The Marsh Harbour Port is responsible for roughly $40 million of government revenue every year. It is the heart of Abaco’s economy, as the majority of all goods must flow through this facility. The freight captains who use these docks weekly realize these facts and are understandably upset about the Port’s state of disrepair.
One such captain, Duke of Topsail pilot Michael Bethel, feels the most serious of these concerns relate to the channel markers and buffers along the dock.
Mr. Bethel noted that the current system of markers and buoys, which guide millions of dollars’ worth of goods in weekly, is disorganized and haphazard. More upsetting still is that brand new, brightly coloured buoys have been in storage at the Port since November 2013.
Shipping companies, such as Abaco Shipping and Carib Freight, have a long history of volunteering time and resources to maintain the Port and harbour in areas where government fell short.
“That’s the way Abaconians have always done it,” said Mr. Bethel. So it was perplexing to the captains when, despite offering to lay the buoys at no cost to the government since 2013, they were refused.
It was not until this week that, after again approaching the authorities, they were granted permission to lay out the buoys.
Marques Williams, Port Administrator, when asked about the situation said he recognized the importance of working with the private sector. He said there is currently a partnership underway between the government, the shipping companies and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force who are also responsible for maintaining safety in Bahamian harbours.
Mr. Bethel said he was pleased with this development and progress can now be made.
Unfortunately the channel markers are not the only things captains take issue with at the Port.
A water pump has been broken for one and a half years, the gate to the freight area has been broken for three years, the dock bumpers need to be replaced and the bathrooms are in deplorable condition. While the last issue, the bathrooms, is relatively minor in the scope of things, it is still unsuitable for this top, public money-making facility to be so poorly maintained.
While the shipping companies replace the bumpers themselves as they can, issues such as the broken gate remain a nagging problem.
One captain wondered how the government can spend $30 million for a new Port in North Abaco when the current one is in need of so much maintenance.