addressing the airport’s Dorian-related damages. 

The company is responsible for the Freeport Container Port (FCP), Freeport Harbour Company (FHC) and the Grand Bahama Airport Company (GBAC). 

The company’s biggest issue after Dorian is the airport. 

According to reports, all airport buildings sustained damage, some worse than others. Some of the damage was so severe that the company considered several of the buildings to be “write-offs.” 

Presently, there is no United States pre-clearance at the airport and will not be for months to come. The facilities that planned for airport will be temporary, while Hutchison concentrates on restarting the commercial operations until officials move further with long-term planning on how the airport will be reengaged to its fullest state. 

Dorian affected customs, immigration, the cargo operation, the commercial operation, general aviation operations, damaged some taxi ways and all the fencing lines at the airport.

According to airport officials, the airport must make it to a position where it is standard or approved by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) in the USA. It is the key issue and must satisfy TSA’s basic requirements. 

Fortunately, the airport runway was left intact, therefore, domestic and commercial flights are operational and general aviation aircraft providing relief are operational. 

It was acknowledged that the company understands the need for commercial flights relating to business and the local economy. 

While not providing many details, reports revealed that the company knows that they will not return to their usual way of doing business at the airport.

It was revealed that the company would move ahead to the point where its focus is simply restoring the airport to a commercial international operation in the shortest possible time that it could be done.

Additionally, Laroda stressed that there is also a need for clear and regular updates on the status of the restoration of potable water on the island and a clear plan for the prevention of the crisis happening again.

With regards to the GBUC, in early November the company provided updates which confirmed steady progress towards its full return to potable water on Grand Bahama. 

Prior to the onset of Hurricane Dorian, tap water provided to the community of Grand Bahama was below 600 ppm (salt particle content per million parts of water), which bettered by a large margin the 1,000 ppm World Health Organization (WHO) standard for consumption. In certain other jurisdictions, 1,500 ppm is considered an acceptable level. 

In addition to the damaged pumping stations, which were brought back on line within five-seven days of the storm to restore the island’s running water ‘distribution’, the wrath of Hurricane Dorian compromised the island’s ‘supply’ of fresh salt-free water in Wellfields 1, 3, 6, comprising some 220 wells in total, which account for 35 percent, five percent and 60 percent of water being supplied throughout the island. 

Wellfields 1 and 3 were flooded with 4 feet of sea water, while Wellfield 6 was flooded with 21 ft. of sea water for a period of 36 hours during and after the treacherous storm. The flooding destroyed the entire vertical infrastructure including utility poles, wires, electrical components, control and motoring systems. 

Assessments reportedly revealed a continuing decline in salinity levels.

Residents have been advised through public notices that the water can be used for sanitary purposes only and not for consumption. 

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