Another port project, another protest

Bahamas debate mirrors Cayman concerns

A cruise ship docks at Nassau, Bahamas. Proposals are under way to create a new cruise ship dock at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthra, Bahamas.

Citing environmental concerns, questionable economic benefits and a lack of transparency over the project, campaign groups are collecting petition signatures to stop a major cruise development in the Caribbean.

This time the campaign is not focussed on Grand Cayman, but on the Bahamas.

Campaigners have taken a leaf out of the Cayman Islands’ playbook as they try to stop Disney’s planned port development at scenic Lighthouse Point on Eleuthera.

Many of the concerns highlighted in the Bahamas echo concerns raised by groups here.

The Last Chance for Lighthouse Point Campaign has brought together multiple regional and international groups to fight the development.

A new campaign website, StopDisney.com, highlights the fact that Lighthouse Point is in an area previously earmarked as a potential marine protected area, and urges the Bahamian government and its partner Disney to reconsider the project.

“There are plenty of places in the Bahamas where Disney can dock its cruise ships. There is only one Lighthouse Point,” the website declares.

The campaigners have also questioned the estimated $250 million expenditure on the proposed dock, highlighting that the Bahamas receives just 10% of its tourism income from cruise passengers.

According to the Nassau Guardian, the Bahamas government signed an agreement with Disney Cruise Lines for the proposed dock in March. Disney has already started pre-qualifying contractors for the project in South Eleuthera, the newspaper reports.

In a press release this week, international non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance announced it was joining the fight to “save Lighthouse Point” and has launched an online petition to protest the development.

Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, said, “We are pleased to join with our Bahamian partners to launch this campaign against Disney’s current plans for Lighthouse Point that would degrade a treasured natural site and proposed marine protected area. Disney needs to do more than just rush through a minimal government process in the Bahamas – it needs to seriously consider the environmental, economic, and social costs of this proposed cruise port.

“We’re calling on Disney to commit to preserving Lighthouse Point for current and future generations by finding a more suitable alternative site for its cruise ships.”

Joe Darville, executive director of Bahamian environmental group Save the Bays, added, “It is alarming to hear that Disney is moving forward with qualifying contractors for construction work at Lighthouse Point before the [environmental impact assessment] is even completed. A comprehensive review of the environmental and economic effects of this massive port project must be done before any final decision is made on the future of one of the most majestically beautiful spots left on Earth.”

ReEarth, another Bahamian non-profit, is also quoted in the press release, questioning the impact of the cruise industry on the Bahamas economy.

“Bahamians are increasingly questioning the benefits of the cruise ship industry to the country after so many failed promises of jobs and economic opportunities,” according to Sam Duncombe, executive director of the organisation.

“Cruise ship passengers comprise 75% of the tourists visiting the Bahamas, yet they only contribute 10% of the annual tourism GDP. There are better, more sustainable development options for South Eleuthera than Disney’s proposed cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point.”

Disney Cruise Lines issued its own press release indicating the project was contingent on a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.

“From the beginning, we have said we will only move forward with our project at Lighthouse Point if we can do so in an environmentally responsible manner,” the statement indicated.