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Move to ease airport project jobs concerns

LF Wade International Airport

The Bermuda Government has moved to quell concerns that jobs may be lost at the airport under its multimillion-dollar redevelopment plans.

Last week at a public meeting in the East End Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport, raised concerns that staff at LF Wade had been told that they could not be guaranteed jobs if the project went ahead.

But a Government spokesman told The Royal Gazette that some existing employees would merge in the new airport operators business model, while others will staff a new airport quango.

“Given the industry specific skill sets that officers of the Department of Airport Operations (DAO) possess and given their overall experience levels, it is expected that some of the existing employees of DAO will merge into the new Airport Operator’s business model,” the spokesman added.

“Other DAO employees will staff the new airport quango which is to be established in order to provide oversight of the airport operator.”

At Friday’s meeting Mr Scott also announced that Aecon — the developer — had “pulled out” of the Quito airport arrangement in Ecuador, which it had built with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). The spokesman said the claim was inaccurate. He added: “The facts are that Aecon sold its 45.5 per cent interest in Quito Airport. This was just a normal business transaction.

“President of Aecon Concessions Steve Nackan has stated: ‘Aecon has been involved with the Quito Airport for over 14 years — taking the project from its infancy, through development, financing, construction, operating the existing Quito airport from 2006 to 2013, and into two and a half years of full operation of the new award-winning airport.

‘From an operational perspective, the new airport has reached a ‘steady state’ and from an investment perspective, is now well suited to long-term institutional ownership.

‘It is typical that at this stage in an infrastructure project’s life cycle, to see investments transition from the originating project sponsor, developer and builder to long-term institutional investors, and this transition is generally perceived as a further marker of a successful development project.’”

The spokesman told The Royal Gazette that after the Island’s new terminal was open, Bermuda’s consent was still required for any change of control.

He added: “Subject to certain very narrow exceptions, the current development agreement requires Aecon Construction Group to be the joint owner and lead shareholder of the Company that will be operating the airport throughout the construction of the Airport, and thereafter Aecon Construction Group must control the Airport Operating Company.

“The Government must provide its prior written consent for any changes to this situation. The Government retains absolute discretion for this decision.

“After the terminal opening date, Bermuda’s consent is still required for any change of control but will be given if the proposed transferee has the financial resources, experience and expertise required to step into that role.”

Last week’s Progressive Labour Party town-hall meeting attracted more than 100 people in the East End and was the third such event organised by the Opposition. During the presentation Mr Scott claimed that there would be less gates at the new facility.

The Government spokesman responded: “The new airport will have seven new boarding bridges to enhance passenger level of service.

“There are no boarding bridges at the current terminal.

“The new terminal will have 14 stands to accommodate passenger aircraft compared to the current layout, which only has eight gates/stands and one of those is used for cargo.”