Aviation Minister: ‘work on GB new airport to begin this month’

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DPM Chester Cooper

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas — Work on the $170 million Grand Bahama International Airport project is expected to begin preliminary works by the end of March, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, the Hon. Chester Cooper.

During his address at the opening of the 2023 Grand Bahama Business Outlook, held at the Grand Lucayan on Thursday, March 16, 2023, DPM Cooper pointed out that one of the critical componenets in getting the Grand Lucayan sold is to have a world-class international airport that can accommodate US Pre-Clearance.

“With regard to that, I can make an announcement – Grand Bahama, your new airport is coming and will soon be here,” said Minister Cooper.

With a promise not to placate his audience – a room of tentative, anxious, and expecting Grand Bahamian movers and shakers in all spheres of the economy — Minister Cooper stood sure-footed in his pronouncements of immediate works to begin on GB’s new airport.

He pointed out that in February, the Government of The Bahamas entered into an agreement with Aerodrome Limited, a Bahamian company; Manchester Airport Group Limited, an airport management company based in Manchester in the United Kingdom; and BHM Construction International, a company based in London.

These three companies represent a joint venture consortium that successfully bid to design, finance, build, operate, maintain and redevelop the Grand Bahama International Airport and generate traffic to grow revenue and to further enhance Grand Bahama International Airport.

In fact, Minister Cooper acknowledged that representatives from the United Kingdom and other representatives from the joint venture had made it their mission to be in Grand Bahama for the Business Outlook and were present at the meeting.

“This group has committed to transform GBIA into a carbon neutral, climate resilient, commercially viable, world-class airport,” said Mr. Cooper.

“This airport will consist of two phases which are expected to generate 1,200 construction jobs consistently over the next 5 years. Ninety percent of these jobs are to be reserved for Bahamians and work permits will only be granted where Bahamians cannot be found in accordance with our immigration laws and policies.

“During construction of Phase I of the new Grand Bahama International Airport, which is expected to be completed no later than April 2025, 300 construction jobs will be created, with another 50 engineering, management and accounting jobs.”

According to the Aviation Minister phase one will consist of the domestic terminal, the US Pre-Clearance terminal, new initial taxiways and aprons, new initial roads and car parks, a flood mitigation system, a flood attenuation basin, renewable energy systems, a sea defense berm and support bridges, air freight cargo facilities.

Phase two will consist of new expanded taxiways and aprons, a new domestic parallel runway, new expanded roads and car parks, and a new expanded heavy lift Air Freight Cargo center. Phase two is expected to get off the ground within two years of the commencement of Phase one.

“The airport will be subject to all environmental permitting laws,” said Mr. Cooper. “The construction of the Cargo Zone is expected to commence within three years. The new business at the Cargo Zone will create approximately 50 permanent new jobs each year for a minimum of 10 years, resulting in at least 500 new jobs in Grand Bahama.

As for the pecking order in which roles each company in the joint venture consortium group will play in the new international airport, Minister Cooper pointed out that Aerodrome will develop and finance the airport, as well as manage the project under contract with the Freeport Airport Development Company; BHMCI will be the design builder and Manchester Airport Group will operate the airport.

“Aero will enter into an agreement with Manchester Airport Group to come up with a facility and management fee structure,” explained Minister Cooper. “Net profits from the airport operations of funds will go into an Airport Infrastructure Fund.

“This is an example of how this administration is using public private partnerships to move Grand Bahama forward. We have already renovated the domestic terminal. And we have increased its operating hours just this week to 8 p.m.

“We have installed new modular units on the ground to accommodate customs and immigration. And we established an independent board of the Freeport Airport Development Company specifically to focus on Grand Bahama International Airport.

“The demand for Grand Bahama is there. We have seen increased bookings as we have facilitated airlift to Grand Bahama.”

As for US Pre-Clearance at the new facility – a major issue for many Grand Bahamians — Minister Cooper chose not to belabour the issue, but offered that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation are in active negotiations with US Customs and Border Protection.