FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – The Government of The Bahamas and Bahamas Fast Ferries are in active discussions on the startup of service that will connect the Island of Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera and New Providence.
Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie was in Grand Bahama on August 16 to meet with the chairman of Bahamas Fast Ferries, Bahamian businessman, Mr. Craig Symonette, to discuss the project which will be situated on land near the former U.S. Missile Base docking facility at Gold Rock Creek. The land is owned by The Bahamas Government.
Both Mr. Christie and Mr. Symonette visited the site along with several Cabinet Ministers, inclusive of Transport and Aviation Minister, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin; Tourism Minister, the Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe; Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville; Education Minister, the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald; and the Hon. Khaalis Rolle, Minister of State for Investment in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Chairman Symonette told the media that his company intends to develop the area in accordance with plans from the Bahamas Government to establish a port, “a local port, but eventually lead to the opening up of the northeast Bahamas. By that I mean direct service to Sandy Point, Abaco; North Eleuthera and by opening up that quadrangle, we would open up the tourist facilities and the transmission of industrial progress.”
He described the project as a visionary one and told the Prime Minister and his delegation that his company looks forward to working with the government on that initiative.
Mr. Symonette said his company will promptly submit some drawings on the project to the Government and that he looks forward to working with the Ministry of Transport, “to develop what I envisage to be a future Port Authority/Government/Private Sector cooperative development like we have seen on Arawak Cay, and I am sure other projects to come in The Bahamas.”
With regards to a startup point for the project, Mr. Symonette said that from Bahamas Ferries point of view they could start tomorrow, noting they have the ships and manpower to do so.
He agreed that an overall plan is needed to cover such areas as restaurant facilities, bathrooms, proper lighting, parking, security, roadwork and signage and more. He said they will work with all the government agencies to make it happen as fast as possible.
The project will see passengers and cargo being taken to Sandy Point, Abaco with a quick turnaround and onto North Eleuthera and then Nassau.
Pointing out that The Bahamas is and archipelagic nation, Minister Hanna-Martin said the concept is as excellent one because it deepens connectivity.
She also touched on the touristic benefits and that it deepens the connectivity of Bahamian, one to the other as well as providing opportunities in the maritime sector.
Prime Minister Christie said “what I like about this is that it enables the Government of The Bahamas to extend its commitment to private/public partnerships.”
He pointed out that the proposed site for the ferry site is on land near where the Pirates of the Caribbean filming took place and that contacts are being make now on the possibility of another movie being made there.
“Therefore, this area becomes a destination and an experience, and for the developer of this interest in the fast ferry, that is only a phase or a segment of what will happen out here.
“The Government’s commitment will be to designate a particular area owned by the Government for development of which this will be one phase or one part of it, and that we will go ahead to design to the extent the developer would want to participate in further involvement in what we design will be open to discussion.
“But we are going to make this a destination. And what is significant about it is, it is in east Grand Bahama and you know all you heard about when you move out of Freeport was in west Grand Bahama, but this is in east Grand Bahama and so from my point of view it is exciting, it adds to the possibilities of connectivity that Mrs. Hanna-Martin spoke of, and is brings in a very pragmatic way development immediately,” the Prime Minister said.
On the subject of a timeline for the project the nation’s leader said that ‘they are going to come, and they are going to sit, and we are going to work out exactly how we go about making this a real destination and where people would be able to come from Freeport with their cars, or from Abaco to the Fast Ferry in Sandy Point and come over and move back and forth.
“For me, Grand Bahama needs this. It is a very interesting and intriguing proposal for the possibilities of being able to enhance trade between the islands,” he stated.
Mr. Christie said he and his Cabinet colleagues came to Grand Bahama to meet with Mr. Symonette and “confirm to him not only our interest, but preparedness to move immediately to make this happens, because it means jobs in Grand Bahama, jobs in east Grand Bahama if you please.”
Photo: Bahamas Fast Ferry Chairman, Craig Symonette, announcing project in Grand Bahama. Pictured left to right front row: the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville, Minister for Grand Bahama; Mr. Symonette; Hon. Glennys Hanna-Martin, Minister for Transport and Aviation, and Prime Minister Christie. Second row are: Tourism Minister, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, Senator Tenisha Tynes, Mr. Cameron Symonette, Baltron Bethel and the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald, Minister for Education, Science and Technology.