Proposals have been put forward for building two islands offshore Barbados: one to accommodate a trans-shipment hub, the other for tourism-related purposes.
The suggestions were presented this morning at the inaugural Big Ideas Forum at the Cave Hill School Of Business under the theme Thought Leadership For Decision Makers: Outlook For 2015.
Making his presentation, researcher and lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Troy Lorde pointed to planned expansions of the main cargo port in Jamaica, which is already a trans-shipment hub, advising a similar project should take place in Barbados.
And making a reference to the building out of Pelican Village, Lorde suggested that a similar thing be done to transform the existing Bridgetown Port. This, he said, would result in cruise ships having their own area to dock, an increase in employment and more revenue for the country.
“There are 14 million containers shipped around the world and that is growing. We have the expansion of the Panama Canal which can hold thousands and thousands of containers, and we want some of that; we want to be a hub,” said Lorde.
“Expansion can’t happen where the port is; we would really have to go offshore, which is why I have the title Return Of The Pelican –– not the island like it was before, but a new island,” he said, stressing the millions of containers being shipped.
“I showed the size of the port that exists in Jamaica, for example; but they are going to build an island off Jamaica to deal with it, and Jamaica has a lot of land already. We don’t have it.
“I am saying that if we want to think big, and if we want to get in trans-shipment, we would have to do such a thing,” Lorde said.
And while he could not place a value on the trans-shipment industry, the lecturer said his proposal was in relation to the growth of the industry over the last few years. He said it would require a number of players, including the Town Planning Department, as well as the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU).
“The legislation also would have to be enacted to do such things,” Lorde added. “You would have to consider the employment of different people, including more customs workers and office workers at the Port, stevedores and so and so forth. It would be a massive fillip,” he added.
Lorde suggested that funding for such a project would be provided by investors, especially from other nations, and not necessarily from funding agencies or banks.
“There are several ideas out there for transforming Barbados, [including] a new sugar factory, renewable energy; and we want to embrace that, but certainly this wouldn’t stop [island building] from happening. We would need the financing ,which requires perhaps looking at it from a sovereign-to-sovereign way because accessing finance now from international agencies will be expensive.
“So we have to use sovereigns . . . possibly Barbados to China, Barbados to perhaps the Arabs . . . and not going to an institution,” he explained.
Lamenting the state of the local shipping industry, Lorde said ships waited an average of three hours before they were docked some days, compared to about half an hour in other jurisdictions. Additionally, he said, the number of containers offloaded at the Port was miniscule compared with other places.
And he cautioned that as the relationship between Cuba and the United States improved, the Spanish-speaking nation could become a major player in the trans-shipment sector, leaving Barbados behind.
“I don’t get the impression . . . from those in power to do something that this is high on their radar. It has been years talking about the development of the marina. That would actually complement what I am talking about,” said Lorde.
And, businessman Ralph “Bizzy” Williams has thrown his support behind Lorde’s idea.
“We [Williams Industries Inc.] would love to help you do it. I actually have plans for two islands off the north coast of the island –– mainly for tourism.”
He said the idea, that of the Williams Group Of Companies, had come out of an arrangement with the Government for the development of approximately 80 acres of land in the north of the island.
“So we put our heads together and came up with the idea of building some islands offshore in the north of the island, to create a tourism venue that would be second to none in the Caribbean. That is what it is,” said Williams, noting that no formal arrangements had yet be put in place.
“We would have to go through the [Town] Planning Department . . . and we would have to find the finance to do it. So that is where it is at now. It is not a project that we can say is going ahead; it is just an idea on paper,” Williams explained.
The engineer said the concept was to have “a high-end hotel” with villas in the area and the built up islands would be for recreational activities.
“You might have one, two or three expensive villas on the island offshore, like in Antigua.”
He further explained that such a project would create a number of jobs for skilled workers and in various industries, including hospitality and maintenance.
“You have to start things, and they will grow; but if you have so much inertia and the planning authorities are so determined to put roadblocks in your way all the time, it makes me lose faith. That is the truth!” said Williams.
The CEO also lamented the delay in the construction of a marina in the Carlisle Bay area, saying that plan had been in the making for the past two decades, “and since then millions and millions of dollars have been spent with consultants redesigning” it.