Monday, April 16, 2018
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Government plans to "replicate" the New Providence landfill solution across the Bahamas, with a Cabinet Minister urging: "We must stop this 'dumping in the bush' culture."
Romauld Ferreira, minister of the environment, told Tribune Business that four bids were submitted for a New Providence landfill contract that he described as the first step in "revolutionising" solid waste management practices and developing a management plan for the entire country.
He confirmed information supplied to this newspaper that the four bidders to submit complete proposals are Bahamas WTP Ltd; Bahamas Waste; Providence Advisors and the Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG); and APAPA International (Nassau).
Tribune Business sources said the bidders had submitted a variety of solutions for New Providence's waste management crisis. APAPA International's offer was said to have included a $400 million waste-to-energy gasification plant, with Bahamas Waste understood to have provided its own waste-to-energy proposal valued at around $150 million. The Providence Advisors/WRDG was said to be priced at between $60-$120 million, with waste-to-energy "optional" and at the higher end of that price scale.
Mr Ferreira declined to be drawn on the details of bidder submissions, and emphasised he was not part of the committee evaluating their proposals. He reiterated, though, that the Government had expected to receive offers with multiple components.
"We fully expected some heterogeneous-type solutions that included a mixture of revenue streams, and reasonable businessmen want to take advantage of every potential revenue stream," he said.
While New Providence's landfill required urgent attention due to the health and environmental risks it poses to thousands of Bahamians, Mr Ferreira said its remediation was part of a much bigger strategy to overhaul similar facilities in the Family Islands and transform the country's waste management culture.
"Going through this process for the New Providence Sanitary Landfill essentially makes a generational change in the way the landfill is run, and is part of the Minnis administration's greater mandate to revolutionise solid waste management in the entire Bahamas," Mr Ferreira told Tribune Business.
"It's so important for us to get this [RFP] process right. I know people want a quick fix, but it couldn't be a quick fix. We intend, once we go through this process, to replicate it in other islands."
Mr Ferreira, speaking after just returning from an assessment of Abaco's landfill, said that facility needed to go through "a similar exercise" to New Providence's facility in terms of deconstruction and remediation.
He expressed hope that landfill upgrades, and improved education, would help to change a culture involving the indiscriminate dumping of wrecked vehicles, heavy-duty consumer appliances and other waste materials that has blighted many parts of the Bahamas.
"One of the issues we want to deal with is change this culture of dumping in the bush," Mr Ferreira told Tribune Business. "There's this dumping in the bush culture that comes from somewhere, and we need to change that.
"We need these waste management solutions to be a part of that, and show people they have a reasonable, reliable and affordable alternative to that. This is part of a broader strategy; we can't just fix New Providence and ignore the Family Islands. They are all ticking timebombs.
"The reason I say that is a lot of these things are a function of population size, and these islands are going to continue to grow. It may not be in your or my lifetime, but there will come a day when the population of this country is a million people."
Mr Ferreira said "dynamic" waste management solutions, which were "sustainable and a fit for the island communities and settlements involved", are required for each Bahamian island. They also needed to be part of development strategies for each island.
"We've turned our sights to Abaco," he reiterated. "New Providence has been quite a challenge; those intermittent fires were the biggest environmental challenge the country was facing, followed a close second by Clifton Pier.
"We've spent a lot of time and detail to get this [RFP process] right. We've established a blueprint that's part of a solid waste management plan for the entire country," Mr Ferreira said, adding that New Providence's solution was "in train".
"It's in full flight and well on the way," the Minister continued. "The train is well down the rails now." He added of the Government's bid evaluation team: "I think they understand and appreciate the significance of this particular moment, and the significance of it."
The identities of three of the four New Providence landfill bidders are well known. Cedric Scott, the actor, producer and uncle of former Cabinet minister, Jerome Fitzgerald, is listed by Bahamas WTP LTD's website as one of its five principals. Its two other Bahamas-based principals are banker, Ivylyn Cassar, and permanent resident, Fay Russell. The company's physical address is listed as Ms Cassar's Equity Bank & Trust, based in western New Providence.
Bahamas WTP is a consortium that also features two US companies, Delaware-incorporated Ameresco Ltd and Louisiana-based Furnace and Tube Services Inc. Bahamas Waste is the BISX-listed company of the same name, while Providence Advisors is headed by the well-known local investment banker, Kenwood Kerr. His partner, Waste Resources Development Group, features all the other Bahamian waste disposal groups bar Bahamas Waste.
Tribune Business sources said bidders are being assessed on a criteria that allocated 60 out of 100 points to the technical aspects of their offers to deconstruct, remediate and manage the New Providence landfill, plus turn it into a sustainable and profitable business venture.
Another 30 points relate to the financial aspects of their bids, with the final 10 relating to ownership of the various bid groups. The proposals were submitted last Monday, and the Government is expected to carry out its evaluation and select a preferred bidder within 45 days of that April date.
Resolving the New Providence landfill's problems has become increasingly urgent, not least because of the fires and resulting smoke that makes the lives of hundreds of Bahamians a misery whenever such blazes erupt.
For they also disrupt commerce for nearby businesses, and impact the Bahamas' tourism product if fumes are blown towards Cable Beach. The Heads of Agreement obtained by Baha Mar's new owner required the Government to resolve the landfill's woes by end-December 2017 - a deadline that has been missed - although this appears to have caused no consequences to-date.
The former Christie administration selected Renew Bahamas to take over the landfill's management and operation, put the company pulled out in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, with the site handed back to the Department of Environmental Health Services. A subsequent tender process was cancelled by the Minnis administration.
Three of the seven bidders who qualified for the Request for Proposal (RFP) round on the latest tender did not submit bids. These are Valoriza Sevicios Medioambientales, a Spanish-headquartered waste and environmental services provider with significant interests in the Latin American region; Eastern Waste Systems, which appears to be a Florida-based garbage disposal operation; and Marine Contractors Inc.