A new cruise port located in East Grand Bahama will be built on the north shore west of Stat Oil in a region that has been determined to bear the least devastating environmental effects.
While speaking at Grand Bahama Business Outlook in Freeport, Prime Minister Perry Christie said that the cruise port will take 2 years to construct and will significantly benefit the island.
“We shall shortly conclude a Head of Agreement with Carnival. We have finished our end for some time now for a major cruise port in East Grand Bahama,” he revealed.
While an exact location was not disclosed, Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville shared some details of a site two and a half miles west of Stat Oil on the north shore.
“The exact location I cannot give … but it is an excellent piece of land and it was selected because of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It was proven it would have the least devastating effects to the water aquifers in East Grand Bahama, which is essential for water supply for the entire island of Grand Bahama,” he said.
The USD 200 million cruise port was given the green light by the National Economic Council for conclusion of a heads of agreement after lengthy negotiations between the government and Carnival Cruise Lines.
Environmental groups have raised concerns about a cruise port being built in East Grand Bahama, citing the area as “one of the most fragile and important ecological wonders of the Bahamas”.
Prime Minister Christie assured that, in their talks with Carnival Cruise Line, government discussed at length the environment of Grand Bahama.
“We don’t make any decision with respect of a development that has the potential impact on the environment without making it subject to environmental approval,” he explained when asked about consultation regarding the EIA.
“After an EIA is done and assuming it is satisfactory, then we make it also subject to Environmental Management Planning,” he said. “And so, in the process in talking to Carnival Cruise Line we discussed at length the environment of GB.”
The Prime Minister said government has negotiated that concessions with the cruise company would be for Bahamians in terms of entrepreneurial opportunities.
“We are so close to doing some big things in GB. I hope most of it can happen before the election. But in our country, it will continue regardless to who wins after the election. And you have a stake in ensuring that progress is not delayed by foolish political decisions. And if those things come about, we are talking about a new Freeport and a new Grand Bahama,” said Mr Christie.
David Jones, the Grand Bahama Taxi Union president, told the Prime Minister that the common man and ordinary Bahamians like taxi drivers benefit very little when new developments come to the island. He reminded Mr Christie of a promise that he made publicly in Grand Bahama in December, 2015, concerning a 50-50 arrangement between taxi drivers and tour operators concerning movement of cruise passengers on the Grand Celebration, which has still not happened. Mr Jones said:
Taxi drivers move only 400 of the 1,500 Grand Celebration passengers that come to Freeport. Mr Jones indicated that bigger buses are coming in and taking business away from cab drivers. The laws governing the transporting of passengers at the harbour are not being adhered to, stressed Mr Jones. He also felt that tax exemptions by the government should have been granted to taxi drivers and small businesses following the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in Grand Bahama.