Tourism Minister Lauds the Purchase of the Grand Bahama Airport

The Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar gave remarks during the official Signing Ceremony for the purchase of the Grand Bahama International Airport by the Government of The Bahamas at the Airport Terminal on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (BIS photo/Lisa Davis)

The Grand Bahama International Airport now belongs to the people of The Bahamas. The acquisition was concluded during an official signing ceremony of Share Purchase Agreement between the Freeport Airport Development Company Limited and the Freeport Harbour Company Limited and the signing of Waiver Agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and the Grand Bahama Port Authority at the new airport terminal, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguliar said with the acquisition, the Airport Authority now owns 30 airports in The Bahamas.

“This airport here in Freeport is probably the last large or substantial airport in The Bahamas that is not owned by the Government and this Minnis led Administration and this Minister of Aviation are of the view that this airport here in Freeport, the gateway into Grand Bahama, should be owned by the Government,” the Tourism Minister said during his address at the signing

“Almost every major airport in every major city, in every country on the planet, is owned by the Government. That is a FACT! They may, in some cases, be operated by an experienced airport operator, but the ownership of the land, the buildings, the runways and taxi ways is almost always owned by the Government.” Minister D’Aguilar noted that the ability of the Government to direct and control such a crucial piece of infrastructure is critical to the development of any economy.

He added that it was for that reason, when the offer was floated for the Government to purchase the Grand Bahama International Airport, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, directed him and the Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Sen. the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, to “go forth and buy for the people of Grand Bahama and, by extension the people of The Bahamas, this
airport in Freeport”.

The Tourism Minister said the people of Grand Bahama, through their government, must own the Grand Bahama International Airport and thereby regain control of how it is developed, how it is operated and how it can best be used to improve economic outcomes for the tens of thousands of Bahamians who live on the island.

“Once the ownership of the airport is transferred to the Airport Authority, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to operate and redevelop this Airport will be set up; very similar to the construct at the Lynden Pindling International Airport,” said Minister D’Aguilar. “In Nassau, the Airport Authority owns the Nassau Airport Development Company, or NAD, which redeveloped and now operates LPIA. Well, here in Freeport, the Airport Authority will set up the Freeport Airport Development Company or FAD to redevelop and operate GBIA.

“And, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to report that there is already widespread global interest in partnering with the Government of The Bahamas in the redevelopment of this airport using the PPP model.

“In addition, the Airport Authority, its subsidiaries and any eventual private sector operator of this airport, will not be subjected to any license fees from the Grand Bahama Port Authority, once the Government retains 100 per cent ownership of this airport. The Government has also negotiated that any other business that operates in the confines of this airport will too NOT be subjected to any Port Authority license fees for five (5) years, with the possibility of an extension for another five (5) years.”

The Tourism and Aviation Minister said he has been advised that everything is finally falling into place for Grand Bahama. He pointed out that the Government has an agreement to purchase the airport, the Government is in the final stages of concluding an agreement to sell the hotel, and Royal Caribbean and the ITM Group have an agreement with Hutchinson to use and invest in the Freeport port.

“Hopefully, all of these stars will stay aligned so that we can complete what has been a long and arduous set of negotiations, made the more difficult by the onset of the coronavirus,” said Minister D’Aguilar.

“The conclusion of all of these transactions will, we believe, signal a new beginning for Grand Bahama which, as we all know, has been the brunt of so many external shocks and extreme weather events that, for many, the situation has become desperate. Hopefully, with the conclusion of these much talked about transactions, the rebuilding of Grand Bahama can continue in earnest.”