Vaz wants better relationship between airport investors
VAZ ... airports must maintain highest standards of safety (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz on Friday assured local investors that proposals are already at the Cabinet level to allow them to invest in the island's two major international airports.

He told the audience at a briefing at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel that the development of the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston is a key part of the Government's "broadest strategic planning", which is aimed at establishing Kingston as a regional business hub and Jamaica as a logistics hub.

"The NMIA is, therefore, not just a place for departures and arrivals. It is a symbol of progress and a hub of opportunities and has tremendous potential for growth," he said, noting that the NMIA is the second-largest airport in Jamaica and provides an essential service as "Kingston's gateway to the world".

He also pointed out that the NMIA has handled crucial improvement projects since last year and into the current financial year (2023/2024). However, he said that, in hindsight, some of these projects should have been done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHILLIPS ... happy to hear that there would be a renegotiating of the relationship (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Vaz, who was assigned the transport portfolio recently, said that the bottom line is that the future of NMIA lies in the realisation that it has top potential and more development needs to be done to enhance its capabilities.

"Our airports must maintain highest standards of safety, security, and importantly, superior customs service. I say it, as many times as I get the opportunity: It's your first impression when you arrive on our shores, and it is your last impression when you leave and depart our shores. These are the critical things because whatever happens in between, you will always remember the first and the last," he stated.

Vaz also pointed out that the Government expects upgrades in a timely manner to serve the immediate needs of the travellers and stakeholders as there are only three needs — consultation, collaboration, and communications which, he said, had broken down.

He said that when he took office recently he realised that the issue was still not at the Cabinet level, and that after it was signed there was a "sign-off" to the original agreement.

He argued that he was hoping that Cabinet would get the additional responses within the next week, "because I want to get it to Cabinet on Monday, and there are two sets of comments now outstanding".

Vaz also noted that once that is done and is signed, it will pave the way for a non-negotiable agreement, "not depending on the terms of the agreement, because we have lost enough time as a result of the issues they were having".

Opposition Spokesman on Transport and Works Mikael Phillips, who also spoke at the meeting, welcomed the fact that both he and Vaz were on the same page, in terms of seeking a resolution which requires Cabinet approval of the proposed agreement expected to bring about less quarrelling between the parties over future investments in the industry.

Phillips said that he was happy to hear that there would be a renegotiating of the relationship between the Mexican investors, Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAP) and the Jamaican entrepreneurs willing to invest in the airports.

Abertis, the Spanish company which owns the major part of MBJ Airports 30-year concession for Sangster International Airport, sold its stake to Mexican company Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAP).

The Sangster International Airport is an international aerodrome located east of the famed Montego Bay tourism home in Jamaica. The airport is capable of handling nine-million passengers per year. It also serves as the most popular airport for tourists visiting the north coast of Jamaica. It is named after former Jamaican Prime Minister Sir Donald Sangster, while the NMIA was named after former Premier Norman Manley.

The airports are run by their management company MBJ Airports Limited, whose leading stakeholder is Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico and minority-owned by Vantage Airport Group.

Sangster was privatised and turned over by the Airports Authority of Jamaica to the consortium in 2003.

BY BALFORD HENRY Sunday Observer senior writer

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