Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis assured current employees of the Grand Bahama International Airport that their jobs will remain secured.
The prime minister made the promise during the official signing for the purchase of the GBIA on Thursday, April 29.
Noting that it was a pleasure to return to Grand Bahama in less than a week, following the recommissioning of the Rand Memorial Hospital on Friday, April 23, Dr. Minnis expressed that the focus of this trip is the future of the island’s aviation facility and that of its employees.
“Today, I am focusing on the Grand Bahama International Airport. I wish to first address the airport’s employees. There are currently 63 employees of the Grand Bahama Airport Company. Through this purchase, we have ensured that all who want to be, will be properly engaged by the Airport Authority with the appropriate compensation packages.
“The official turnover date is May 31, 2021 and the contracts to the employees being re-engaged will be issued during the week of May 24,” confirmed Dr. Minnis.
“Employees are assured that their jobs are secured,” he added.
The PM noted also that the government understands the contributions Grand Bahamians have made to this airport and will continue to make the new airport that will develop.
“I am pleased to confirm that the request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of the new Grand Bahama International Airport is significantly underway. The Department of Aviation is working closely with our international consultants, Leigh Fisher. This group has helped to successfully steward similar projects in our region to issue a market-leading RFP, so that the market can drive the process.
“We are pleased that there is high interest in the airport development and continue to receive many inquiries for the redevelopment of this airport.
“Accordingly, we engaged Leigh Fisher in order to be transparent in the redevelopment of the facility, and in awarding a contract to a new management partner.
“We expect that the RFP will be issued within the next three months and a decision made as soon as the review process is completed,” said the nation’s chief.
Dr. Minnis added that even prior to the RFP being released, he has been advised that there is already public interest from at least five local entities regarding the redevelopment of the island’s sole operational airport facility.
“Based on all of the reports I have been provided, there is a very high level of interest in partnering with the Bahamas Government in this redevelopment project. I am pleased to advise that at least five Bahamian entities have already approached the government to be on public private partnership (PPP) for this facility prior to the release of the Request for Proposal.
“We have advised in each case that these expressions of interest should be responded to via the RFP that will be released by the Department of Aviation. There will be no negotiations prior to the recommendations of the selection committee,” he said.
The PM noted that the redevelopment of the airport will result in a turn-key operation, inclusive of design, financing, and construction, utilizing local talent for a state-of-the-art facility for Grand Bahama.
“Final costs are not yet determined and will be driven by the RFP process. Our expectation is that our partners, working closely with the government under a public-private partnership arrangement (PPP), will bring the resources to the table without the government having to inject any significant capital other than the facilities we are purchasing today.
“I am pleased to further advise that pending the redevelopment of this facility that spans 2,500 acres, we will invest approximately $1.5 million. These funds will be utilized to rebuild the Customs Warehouse, carry out elevator and structural repairs to the Air Traffic Control Tower, and secure office space for the airport management team and airlines. The planning for these activities is well underway. We decided to proceed ahead of the acquisition of the airport, as we want to minimize the wait time after acquisition with this redevelopment exercise,” informed Dr. Minnis.
For the purpose of the transaction, the SPV, which is known as the Freeport Airport Development Company Ltd, has already been formed by the Office of the Attorney General, according to Minnis.
This Freeport Airport Development Company Ltd. will source the financing. Further, passenger facility and other user fees, as well as the revenues to be generated in operating this facility, will service the debt of the company.
“In many ways, this will almost mirror the current business arrangement that exists with Nassau Airport Development Company and Lynden Pindling International Airport where that facility has little to no cost going to the people of The Bahamas.
“As we previously reported, we are paying the Freeport Harbour Company $1.00 for this airport facility, let me repeat, one Bahamian dollar. Additionally, we are paying approximately $1 million to assist in staff severance costs.
“The Freeport Harbour Company has invested $1.6 million to convert the Fixed Based Operation (FBO) into a new temporary terminal and has been subsidizing the monthly operating costs of this facility. After the transfer date, and until the new PPP is identified through the RFP process, the government has committed to continue to carry these costs.”
During his remarks on the acquisition of the GBIA, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar noted that in the negotiations of the sale, the Government of The Bahamas worked out a deal with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, regarding license fees with the Airport Authority, which will assume responsibility of the FAD.
“The Airport Authority, its subsidiaries and any potential private sector operator of the airport will not be subjected to any license fees from the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) once the Government of the Bahamas retains one hundred per cent ownership of this airport.
“The government has also negotiated that any other business that operates in the confines of this airport, will too, not be subjected to any GBPA license fees for at least five years, with the possibility of an extension,” stated D’Aguilar.