Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining us this evening to discuss a matter of serious national importance.
Let me make a few points for the record before we start.
1. This is not a political meeting and on this topic of the relocation of the container port I do not speak for the PLP, that is for the party leader and party chairman. I am simply a concerned citizen who has been given the privilege to have a platform to speak on issues I deem to be of national importance.
2. Myself nor any member of the committee have a personal interest, direct or indirect, financially or otherwise in Arawak Cay or the southwest port.
3. I challenge anyone whom I said something about as it relates to the development of Arawak Cay or the relocation of the container port which is untrue to sue me.
4. It is a sad reflection of a small segment of our society that you cannot speak your mind on matters as important as this without the seriousness of the issue being diminished by party politics or the assertion that the person is speaking to protect and preserve a personal interest. Our personal interest tonight is the Bahamian people.
History and Truth
In November 2005 Coastal System International presented an Environmental Impact Assessment report to the government of the Bahamas which examined and rated seven proposed locations for the relocation of the container port. Namely; Clifton point, power plant (southwest port), Adelaide, Coral harbour south beach, arawak cay and the present location downtown. The Southwest Port located between the brewery and the BEC power plant ranked as the number one location. Arawak Cay ranked number six and present location downtown ranked number 5 ahead of Arawak Cay.
In mid 2006 the EDAW report concluded that the movement of the container port out of the city of Nassau was critical to the redevelopment of the city of Nassau. The EDAW report supported the 2005 Coastal System EIA report and also recommended that port be relocated to the Southwest port. In late 2006/early 2007 the government in conjunction with the private sector conducted an interview process to select a company to prepare the design, cost, feasibility and ownership structure of the southwest port. The fee was $500,000.00 to a company called Ecorys. The report was not finished before the previous administration left office in May 2007.
On July 24th 2007 the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign affairs chaired a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where among other things the discussion focused on the movement of the Container Port to Arawak Cay and John Mosko of Bahamas Marine presented a plan to dredge 1500 feet into Arawak Cay from the East using the harbour entrance.
In early August 2007 ( 2 years ago) I raised the appearance of a conflict of interest in the Senate as the Deputy Prime Minister is known to have interest either directly or indirectly in the shipping industry and I did not understand why this would come before the Minister of Foreign Affairs. On August 8 2007 the Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Brent Symonette responds through an interview with the Tribune where he stated that there is no conflict of interest and that the government was awaiting the Ecorys report before any decision was made on the port. This is the first and last time we hear the government mention the Ecory’s report.
In October 2007 the Ecorys report was submitted to the government in a meeting attended by guess who? The DPM and Dr. Earl Deveaux. The government has never released the report. 500,000.00 dollars down the tube. Thousands of man hours, millions of dollars wasted.
Things go quiet until March 2008 when Chairman of Nassau Tourism and Development Board (NTDB) Mr. Charles Klonaris is reported in the tribune as saying that the Southwest port was a “superior location” to Arawak Cay and pledged his boards support to the government no matter their decision.
Also in March 14 2008 it was reported that Tropical Shipping had presented a plan that estimated that an investment of 175m would be needed “to accommodate all future cargo plans for 30 years at Arawak Cay. Investments would include, quays, dredging, pavement and roads, port buildings, a small craft port, big bulk terminals and utilities” and it would take 3 years to build. Various persons comment on this matter and I raised it in the Senate at almost every occasion to the point where government Senators began to make jokes as it was a staple in just about all of my major contributions. The government went quiet again for almost another year.
In the midterm Budget at the end of March 2009 the PM announces that the Port is definitely moving to Arawak Cay. On April 30th2009 in the Senate I tabled the following Resolution inviting the government to have a debate on the relocation of the port so that they could explain themselves in a clear and transparent manner to the Bahamian people to whom they are accountable.
“RESOLUTION” In the Senate of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
On 30th April, 2009
WHEREAS there is a need for the further development of the City of Nassau to meet challenges of the development of the City in the 21st century;
AND WHEREAS the Government has announced certain plans for the redevelopment of the City of Nassau which is to include moving the commercial container port to another site, that site being named as Arawak Cay or the vicinity of Arawak Cay;
AND WHEREAS no environmental impact, social, economic or financial impact studies have been released by the Government with regard to the removal of the port to Arawak Cay or the vicinity of Arawak Cay and the redevelopment of the City of Nassau;
AND WHEREAS there is concern expressed publicly that the movement of the Port may have certain adverse environmental and social impacts on the adjacent sites of the new proposed port at Arawak Cay or the vicinity of Arawak Cay which concern is supported by documents in the public domain which show that the Arawak Cay site or the vicinity of Arawak Cay is not the most suitable site for a new port and in fact is a less suitable site than the present site on Bay Street;
AND WHEREAS the proposed new site is in the vicinity of a public beach called and known as “Saunders Beach”, a popular site for sea bathing and recreation;
AND WHEREAS there is already a shortage of public sea bathing areas in the country making the protection of such public areas imperative;
AND WHEREAS the Government has announced that a new roadway and inland offloading area for containers is to constructed in the area of Gladstone Road and that the new roadway will impact the residential area known as the “Vista Marina Subdivision”;
AND WHEREAS the announced plans would appear to have the potential for an adverse impact on Saunders Beach and its environs including the disruption and abatement of the commercial value of adjacent properties through which a road to the assembly area will have to pass;
BE IT NOW RESOLVED that this Senate expresses its concerns about these developments and requests from the Government a full and proper disclosure of all the developments connected with the proposed redevelopment of the City of Nassau and the removal of the Port to Arawak Cay or the vicinity of Arawak Cay and the environs of Saunders Beach.”
To date I have heard nothing. I have asked the government on 2 occasions since then in the Senate when we will debate the Resolution. Nothing, only a deafening silence.
In the 6th May 2009 edition of the Tribune a reporter asked the DPM if the Arawak Cay project was going ahead, he said “ I have no idea”. In the same interview he said there was no connection between the said work at Saunders Beach, the new road and the Arawak Cay Port Development.In that same story the reporter had this to say and I quote:
“Tribune Business understands that details on the project are being treated as a closely-guarded secret by the Prime Minister’s office and a small, close-knit group from the shipping industry fraternity. Some have suggested this is a deliberate tactic by the Government to muzzle public discussion and dissent,… Tribune Business understands that the Government also warned the shipping industry, following this newspaper’s revelations that the Prime Minister had “changed the rules of the game” regarding the Arawak Cay port’s financing, that it might withdraw its support for the project if further details appeared in the press.
As a result, negotiations with the Government are being handled by Arawak Cay Port Development Company chairman Jimmy Mosko and a small group close to him. Tribune Business has been told that not all the proposed 19-20 shareholders in the company are fully in the loop as to what is going on.”
The Guardian has been diligent in its quest for information and has reported over the past 6 weeks that the cost of the port at Arawak Cay may be 80 million dollars or 150 million dollars depending who you believe.
In conclusion I want to reiterate again some of the key questions we have asked the government, either in the Senate or through press releases, which on their face are not unreasonable and in fact one would think logically ought to be answered and discussed before a project of this magnitude and significance proceeds.
1. Has an Environmental Impact Assessment been completed on the impact the extension to Arawak Cay will have on the surrounding environment?
2. Has a traffic study been completed to disclose the impact of the container port on traffic, noise and pollution on west bay street and the vista marina subdivision?
3. Has the true cost of the container port been determined inclusive of the extension, the causeway, the roundabout, the new road and the port buildings?
4. Has the government determined yet where the cause way from Arawak Cay will connect to west bay street? If so where?
5. Why has the government chosen the location ranked sixth out of seven as the least favourable location to relocate the port.
6. The Prime Minister stated during the 2007 election campaign that Arawak Cay would be developed as a cultural center. Why has he changed his mind?
7. How will the cargo liners enter the port? Through the barrier reef between silver cay and long cay or through the main entry to Nassau harbor?
I have invited the government to debate this issue in the public interest any time any place no later than yesterday again and I extend that offer again tonight. Thank you.