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Top insurers say island needs new airport

Upgrade needed: Bermuda's L.F. Wade International Airport is "antiquated" and needs to be replaced, says Abir

Bermuda’s major international insurance companies believe the island needs a new airport to replace the current “decrepit” structure.

The Association of Bermuda International Insurers and Reinsurers this morning issued a statement saying it did not take a position on the Bermuda Government’s airport redevelopment plan but added that it was clear the existing facility needed to be replaced.

“Abir members recognise that Bermuda’s lifeline to the rest of the world — the 70-year-old Bermuda L.F. Wade Airport Terminal — is decrepit, subject to extraordinary maintenance costs, and at enormous risk from sea level rise and hurricanes,” Abir said in today’s statement.

“The sewage system is antiquated and subject to malfunction due to tide and wind conditions thus creating a potential public health hazard to workers and visitors.

“A consensus is emerging that the airport terminal is beyond repair and that a new facility is needed. We are not experts on Bermuda’s infrastructure priorities, but we believe that the current airport facility needs to be replaced and that such replacement will benefit Bermuda.”

Abir’s members include some of the island’s largest employers, who had a combined payroll of around 1,500 people in Bermuda as of the end of 2015. Their clients and employees are major users of the airport.

Although Abir said a new airport was needed, the organisation stopped short of backing the Government’s proposed scheme to build a new terminal in collaboration with Canadian government agency, the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

But it warned against the dangers of taking on extra public debt.

“We don’t take a position, pro or con, on the Government’s proposed rebuilding plan,” Abir stated. “It is not for us to opine on what the financial structure or management should be of the airport project, but we do recognise the Government has come forward with a financing plan that avoids additional debt, has protections against troubling cost overruns and follows a model that has been used elsewhere on infrastructure projects.

“After six years of a devastating recession, Bermuda’s debt is a serious concern; it seems clear the government cannot take on much additional debt without imperilling essential services and receiving another sovereign debt rating downgrade.

“Before a decision is made, we understand that the Government will make the required public disclosures as called for under the entrustment agreement with the UK so that Bermuda’s voters are afforded a full airing of the financial details. With that information in the public domain it should be possible for an informed decision to be made about the airport project and its impact on the Government’s finances.”