The Bimini Superfast ferry
By ALISON LOWE
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Almost 45 percent of all reviews of the Bimini Superfast Ferry, the ferry service for which a controversial terminal is now being constructed off Bimini in The Bahamas, have rated the experienced “poor” or “terrible”, raising questions about the commercial viability of the product amidst ongoing environmental concerns about the project that would allow it to dock in Bimini.
Of 45 reviews on popular international travel review site, Trip Advisor, six rate the experience as “poor”, while 13 describe it as “terrible”. Alternatively, six people described the experience as “excellent”. The ratings have positioned the excursion, which allows daytrippers to visit Bimini from Miami, 85 out of 117 Miami travel experiences.
On Monday, Lindsey McCoy, the director of Save The Bays, an environmental advocacy group focused on issues of unregulated development and environmental protection, said the reviews suggest that the economic benefits of the project in the long-run, intended to accommodate the docking of the ferry, remain in doubt.
“It is always possible to say that there is a give and take between the environment and the economy, and sometimes it’s worth the damage if the economics make sense. But from what we’re seeing, it looks like the economics don’t make sense; there’s not a great business plan, and the environmental damage to the reef is going to be so great that it may kill off an industry that they already had, and if this (ferry service) doesn’t work, they won’t be able to go back to that.”
“Ultimately, it seems as though they are making a mess for something that might not work anyway.”
Dredging for the ferry terminal, which recently expanded to three times its original scope, is currently halted after a legal challenge by the Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC).
The BBC questions the validity of the permits obtained by developer Resorts World Bimini. Its case went to the Privy Council in London and resulted in the judges ordering an injunction until such time as Resorts World Bimini can prove the legality of its permits. The company and the Bimini Blue Coalition were in court on Monday as Resorts World Bimini sought to do just that.
Pointing to potential negative impacts highlighted in the Environmental Impact Act (EIA) obtained by Resorts World Bimini, and the delicate surrounding environment, prized for its corals and recreational dive sites, the Bimini Blue Coalition fears that the dredging will result in detrimental environmental and economic impacts for Bimini.
Resorts World Bimini, however, contends that the project – ultimately set to create a 1,000 foot pier and 1.5 acre man-made island at which the Bimini Superfast ferry will dock when it brings passengers from Miami to the island – will provide an economic boost to Bimini.
This is particularly the case, the company has suggested, since it would eliminate the need to bring passengers from the ferry to the island by tenders, cutting down on the likelihood of cancellation of the service in bad weather and increasing the time tourists spend on the island once they arrive.
Many of the negative reviews on Trip Advisor refer to how the need for the tendering to and from the ferry to Bimini at times left visitors with just an hour and a half on the island, followed in some cases by a wait at the US Customs line of up to four hours when they returned to the US. Numerous others note issues with a lack of adequate customer service by Bimini Superfast staff at the company’s Miami office, and on the boat itself.
The company, Guardian Business can reveal, is presently being sued in a Florida court by an 80-year-old woman who slipped and fell in August 2013 while being transferred from one of Resorts World Bimini’s tenders back to the ferry, injuring her shoulder. The case has been referred to mediation.
However, while the company contends the ferry terminal will ease issues related to moving passengers on and off the island, Resorts World Bimini’s assertion that the ferry service will provide for the ferry service to bring an additional 570,000 visitors a year, an 11-fold increase from what it currently experiences, was challenged in the company’s own EIA.
The report recommended a more “in-depth” study into demand for the service to be conducted either before or in the early stages of construction of the ferry terminal, the EIA said the projections were “questionable” and based on inadequate research.
Minister of State for Investments, Khaalis Rolle, told Guardian Business last year that he did not believe such a study was necessary.
This newspaper understands that, to date, none has been conducted.
Referring to Rolle’s comments suggesting that a demand/feasibility study may not be necessary, McCoy said: “I’m sure it would be a shame for them (Resorts World Bimini/Bimini Superfast to have a failed effort, but that’s a huge risk to take on Bimini’s behalf. The company can walk away, but then what is Bimini left with?”
Contacted on Monday for comment on the Trip Advisor reviews and whether or not a demand study was ultimately carried out, spokesperson for Resorts World Bimini, Michelle Malcolm simply stated: “The project is feasible”.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian