Wednesday, September 15, 2021
By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Government will collect around $2m in overflight fees by end-September from aircraft passing through Bahamian air space, a Cabinet minister disclosed yesterday.
Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, speaking ahead of this administration’s last Cabinet meeting, said the bank accounts have already been created at Bank of The Bahama where the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will deposit the fees it collects from its member airlines on The Bahamas’ behalf.
“What I am particularly proud of is the minister of tourism and aviation, this minister, during this term under this Minnis administration, finally figured out how to monetise a natural resource of this country, which is the sovereign airspace of The Bahamas,” Mr D’Aguilar said. “Now, as planes traverse through our sovereign airspace, $25m to $35m will be earned [annually] for the benefit of the Bahamian people.”
With overflight fees collection set to begin ahead of his January 2022 target, Mr D’Aguilar added: “We should be receiving, I believe, just shy of $2m by the end of this month. We had to set up all the bank accounts and establish all of the protocols from which that money will be transferred from IATA to the Bank of The Bahamas, so I am particularly proud of that.”
The Government of The Bahamas signed an air navigation services agreement with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in May 2021, allowing the latter to continue managing The Bahamas’ air space for a period of ten years.
Mr D’Aguilar said then that The Bahamas could earn up to $350m in overflight fees over that decade, although several sources have suggested that fees could rise to $50m a year when global air traffic returns to normal volumes post-COVID.
The minister also confirmed his ongoing frustrations over the failure to close the Grand Lucayan’s sale to the Royal Caribbean/ITM consortium. He said he was “disappointed” that the Hutchison Whampoa-controlled Freeport Harbour Company had failed to reach an agreement over the harbour’s transformation with the joint venture.
Mr D’Aguilar said: “So the Grand Lucayan, the sale of it was subject to the completion of an agreement between the Freeport Harbour Company and Royal Caribbean.
“For whatever reason that deal is ongoing and hasn’t been concluded, and as a result it is very frustrating. I am very disappointed that the Freeport Harbour Company and the Royal Caribbean group were not able to finalise their transaction and, as a result, the hotel can’t transfer over to the Royal Caribbean group for them to start doing what it is they need to do.”