Grand Bahama Island is located a mere 55 miles east of the Florida coast, a geographic reality that has always figured prominently in shaping the islands destiny. In 1955 a landmark agreement, called the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) was signed between the Bahamian Government and American financier, Wallace Groves, the visionary founder of Freeport. The agreement still hailed by many legal minds, local and international, as a masterpiece, and has been and remains at the heart of Freeport’s success and its potential going forward. The agreement created a 230 square mile free trade zone, one of the world’s largest, which would be administered by the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA); a private entity with quasi-governmental functions. In recent years the HCA was extended until August 3, 2054 and also increased the land grants to 138,000 acres. Interestingly, Freeport’s original intent was that it become an industrial and commercial hub. However, Tourism later on became a major focus in an attempt to diversify its economy. It is particularly this industrial and commercial potential that we will be focusing on in this document.
Freeport's strategic location noted already in relation to Florida and the wider United States, has another important dimension, it sits at one of this hemispheres most important trade crossroads where trade routes from Europe, Caribbean,
South and Central America, the Gulf of Mexico, the US Eastern Seaboard, and the Panama Canal meet.
In fact, its location, alone, has always made it a potential gateway to the Americas and has been a major incentive to industrial development on the island over the years. Freeport is only a 35-minute plane ride from the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale conurbation, and its harbour is the closest offshore port to the United States.
The benefits of location having already been established let us focus on its other comparative advantage, its Free Trade Zone status. Under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, licensed businesses in the free trade zone pay no taxes on profits, capital gains, inheritance, income, earnings, distributions, gifts, or on imported and exported goods. In addition, import duties and taxes on real estate have been waived through August 3, 2015, at which time a new agreement is expected to replace the expired agreement.
World-class Infrastructure with Global Reach
Grand Bahama through Freeport boasts some of this hemisphere’s most impressive infrastructure, as well as additional provisions for new infrastructure to be added and existing ones to be upgraded as needed.
Worth singling out for its unparalleled list of qualities, Freeport’s harbour is another of its greatest strengths. At a depth of 52 feet Freeport Harbour and turning basin are among the deepest in the world and it plays host to a number of shipping and marine related industries. Along with world-class container handling facilities that directly links 270 ports worldwide to Freeport, which is owned and operated by Hutchison Port Holdings the world‘s largest port operator. Freeport Harbour can also claim, one of the world’s largest ship repair facilities, significant bulk storage and handling capacity in particular in cement and aggregate and an oil storage and bunkering facility capable of servicing the world’s largest tankers and ships. There is also another significant oil storage facility in eastern Grand Bahama.
Grand Bahama International Airport can boast attributes like: an 11,000 feet runway able to accommodate aircraft of any size, frequent flights by most major US airlines, US Border pre-clearance that allows for direct flights to any airport in the US, not just designated international gateways, and close proximity to the Harbour. This airport and Harbour proximity has led to the development of the Sea Air Business Center, a 710-acre industrial park between the two ports.
A little known fact that is also of great importance is the fact that Grand Bahama, as is wider Bahamas, is among the most wired places on the planet. Of the four undersea fiber optic links between the Bahamas and North America three are linked to Freeport. To the south these networks link almost all countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the northern nations of South America. What is even more impressive is that all of the systems form a self-healing ring offering a high degree of diversity and resiliency and virtually unlimited upgrade capacity.
The Official Website of The Government of The Bahamas: www.bahamas.gov.bs
The Islands Of The Bahamas: www.bahamas.com
Grand Bahama Port Authority: www.gbpa.com
Bahamas Financial Services Board: www.bfsb-bahamas.com
The Grand Bahama Development Co. GBdevco.com
Coldwell Banker Web Sites