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Prime Minister's remarks at the Nassau Container Port Opening
May 4, 2012 - 4:52:40 AM

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Nassau, Bahamas - Cutting the ribbon to officially open the new Nassau Container Port at Arawak Cay are Mrs. Betty Mackey, widow of the late George Mackey and Godfrey "Tippy" Lightbourne. Also pictured at left: Michael Maura Jr., CEO Arawak Port Development; Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham (fourth from left) and James Mosko.

The following are remarks by the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to be here for the official opening of Arawak Port Development Limited.  It is a red-letter day both in terms of the ongoing development of a new Port of Nassau replacing the old, privately owned ports which have been stretched along downtown Bay Street for much of our history and predating our independence.

We also celebrate today the broadening of ownership of a sector once dominated by a few families but now  60% owned by the Government, Bahamian citizens and pension funds - a broader base ownership by the Bahamian people of the Port of Nassau situate here at Arawak Cay.

How significant, and what a cause for celebration, that the men and women who run and service the container ships and this port from the ground now own shares in its operation and success.

That the children of stevedores and seamen of yesteryear now own shares in a new 21st Century Port of Nassau is a mark of considerable progress and an accomplishment of great note.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In my Government’s 2007 Manifesto we committed to facilitating and accelerating the revitalization of the City of Nassau which has been a long-held dream of many here today as well as others no longer with us, but here in spirit.

I am pleased that during the last five years significant steps have been taken in the realization of this dream of removing cargo freight operations from the centre of our City of Nassau.  And, Nassau Harbour has been dredged and today welcomes some of the world’s largest cruise ships and several ships at the same time.

The new Straw Market was opened last year and the Houses of Parliament and the building which housed the Hansard, now a Supreme Court, have been refurbished. 

The private sector was incentivized through the City of Nassau Redevelopment Act.  With leadership provided by the public/private Downtown Nassau Partnership is contributing to the revitalization of our city through renovation and upgrade of existing privately-owned properties and enhancement of public spaces like Pompey Square. Work is already underway on the project on land adjacent to the Pompey Slave Museum which is also under renovation following the terrible fire earlier this year.

A number of other exciting developments are in train. This includes ideas to enhance the cultural and heritage experience of Bahamians and visitors to our shores in what we believe will become a more vibrant daytime and nighttime visitor experience.

A linchpin of the revitalization of our historic city-centre was the relocation of the container port from Downtown Nassau.  The relocation provides additional prime property for touristic and other commercial developments.

And the relocation of the Port from our city centre removes freight handling activities from downtown Nassau and alleviates traffic congestion associated with major port activities.

UNVEILING -- Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham and State Minister of Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing unveil the plaque to officially open the new Nassau Container Port at Arawak Cay, May 3. Also pictured from left: Minister of the Environment the Hon. Earl Deveaux, James Mosko, and Michael Maura Jr., CEO Arawak Port Development. At far right is National Security Minister the Hon. Tommy Turnquest. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The need to develop a new Port for the Island of New Providence has been under discussion by successive governments for the past 50 years. A former administration of Sir Lynden Pindling had been in discussions with the private sector towards developing a new port near Clifton Point in Southwest New Providence as was the case with my predecessor in office.

From most indications, the private sector’s support for a new port in southwestern New Providence was lukewarm at best.  When my party came to office in 2007 a group of stakeholders in the shipping industry approached the Government with a plan to develop a freight terminal on Arawak Cay.

We should recall that Arawak Cay at that time was already being utilized for freight handling.  Indeed, fully one third of all freight entering Nassau entered via the Arawak Port. So the proposal we received to transfer Nassau’s several privately owned ports to a single jointly owned port would not have changed the pre-existing land usage at Arawak Cay.

Prior to the establishment of Arawak Port Development Limited, port operations in New Providence were controlled exclusively by a number of shipping and real estate owners.

In finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the private sector, my Government took the momentous decision that the Government and the wider public would collectively own 60 per cent of the port operations.  This would dramatically expand and diversify ownership in this key transportation sector.

Prior to the “MOU”, other sites were considered by the Government, but ultimately, the following factors led to the choice of Arawak Cay:

1.    The expansion and refurbishment of the existing Arawak Cay Port location would cost some B$83 million versus an estimated $235 million for a Greenfield development at the proposed Clifton Pier site.  Hence, the APD project was far more feasible. In order to finance a new port at Clifton tariffs would have had to be raised considerably higher to support the financing of the development.  This would have had a direct negative impact on the cost of living.

2.    Arawak Cay was already being used as a port with cargo berths already in place resulting in a much shorter development timeframe relative to other sites.

3.    The environmental impact study for the development at Arawak Cay established minimal environmental impact given it present usage as a Port versus the massive excavation required to develop an inland port at Clifton. 

4.    A new port in South West New Providence would have resulted in much higher inland freight costs.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The new Arawak Port represents the successful relocation of Nassau’s commercial freight operations from the Downtown area to a new, convenient and modern facility at Arawak Cay. The Arawak Port will operate 21st century port facilities which will include some of the following significant features:

•    25,000 square feet of warehouse space and 25,000 square feet of administrative space;

•    General containerized cargo, bulk and break bulk operations;

•    The port will meet ISPS security codes while utilizing 24/7 hour Royal Bahamas Police Force presence; perimeter fencing and surveillance cameras;

•    Onsite Customs department to provide entry processing and freight inspection;

•    Three container vessel berths totaling 1,167 linear feet;

•    26-foot draft at Arawak Cay offering shippers lower vessel cost per TEU and the potential direct calls by global feeder vessels;

•    Three container cranes

•    A container and cargo pickup and delivery port facility that is open between 8am and 4pm daily - Monday through Saturday;

•    Importers can use several ocean carriers simultaneously and conduct essentially all of their business at Arawak Cay;

•    Greater centralized Customs control will lower the risk level and facilitate faster cargo delivery;

•    State-of-the art terminal management with NAVIS-Argo with offsite backup ensuring accurate rate and complete trade records;

•    One-stop convenience for processing shipments with Customs, Agriculture & Fisheries and Environmental Health all of which will be represented at Arawak Cay;

•    Dedicated deconsolidation of large containers at the Gladstone Road Customs Warehouse Facility for importers with less than full Container Load imports.
The 100,000 sq. ft. Customs Warehouse on Gladstone Road was constructed at a cost of some $15.2 million far exceeds current demand and therefore ensures that as The Bahamian economy develops and prospers demand for increased freight cargo handling and storage will be comfortably met well into the future. 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Recently APD offered some 20 per cent of its shares to the public. The founding shareholders were excluded from this offering. The share offering was the most successful ever in The Bahamas.  Indeed, the ADP sought to raise $10 million through the public offering of shares; the share offering was oversubscribed by $35 million.  Today, some 11,065 Bahamians are now shareholders in this lucrative sector.

I wish to congratulate the Board of Directors and the Management of this new Port for the successful and timely implementation of this project.   In particular I wish to recognize the contribution of Mr. Mike Maura whom we were successful in attracting back home to assist with the development, and now the operation, of the Port.  I cannot adequately express our thanks for his contribution without which we would not have been as successful as we are today.

The offering of shares in the new Port is a part of my Government’s long term effort to create a Shareholding Society in The Bahamas.

The expansion of a Shareholding Society among the Bahamian people will empower individuals, families, pension funds, unions, institutional and other investors to purchase shares in a broad range of private, public and joint venture companies.  This Shareholding Society we are creating will make hundreds of millions of dollars of assets available to the Bahamian people as investments, collateral and for their retirement.

With the new Port here at Arawak Cay, a broad cross-section of Bahamians were afforded the opportunity to purchase shares in a significant sector of the national economy. We have dramatically broadened ownership from the traditional families like with surnames like Kelly, Symonette, Bethel, Farrington, Mosko, Wells and Lightbourne.

The surnames of those who can now own shares in the Arawak Port Development (APD) will run the gamut from A to Z in the telephone directory with surnames like Bain, Rolle, and Smith.

There are some who have dedicated themselves to creating tall stories about the ownership of the Port, going so far as to claim that there is a difference between shares owned by the 19 Bahamian companies investing in the development of the Port and those shares sold to the Bahamian public.

I use this occasion to say in no uncertain terms that there is only one class of shares in Arawak Port Development Limited. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to the public.

Today the Government owns 40% of the issued shares, Arawak Cay Port Development Holdings (ACPDH) owns 40% and the Bahamian public owns 20%. The Bahamian public purchased their shares at $10.00 per share which is precisely the same price at which the Government purchased its shares and the price at which ACPDH purchased its shares. Essentially then, 60 percent of the shares at the port will be held between the government and individual shareholders

It should however be noted that the initial purchase of shares by the Government and ACPDH occurred months in advance of the public offering so as to facilitate the initial investment in the operation. Therefore to permit the Bahamian public to purchase their shares at the same price had the effect of granting a discount to the public. To presume therefore that the initial investors’ shareholding in any way grants them an investment advantage over the public shareholders is totally and completely wrong. To make such a charge as has been done is an act of deceit.

I remind also that civil servants were afforded the opportunity to buy shares in APD through salary deductions. 

    In an earlier term in office I was pleased to cause and oversee the creation of the Bahamas International Stock Exchange (BISX) to help in the advancement of a shareholding society in which all Bahamians enjoy access to owning shares in various entities. 

      We required the then Freeport Power Company, now the Grand Bahama Power Company, to make available a percentage of shares for residents of Grand Bahama and company employees.

In 1994 forty-nine percent of the shares of the Bank of The Bahamas were made available to the public with 51 percent held by the Government.

The introduction of cable television provided another opportunity for Bahamians to buy shares that have proven to be a good investment.  Today, Cable Bahamas is fully Bahamian-owned.  The initial shares for the Bank of Bahamas sold at $1 per share and those for Cable Bahamas at $1a share.  Today these shares are worth considerably more.

The funding for the second Paradise Island Bridge was done via Treasury Bonds which the general public were encouraged to acquire.   These long term investment bonds have proven to be some of the better investment opportunities for many citizens with moderate and higher incomes.

     When the Bahamians who owned the majority stake in Commonwealth Brewery sought the approval of my Government to sell their controlling interests to a foreign company, the approval was conditional.  It was conditional on Heineken, the new owners, making 25 per cent of the shares in the company available to the Bahamians.

In the matter of the privatization of BTC, an initial nine percent of shares held by the Government of The Bahamas will be made available to the public.  The amount of shares made available will rise to 25 percent.  Regulations will be put in place to assure that these shares are widely disbursed and not concentrated in the hands of a few shareholders.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We are proud of our record of creating a vibrant Shareholding Society.  We are proud of having transformed traditional monopolies into engines of economic activity for a broader range of Bahamians. 

Today is indeed one of celebration, even as we look forward to a new day in shipping in The Bahamas, and a new 21st century port that will advance the development of a new, New Providence.

I congratulate you all on this new and exciting venture.  Good Afternoon. 

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