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Short Airport shut down but guests take to social media as TCIAA scrambles to get Firefighters back to work

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, June 24, 2022 – Tens of flights were delayed last Saturday  when firefighters at the Providenciales International Airport went on strike for more than three hours over dissatisfaction with their wage increases.  The strike occurred on one of the busiest days of the year with 35 commercial flights scheduled to land in the Turks and Caicos. All domestic flights and at least two international flights were canceled or held up because of the strike.

Private air carriers also experienced delays. Caicos Express Airways said their morning flights were all delayed and several passengers cancelled due to the delays. Provo Air Center said they had one cancellation (a fuel stop) and four delays with some passengers having to completely reschedule.   Additionally, some commercial passengers got frustrated with the airport and called for charter flights instead.

InterCaribbean Airways had to cancel 10 flights. Blue Heron aviation said the delay did not greatly affect them as they only had one cancellation.  All of this within a three hour timespan on June 18, 2022 when the fire crew at the airport, without warning, took industrial action.

As for the reasoning behind the strike the firefighters say the increase offered to them is comparatively thought to be not as good as it is for others employed by the Airports Authority.

The Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority (TCIAA) confirmed the issue around 8:00 am but it is thought to have been affecting the airport from before 7:00 am. The TCIAA told the public they would be ‘temporarily unable to accommodate air traffic’ as flights cannot be given clearance to land without firefighters on-site in case of an accident.

TCIAA officials immediately met with the firefighters in an effort to iron out the issue and restore services and they were successful in reaching a temporary solution the TCIAA confirmed. Firefighters returned to work around 11:18 am but the contents of that meeting have not yetmbeen made public.

Lyndon Gardiner, Chairman of interCaribbean Airways praised the swift resolution between the two teams noting that in the past similar action had spread over days causing massive delays. Firefighters have had to resort to industrial action several times in the last 4 years. They were on strike in August 2019 and again in May 2021 both times resulted in much longer delays.

The travelling public was well aware of the strike commented on sites like TripAdvisor (the world’s largest travel website) immediately picked up on the issue. Tourist comments on the site ranged from outraged to disappointed.

“A total mess. What an embarrassment for TCI Tourism and waste of time and money for so many,” one individual lamented.

Another who appeared to be on the island said, “How awful for those trying to get here. (And I hope this is cleared up by Tuesday when we are set to return home.) I saw that the early Jet Blue flight out of JFK this morning made it halfway to Providenciales before being diverted back to JFK.”

Just after 11 a.m. one person who seemed to have been caught up in the incident said, “I am one of the ones stuck now hearing the PLS airport is open again. But we are already canceled and back with our luggage in a long ticketing line trying to see if they will do a special flight later today or tomorrow.  This is after being in the air for over an hour and returning to Boston.  JB has been waiting for the go-ahead since we came back at about 8:30 am from the

Turks govt to see if the flight can come in on a new schedule. Huge black eye for Turks. What a huge upset for all these folks and families…. Pay the firefighters a fair wage.”

Despite this the TCIAA spoke directly to the public, noting that they had the firefighter & #39;s best interest at heart and said the firefighters were upset because their pay increases would be staggered.

“The TCIAA wishes to advise that it has and continues to prioritize improving work conditions and salaries/wages at the TCIAA. Today’s industrial action occurred without any formal notice issued to the TCIAA and in response to a recent announcement by the TCIAA to its staff that it was immediately introducing a phased salary increase to all staff. To this end, the fire service received a 15 percent increase to be applied to all staff within the department. The announcement advised that this 15 percent increase was the first step of a two-part process leading to the introduction of a salary grading scale, during which time an additional increase was to be anticipated, ”  a press release explained.

The TCIAA did not explain whether they had consulted with the firefighters on the nature of the increase and if it was a workable solution for them.  The TCIAA say they are working to upgrade the fire tower to make employees more comfortable and would be working with the government on increases as the staff deserved it.

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Bahamas News

GBPA Statement from Ian Rolle, President

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Re:  GBPA’s Response to fire in the International Bazaar

 

#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority is aware of the recent fire at the International Bazaar.

The GBPA has engaged, and continues to engage, with operators of the International Bazaar, which include representatives of the Bazaar Association and several property owners, so that we can continue demolition exercises on the dilapidated structures and buildings.

The GBPA is acutely aware of the need to demolish derelict structures within the International Bazaar for the safety of all businesses and visitors. We have performed demolitions in the past at our own cost, most recently in February 2022 when we, in partnership with owners, demolished fire-damaged buildings in the Oriental Section. We have also written to numerous property owners of dilapidated structures over the years to sensitize them to the need to repair or demolish their buildings.

In addition, we have engaged the Government of the Bahamas in advance discussions to approve our requested amendments of the Building and Sanitary bylaws, which would enable GBPA to execute more demolitions in a timely manner and recoup the associated costs.

With the requested bylaw amendments in place, GBPA can continue to make consistent efforts to address the remainder of derelict buildings in the International Bazaar and other dilapidated structures within the city.

The GBPA itself has never owned any part of the International Bazaar but has historically subsidized the Bazaar for many years when owners were no longer maintaining its communal areas.

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Beneath the Waves’ summer camp inspires young Bahamians to become stewards of the environment

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#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – While the waters near Great Exuma are renowned for their unmatched beauty, last weekend, more than 40 students spent a day with Beneath the Waves learning the deeper value of the marine ecosystems that surround their islands and act as a bedrock for the Bahamian economy and way of life.

As participants in the non-profit’s summer camp, the young students learned about mangrove and coral reef habitats and the many species that live among them.

They heard about some of Beneath the Waves’ research, including studies of sharks, seagrass and blue carbon, and research methods like underwater video surveys.

Coral Vita Conservancy, which has been working relentlessly to restore coral reefs off Grand Bahama, sent team member Joe Oliver , Director of Restoration Operations, to assist with the camp and provide in-depth information on corals in The Bahamas.

Team ECCO, a North Carolina-based ocean education organization, also provided in-depth lessons on invertebrates and fish.

Long after the taste of ice cream at the end-of-day party has faded, campers will remember learning how to tag a lifelike shark. And they’ll wear their camp t-shirts with pride, remembering this is the day they learned to value the water all around them and what lies beneath the waves.

Eleven-year-old twin sisters Kassidy and Kaylee Burrows described the camp as a highlight of their summer vacation.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Kassidy. “And we learned all about sponges, the water, mangroves, coral reefs — how they protect animals and how they protect the shore — and also about animals themselves, aquatic animals, for example, sea anemones, corals, sponges and sharks.”

Kassidy was especially enthused to share her experience with helping to plant new mangroves.

“We found out how mangrove seeds can actually disperse into the water,” she said.

“And I thought they were going to be small seeds, but, in my opinion, they looked like asparagus kind of.

“We also got to go in the water and plant new mangroves.”

Beneath the Waves’ scientists have been studying The Bahamas’ waters for more than a decade, having helped with the creation and management of conservation policies, including the legislation that made the country’s waters a shark sanctuary in 2011.

The non-governmental organization knows that in continuing efforts to protect The Bahamas’ greatest asset, its natural environment, community buy-in is vital.

And in that context, the value of helping young Bahamians gain these kinds of hands-on experiences and lessons, ones they’ll undoubtedly carry with them through life, can’t be overstated.

Kaylee Burrows is already brainstorming the ways she can apply what she learned in her future career.

While the mangroves piqued her sister’s interest, Kaylee said she was fascinated by coral reefs and the important role they play on a global scale, though she noted they don’t seem to be sufficiently appreciated.

“I learned that The Bahamas has some of the biggest coral reefs in the world,” she said. “We actually put pieces of coral on a pipe to help build a platform for the coral. The reason I chose coral reefs over all of the topics is because we the people of the Bahamas, don’t even recognize how important our islands are. These coral reefs are very beneficial to the whole world.”

Kaylee said she hopes to one day become a veterinarian and an author.

“As a vet, I can help not just land animals, but marine animals too,” she said. “As an author, I can write books on marine biology. I think this experience helped with my future career, and I’m forever grateful.”

Beneath the Waves Managing Director Jamie Fitzgerald said plans are underway to make the camp an annual event.

“We look forward to being able to work more closely with local schools in the islands we frequent, such as Exuma and Nassau, to develop educational materials around sharks and marine science, and to foster opportunities for internships and future careers for any aspiring Bahamian marine biologists,” Fitzgerald said.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: Hands-on experience – Exuma students planting mangroves with the help of research scientists from Beneath the Waves  — just one of the many memorable moments from the non-profit’s summer camp that was held on July 23. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

1st insert: Learning about coral — With the help of experts from Coral Vita, a Grand Bahama-based organization working to restore reefs near the island, students built plaforms for coral. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

2nd insert: More to come  – Camp leaders and participants posed with the inflatable shark, as the first of what is hoped to be many Beneath the Waves summer camps came to an end. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

 

Release: Beneath the Waves

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Bahamas News

Caribbean Rising: Regional Heads of Government Meet in The Bahamas Aug 16-17 to discuss Caribbean position on Climate Change Mitigation

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#TheBahamas, August 5, 2022 – The Bahamas will host the first Regional Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean in preparation for COP27 in Nassau, The Bahamas on August 16-17, 2022.

The inaugural event is being introduced by the Government of The Bahamas with the aim of devising a regional position on climate change mitigation ahead of COP 27 which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt November 6-20, 2022.

Invited participants include the Head of State from the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla,

Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.

The Government of The Bahamas intends to establish the meeting as an annual event and will seek to have it instituted as a regular meeting on calendar of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC).

“The Bahamas is introducing this conference as we seek to get results in the climate change fight,” Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas said ahead of the talks.

“The Bahamas, along with the region, has lobbied year after year, meeting after meeting, as we sought for the world to acknowledge our vulnerable position.”

“This meeting will position the Caribbean region to take control of our fate and present a unified position to the world at COP27,” Prime Minister Davis added.

The meeting is also intended to establish a Caribbean response exclusive of the conventional Latin

America-Caribbean pairing in order to better reflect common geographical and geo-political issues of Caribbean states.

“What we’ve been lacking regionally is a strategy that would aid us in our negotiation process when we go to the conferences of the parties referred to as COPs,” says Rochelle Newbold, Special Advisor on Climate Change and Environmental Matters and Climate Tsar in the Office of the Prime Minister in The Bahamas.

“This year will be COP number 27 and, as a region, we have never put forward a strategy document or an intent of how we want to deal with the issues that we face within the region collectively,” Newbold added.

The conference agenda will also focus on renewable energy, energy security, climate adaptation, climate financing, loss and damage due to tropical weather systems and establishing a framework for the sale of carbon credits.

Delegates attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in December 2021 signed off on a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter global warming by limiting the temperature rise on Earth to a 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

The global warming phenomenon has been linked to more frequent and aggressive hurricanes in the Caribbean, which have subjected the region to billions of dollars in damage and bound countries to burdensome loan commitments.

According to the Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas report issued by the Inter-American Development Bank in March 2022,       damage and losses from Hurricane Dorian amounted to US$3.4 billion, a quarter of the country’s GDP.

A heat wave rolling across the United States and Europe is also being attributed to rising temperatures.

The UK recorded temperatures of over 40°C (104°F) for the first time in July 2022, according to local forecasters.

“We know that if we reach that 1.5°C and we exceed it, everything changes for everybody. While land-locked countries and large continents like South America will experience a change, island-states will experience that change three and four-fold.”

“With this meeting we will have all of those who face the same threat level sitting down together, discussing options, considering what is being suggested and how realistic this will be. For us, this is a fundamental thing that we should have been doing a long time ago,” Newbold said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a Chair’s Summary will be made available detailing the scope of the discussions as well as key messages and ideas that emerge. Additionally, the region plans to launch an initiative at COP27 to advance advocacy efforts on behalf of Caribbean States.

 

Photo Caption: During the weekly Press Briefing, at his Office, on August 4, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis announced that The Bahamas will host the Regional Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting, 16-17 August, 2022 at Baha Mar Resort.  (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

 

For Press Inquiries:

Clint Watson, Press Secretary

Office of The Prime Minister

Commonwealth of The Bahamas clintwatson@bahamas.gov.bs

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