Drydock No. 2, which takes the biggest ships, is seen in the foreground of this file photo. It was damaged in a crane collapse in April 2019. (Photo: SeaTrade Cruise News)

Royal Caribbean, Carnival invest US$350m in Grand Bahama Shipyard upgrade

Drydock No. 2, which takes the biggest ships, is seen in the foreground of this file photo. It was damaged in a crane collapse in April 2019. (Photo: SeaTrade Cruise News)

As The Bahamas takes steps to revive its cruise tourism industry, Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines have pledged their support in the form of a joint investment of US$350 million in the upgrade of Grand Bahama Shipyard, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

The prime minister made the announcement as he recently closed the 2021/22 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, during which he explained that to understand the scale of this investment, the original investment and other investments to date in the shipyard have totalled approximately $250 million dollars.

Prime Minister of The Bahamas Hubert Minnis (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

“This new investment will match this and exceed it by $100 million,” Prime Minister Minnis outlined on Monday 21 June 2021, adding that expansion works on the Grand Bahama Shipyard will begin as early as October this year.

Damages and losses

At present, plans are afoot to replace the two damaged docks with larger docks that will have the capacity of handling and servicing the largest ships in the world, he revealed. Upon completing the expansion, the shipyard will be the largest civilian shipyard in the Americas.

Back in April 2019, the shipyard suffered damages to its drydock when a crane collapsed while raising the stern of the Oasis of the Seas to repair its propulsion pods. According to a report from Travel Weekly, the incident forced Royal Caribbean to transport the vessel to a yard in Europe to finish repairing it.

Royal Caribbean Cruise International’s Oasis of the Seas (File photo)

Due to the repairs, as well as cancellation of three cruises, the cruise line took an estimated US$52 million cut in earnings that year.

Two months later, the 4,000-passenger Carnival Vista developed a problem with its Azipod motors that required immediate replacement of their bearings. However, the drydock at Grand Bahama, a facility jointly owned by RCCL and Carnival Corp, could not accomodate the repairs and so the cruise line had to suspend services for a 17-day period and cancel three cruises from Galveston, Texas in the United States.

The aft end of the Carnival Vista on the Boka Vanguard at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. (Photo: Travel Weekly)

Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corp had to account for a loss in revenue, estimated between US$50 million and US$62 million.

New opportunities for The Bahamas

Now, however, Prime Minister Minnis plans to outline the terms of an agreement between his Government and both Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines “that benefits the people of Grand Bahama”. In fact, he promised to provide more details on the project in the coming weeks and months.

Among them, the new investment will result in a notable increase in employment and economic activity on Grand Bahama and for local businesses throughout Freeport and the rest of the island.

An aerial view of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. (File photo)

“This is a sign of progress, a sign of hope and a sign of confidence,” he said.

“Grand Bahama, like the entire Bahamas, is on the way back. This is one of the biggest investments in Grand Bahama in its history,” Prime Minister Minnis continued.

Moreover, he shared that international investors are optimistic about the country’s future and pointed out a number of approved projects on New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.

So far, Sandals Resorts International has invested US$37 million in the redevelopment of Sandals Royal Bahamian on Cable Beach, for which it has a projected timeline for completion as early as November 2021.

Sandals Royal Bahamian (Photo: SRI)

In addition, the Government recently approved the construction of the US$75 million Aqualina condominium project, which is adjacent to the Baha Mar resort and will comprise 27 large three- and four-bedroom residences, each with an ocean view. At its peak, the project will provide jobs for some 300 Bahamians.