Exuma set for air transport infrastructure upgrade; other airports to follow


Exuma will be the first of several Family Islands to receive much needed air transport infrastructure improvements which are expected to boost visitor arrivals and improve the standard of living for  residents of this southern island.

The Government signed a contract worth $34,245,083.36 February 2, 2023 with Bahamas Hot Mix to undertake the Exuma International Airport Airside Construction project.

The Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities, led the signing ceremony in the conference room of the Ministry of Works and Utilities (MOWU) JFK. Among others, the contract includes pavement rehabilitation works for apron, taxiways and runway, new taxiway installation, fencing and drainage, lighting and electrical, navigational aids and runway markings.
Representatives from various agencies attended the ceremony including Luther Smith and Reginald Saunders, Permanent Secretaries; George Hutcheson and Dr. Kenneth Romer, Directors; Charlene Collie, project engineer and members of the Project Execution Unit of the MOWU; officials from the MOWU, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTIA), the Ministry of Finance, Integrated Building Services, the Department of Aviation, the Airport Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority.

In accordance with the Government’s air traffic master plan, the islands of North Eleuthera, Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay, Abaco will also receive upgrades. The objective of the Airport Infrastructure Program is to improve air transport connectivity and flow of people to the Family Islands through infrastructure improvements and climate change resilience by upgrading, rehabilitating and maintaining selected airports.

In addition to improving operating procedures, the safety management system, emergency response plans, and internal capabilities in the Bahamas Airport Authority, the airports will be raised to International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

Minister Sears said, “The work at the Exuma International Airport aligns with MOTIA in conjunction with The Ministry of Public Works in implementing the Airport Infrastructure Program (BH-L1041), based on the loan agreement #3907/OC-BH-L1041 signed between the Government of The Bahamas and the IDB. The programs’ objective is to assist the country in its progress towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and 13 (Climate Action) including to contribute regionally and globally to the sustainable integration of The Bahamas through secure air transport infrastructure improvements in the Family Islands airports.

“The Family Island air transport infrastructure is in need of improvements to comply with international aviation standards and to achieve a resilient stock of infrastructure against climate change. The IDB supports this improvement process given the bank’s experience in air transport infrastructure.”

Minister Sears underscored the limitations of Family Island main entry ports for the regional and global integration of The Bahamas. He said the Exuma International Airport is in need of investment and requires a wide range of upgrades. He said security deficiencies including visual aids, lighting and marking, mobile equipment, the layout of the runaway, apron and taxiways, impose a risk to the operation and compromises new traffic demand.

“The airports face challenges to meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety and security standards and to respond to events related to climate change. Such events require action in order to maintain certification by the Bahamian Civil Aviation Authority, to guarantee safety for passengers and crew, and keep the operation of this transport mode. Delayed implementation of these measures could also have an adverse impact on future traffic flows, and the economy.

“For the country, to have a strong market presence in the competitive Caribbean tourism industry, it is crucial that the island gateway airports offer the highest possible level of safety and quality of aviation infrastructure and services. The need for these improvements are evident according to traffic demands, various analyses performed having identified and prioritized these required investments and the revenues and costs expected from each airport.”

Work is expected to begin on the New Bight Cat Island Airport very shortly.

The airport in Grand Bahama will be a public private partnership slated to begin in the future; and emergency paving will be undertaken at the North Eleuthera Airport before redevelopment begins.

Integrated Building Services, led by Nick Dean, is the contractor for the airside works, construction and contract administration of the works.
Ms. Collie said designs for the airport in North Eleuthera are expected to be completed within the third quarter of 2023 with the intention of entering a bidding process before the end of the year.

Ms. Collie said the MOWU is aware of daily “challenges” on the runway there. She indicated that the remedial works for Eleuthera will last approximately 3-4 years while major infrastructure works are undertaken.  “Eleuthera is slated to have a new runway further to the right of the existing runway. The existing runway will convert into a parallel taxiway with several taxiways joining runway to apron. That’s all under design for the second quarter of 2024 earliest,” she said.

Dr. Romer said Exuma is positioned to become the hub for the central and southern Bahamas and there have always been “very aggressive” plans to ensure that it is properly developed both on the airside and the landside.
“Exuma is one of the islands that has exceeded pre-pandemic airlift and pre-pandemic seat capacity levels. Exuma is on the rise and investment in the infrastructure further supports our mandate to increase tourism,” he added.

Source: Felicity Darville