Categorized | Business, National News

Hutchinson Port Holdings Sets Record Straight on GB Harbour Safety

Officials at the Freeport Harbour Company (FHC) on Tuesday sought to set the record straight about port safety concerns raised by a number of its employees.

In a press statement issued yesterday, FHC CEO Godfrey Smith said the port’s safety record is supported on many levels despite the “ill-informed remarks purely on the basis of hearsay and the less than truthful claims of special interests” and assured that FHC has consistently complied with the recommendations of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) requirements inclusive of ensuring ongoing training for all pilots and maritime industry personnel.

“More specifically, FHC has incorporated in its safety management system the IMO marine and safety committees’ recommendations on training and certification for marine pilots, which were submitted at its 75th session,” he said. “The safety management system is certified to the internationally recognised standard.

“To achieve this certification the entire system including the marine pilot procedures were audited by an internationally accredited certificate body and deemed in full compliance. The management system requires annual recertification and includes a commitment to continuous improvement.

A total of 11 marine pilots at FHC and the Bahamas Oil Refinery Company has submitted their resignation letters and claimed that the port poses safety hazards.

However, Mr. Smith said the steady growth in the number of world recognised companies that have chosen to make Freeport Harbour their home is further testament to the confidence held in the business practices, world class workforce, exceptional concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and the safety of doing business within Bahamian waters.

“With the exception of the downturn due to the global recession experienced several years ago, Freeport Harbour Company and its numerous partners in the harbour continues to experience business growth and development due to support from companies around the world,” he added.

“In fact, expansion plans are underway for several of these enterprises. The Freeport Harbour Company has been very responsive to suggestions or critiques from stakeholders to ensure the quality of service to our maritime partners. We have consistently investigated and where necessary or feasible remedied any and all matters highlighted by stakeholders internally or externally.”

For these reasons, Mr. Smith said the company has branded the characterisations by certain local and overseas interests as “patently false, misleading and reckless.”

“Our company has enjoyed a good working relationship with our pilots and has gone to great lengths to ensure that they are properly compensated and works under safe and pleasant working conditions,” the FHC CEO added.

“Our history has not been one of contention. In fact our relations have been more than cordial. There are no complaints or reports about safety submitted by the marine pilots up to November of last year. Therefore, we believe that the present assault of the Bahamian maritime industry, the Freeport Harbour Company and its partners are not at all about safety.

Certain individuals have sought to convince the pilots that there is an economic bonanza to be had if they are able to successfully put pressure on the companies that depend on their valuable service. We are committed to developing a cadre of Bahamians to fill the long-term industry demand. We are keenly aware that other jurisdictions, including Florida, have understudied our system of pilotage and are lobbying to form a similar system to counteract the escalating costs to business and the public. We regret that the talented men and women whom we have assisted in training have been misled about what they are entitled.”

FHC operates one of the fastest emerging cruise and maritime centres in North America and is privately owned and operated by a joint venture between the Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) Group and the Port Group Limited (the Grand Bahama Port Authority).

Written by Jones Bahamas

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