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2004-08-27 16:53:45

Exuma Airport To Be Upgraded

The aviation minister said the existing terminal is only temporary and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation is presently formulating plans to construct a new terminal for Exuma.

MOSS TOWN, EXUMA - With the recent opening of Four Seasons Emerald Bay and other small island resorts, Exuma is poised to become the premier tourist destination in The Bahamas. The government is therefore ensuring that Exuma's Moss Town airport is ready, having so far invested some $1.35 million to upgrade the facility. A state-of-the-art crash, fire and rescue truck was also commissioned Wednesday to service the island.

Officially touring the Moss Town airport on Wednesday, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Glennys Hanna-Martin, told Exumians that upgraded works at the Moss Town airport included the construction of a new arrival terminal and renovation of the departure terminal to include screening equipment, x-ray machines, a walk-through metal detector and hand held wands. Close-circuit television system is presently being installed and a sterile area has also been placed in the departure lounge to screen passengers.

Mrs Hanna-Martin said 10 security officers and six additional firemen have been hired and trained by the Civil Aviation Department. The firemen will maneuver a $250,000 refurbished state-of -the art crash fire rescue truck. And to ensure that water would be adequately provided, fire wells have also been installed. Crash, fire and rescue personnel demonstrated on Wednesday the uses of fire trucks.

The aviation minister said the existing terminal is only temporary and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation is presently formulating plans to construct a new terminal for Exuma.

"What you see here is a mere improvement and the best is yet to come. What you see now will be the prototype for airports nationwide in this country as it relates to security, personnel and crash fire rescue services," said Minister Hanna-Martin during a brief ceremony at the Moss Town airport. The ceremony was followed by a tour and inspection of the new immigration, arrival and departure sections of the airport.

According to the Aviation Minister, additional work at the airport include the installing of a conveyor belt, the erecting of canopies, repairing the fire station building, and installing signage. A beautification committee has been mandated to landscape the environs.

Mrs Hanna-Martin informed that management of the Moss Town airport would be transferred to the Airport Authority to maintain at the highest standard. However, the Civil Aviation Department will continue to be responsible for all regulatory matters. The Airport Authority currently is responsible for the National International Airport.

The Aviation minister concluded by urging the airport staff to commit to excellence and fearlessly protect the integrity of the airport, while maintaining a sense of pride and national commitment to effectively operate the airport at all times.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, Archie Nairn, pointed out that since Sept. 11, 2001, airports have not been the same, particularly as regards the security and safety of passengers. He said that since then, all ports of entry in The Bahamas have been under the microscope of international organizations and stringent measures had to be implemented to ensure visitors' safety and security.

Mr Nairn said the entire world had to look at themselves in terms of security and determine what had to be done to move forward. He mentioned that beefing up security at airports is not an easy or cheap.

"When you talk about the upkeep of an airport, you are talking about a matter that is capital intensive. It calls for a lot of money and it calls for proper and effective planning to keep it going," he said.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Colin Marshall, said Exuma is ideally placed, and can be a hub for all air traffic going through The Bahamas into the Southern Islands. He said the new terminal at the Moss Town airport is only the beginning of work in progress, as the island is expected to get a first class air terminal, and side runways. The airport was recently approved by the Federal Aviation Authority to accommodate night flights. Mr Marshall said the approval is another "hurdle" the Ministry of Tourism has overcome to ensure that more flights come to The Bahamas.

According to Mr Marshall, tourism development in Exuma has gone "big time" and the island is on the map internationally. "You are on the map in the face of the world, and we have to ensure that we have successful tourism here when people come to visit," Mr Marshall told Exumians.

Member of Parliament for Exuma, Anthony Moss, said when a government sees that an island has the potential to reap investments, it is only fitting for that government to invest its monies in that island.

"You may look to your left and see the great improvements to our terminal building here in Moss Town, but your government has made a promise and I am one to believe that a promise is a comfort to one who believes. This is only a temporary measure; the best is yet to come," he said.

Mr Moss recalled that more than 14 years ago, Exuma was blessed with a runway situated in George Town that was some 5,000 feet in length. He added, however, that the former government envisioned the prospects and great potential destined for the island of Exuma and opened the Moss Town airport, which boasts a larger runway of some 7,500 to 8,000 feet in length

Mr Gregory Mortimer, officer in charge of Bahamas Customs in Moss Town, told The Guardian that improvements to the Moss Town Airport, coupled with a fire truck, is a great addition for the community. He said with improvements in security, the equipment installed is a "welcome change" for residents.

"Some of them feel a little bit disturbed about it, but it is a welcome change that is well needed," he said.

Also attending Wednesday's ceremony were Chief Administrator of Exuma, Everette Hart; Chief Councilor of Exuma, Rev. Franklyn Mckenzie; Ministry of Tourism representative responsible for Family Islands, Angela Cleare; Senior Deputy Director of Civil Aviation, Eugene Butler; Acting Director of the Ministry of Works, Colin Marshall; and Deputy Director of the Ministry of Works, Doug French. Entertainment was provided by the Exuma Marching Band.

By Tamara Mckenzie,The Nassau Guardian

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