Work progresses on the $38 million North Abaco Port as buildings at the port begins taking shape, and the year-end completion date still on target according to North Abaco Member of Parliament, Renardo Curry.
Mr. Curry toured the facility with Francis Clarke, Engineer from Caribbean Civil Group Ltd who is overseeing the project. Work has begun on buildings constructed for Domestic Freight, International Freight and for Landing Craft. The administration building is progressing closer to completion, and the Marina and a guard house/security booth are still yet to get under way.
The Port is expected to be roughly three times the size of the Marsh Harbour Port.
Mr. Curry said “It was very good to see the progress at the port, and to know that we have some Abaconians involved helping to develop the port.”
“I tried to encourage the engineer, and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to, as much as possible, engage as much of the local contractors as they can,” he said.
It was noted that currently there is fifty-fifty employment at the port with half the labour force comprised of Bahamians, “I would like to see at least 70 percent.”
He said he thought per the original agreement that more Bahamians would be employed, but “I think when you look at the fact that they are giving contract work, and most of those contractors are employing Bahamians, then that ratio would likely be 60 to 70 percent, depending on the subcontractors.”
He said he is satisfied with the progress and that the word from the engineer is that it is on schedule; the target completion date is the end of the year or the beginning of 2017.
“We have engaged the Minister of Transport and Aviation, who has been in discussion with a group with interest in managing the facility,” Mr. Curry said. “My concern will always be, you have a port, then what? What happens after that?”
According to Mr. Curry there will be a private management group engaged to oversee the management, “but they will have to prove to the government that they have the expertise to actually manage it; I suspect more than one group will be bidding for the control of the port.”
“In any event we want it run in a way that is efficient, that is profitable not only for the operators but for the Bahamian people,” he said.
Mr. Curry further explained that he wants to see employment opportunities for locals, and the people of North Abaco in particular. “I think this port represents opportunities for entrepreneurship for the people.”
“We have heard about a number of opportunities that will exist after the port is opened; so we want to encourage people to be prepared,” he said. “I have taken time to educate a lot of the young men of my communities on how to start new businesses, how to operate them, and about the ideas and knowledge they need to cause their business to function properly.”
He has also spoke of his hope that the port can be prepared for multi-purpose usage. “The depth of the port doesn’t allow for any major transshipment company to come in, and it really takes away the potential profitability of the port in my opinion,” he noted.
“You want to be able to host maybe a major transshipment operator coming in and out of there, maybe going in to the United States, so it would be more profitable for the port.”
Mr. Curry added that “I am looking at the possibility of even a small to medium sized cruise ship or cruise line being able to come in to that port.” He spoke of how the utilization of port facilities in Nassau and Grand Bahama helped spur growth in tourism related business in the relative areas.
Presently the harbour stands over fifty percent complete and is scheduled for a January 2017 completion date as long as there are no severe weather delays which could put the project slightly beyond that date.
The North Abaco Port has a projected 50 year life and economic models predict an 18% Internal Rate of Return.