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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online
|Admiral Sir George Somers, Bermuda 1609||Artists who painted Bermuda||Bermuda, Britain & Commonwealth|
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|Bermuda's postage stamps||Historic Houses||History 1500 to 1699|
|History 1700 to 1799||History 1800 to 1899||History 1900 to 1939 pre-war|
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|History 2006 Part 1||History 2006 Part 2||History 2007 Jan and Feb|
|History 2007 March||History 2007 April||History 2007 May|
|History 2007 June 1-15th||History 2007 June 16 to 30th||History 2007 July 1-15|
|History 2007 July 16th to 31st||History 2007 August 1 to 7||History 2007 August 8 to 14|
|History 2007 August 15 to 21||History 2007 August 22-31||History 2007 September 1 to 10|
|History 2007 September 11 to December 31||History 2008 to 2010||History 2011 through 2012|
|History 2013||History 2014 part 1||History 2014 part 2|
|History 2015 January||History 2015 February||History 2015 March|
|History 2015 April||History 2015 May||History 2015 June|
|History 2015 July||History 2015 August||History 2015 September|
|History 2015 October||History 2015 November||History 2015 December|
|History 2016 January||History 2016 February||History 2016 March|
|History 2016 April||History 2016 May||History 2016 June|
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|History 2017 January||History 2017 February||History 2017 March|
|History 2017 April||History 2017 May||History 2017 June|
|History 2017 July||History 2017 August|
2015. May 30. Hotly contested immigration reform that brought protesters into the Senate when it was first tabled has been approved in the House of Assembly, despite opposition. The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2015, which the One Bermuda Alliance maintains will kick-start property sales, got some support from the Progressive Labour Party but was still criticised as a bailout. The debate included an impassioned appeal for unity from OBA backbencher Leah Scott, who was moved to tears as she called an end to partisan bickering. Ms Scott got applause from the Opposition after telling the House that people did not march because they wanted to, also imploring MPs to be “sensitive to the people of Bermuda because their hearts are crying”. Conceding that she might get “rapped on her knuckles” and apologizing for getting upset, Ms Scott said that “people are tired of hearing that it’s the PLP’s fault.” Ms Scott said she had grown dispirited with the quality of debate in the House, adding that MPs “say the Lord’s prayer, and then we turn into devils”. Her remarks were commended by the Opposition, and Ms Scott abstained from voting as the Government side rejected proposed amendments from the Opposition, 17 votes to 15. The Act broadens the ability of Permanent Resident’s Certificate (PRC) holders to purchase property of any annual rental value (ARV), to a maximum of two houses. It lowered the ARV threshold of $177,000 to $153,000 for non-Bermudians and non-PRC holders to buy houses, and loosened 90-day and 120-day annual restrictions on tourist accommodation and the division of fractional units, so that those holding licences for tourist accommodation would get up to six months annually. The OBA have been accused of pandering to non-Bermudians over the interests of locals since the legislation was brought to the Upper House in March by Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. It was brought before Parliament by the junior minister, Sylvan Richards, who emphasized that the purpose of the amendments was to bolster the real estate market, encourage foreign investment and create jobs for Bermudians. Walton Brown, Shadow Minister of Immigration, said that while he had no issue with some elements of the Bill, its overriding nature demonstrated Government’s refusal to commit to collaborative immigration reform. He questioned how Government determined how much Bermudian land was owned by non-Bermudians, saying that good data was required to develop good policy. Mr Brown also challenged the OBA’s logic in creating jobs by bringing foreign workers to the Island, saying that such efforts had so far not yielded the desired results. He suggested that Government claims that the amendments were intended to create jobs were “rhetoric”, saying it had nothing to do with tackling the hardships being felt by Bermudians, and encouraged Government to reconsider the bill. Walter Roban, Shadow Public Safety Minister, said that the legislation reinforced the belief that the OBA was focused more on helping the wealthy than those who were struggling. He said: “This is really an effort by the Government to bail out a group of people who have speculated on real estate and lost. They are trying to give them a second shot at it.” Derrick Burgess, Shadow Minister of Labour and Seniors, questioned the retroactive nature of the amendment, which he claimed would essentially “legalise” past cases of fronting, allowing any PRC holders that had been involved in such activities to apply for status. He said that when the PLP left office, there were 49 suspected fronting cases being investigated — about 12 of which were prepared to go to the Department of Public Prosecutions for review. “I suspect that file may have gone missing, I don’t know,” he said. “Those people who broke the law by fronting, aided and abetted by law firms in this country, now they become law-abiding citizens, and those that had PRCs are eligible for status because the record has been expunged. It’s been cleaned by that bill, and that shouldn’t happen.” Mr Richards later said that the retroactivity did not apply in such cases, saying those who had committed offences could still be prosecuted. Dr Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development, accused the Opposition of having “collective amnesia” and blamed their immigration policies for the economic downturn. While Opposition members described the OBA legislation as piecemeal, he said it was “triage”, telling the House that the Island had been “literally hemorrhaging jobs” when the OBA came into power. However, Rolfe Commissiong, Shadow Human Affairs Minister, said Dr Gibbons was extolling a dishonest political narrative which had only worsened the divide. Finance Minister Bob Richards emphasized the importance of immigration in building the workforce, saying: “Immigration policy is economic policy. “If you look at the world around us, immigration is generally about economics, because there is this inconvenient link between the number of people who live in a country, the change in that number and the economy. I can’t think of any country that has a growing economy and a population in decline.” Shadow Tourism Minister Zane DeSilva said Government had continued to ignore the concerns of the public on the emotive issue, noting the protests that disrupted the debate on the same legislation in the Senate. While he said that some elements of the legislation were positive, he added: “When the people of this country shut down the Senate Chamber because they are not happy, we have got to listen to the people.” Opposition MPs sought to amend the legislation, altering the proposed new rules for fractional units, but this was rejected when Government MPs voted to leave it as tabled. However, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell admitted there were possible unintended consequences to doing away with restrictions on fractional units. According to Mr Crockwell, the developers for Ariel Sands had pushed for the restrictions to be relaxed, and the issue had been “red flagged” over concerns expressed by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
May 30. New proposals affecting insurance coverage for mammograms were again defended by Health Minister Jeanne Atherden yesterday. Coverage is to be switched over to the more stringent clinical practices of the United States, according to a new Bill. In addition, the government insurance package known as the Standard Hospital Benefit (SHB) will be renamed the Standard Health Benefit. Ms Atherden told the House of Assembly yesterday that the health system in Bermuda informally followed the American College of Radiology’s guidelines for mammography, which recommend annual screenings for women over the age of 40. “A clinical review of various international guidelines from several countries has proposed changing the Bermuda standard to follow the United States Preventive Services task force guidelines, which recommend that healthy, asymptomatic women aged 50 to 74 years be screened every two years,” she said. “The guidelines are recommendations which review, analyze, interpret and then report the evidence from a multitude of studies conducted by international subject experts. Regrettably, a health screening recommendation intended to improve the health of women by reducing their exposure to the risks of over diagnosis has been misinterpreted. This Government is not introducing legislation telling Bermudian women they can only have a mammogram once every two years and it is misleading to suggest that having mammograms once every two years will cause death by delay.” Ms Atherden told MPs that if a doctor ordered a mammogram more frequently, it would be covered by insurance. “Women with a family history or other risk factors will still be covered for testing with a physician referral at any age,” she said. “This amendment seeks to ensure that women obtain their physician’s input in the decision to use this technology in young ages where the science indicates that the benefits do not outweigh the risks.” Responding to questions posed by Shadow Health Minister Kim Wilson — who was dressed in pink yesterday to demonstrate her concerns about Government’s position — Ms Atherden said: “The real concern is that in trying to save lives, you’re actually doing more harm.” Answering questions from Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess, Ms Atherden confirmed that Bermuda had experienced an increase in breast cancer in the past three years. There was some debate about which age groups the rise in cancer had occurred in. Ms Atherden said: “If a woman has a consultation with her doctor, she will be able to determine what is appropriate for her. If a doctor refers an individual every year, that person will have a mammogram every year.” Ms Wilson asked Ms Atherden if not giving asymptomatic women between the ages of 40 and 49 a mammogram as a standard policy meant that the new legislation was discriminatory against women in that age group. Ms Atherden said that if a woman in that age group was able to convince her doctor to order a mammogram, then she would receive one. “We want women to have a discussion with their doctor. There are risks associated with mammograms. We believe in healthy people in healthy communities.”
May 29. A Bill switching the timing of a national census from once every five years to the discretion of the Premier has been passed in the House of Assembly over what were initially strenuous objections from the Opposition. However, in an accord at the end of the debate, both sides were in agreement on amending its wording to commit to holding a census at least once every ten years. Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport insisted that the Progressive Labour Party’s argument that the Bermuda Government would lack the necessary information to make clear decisions was incorrect. Censuses would be held in 2016 and 2020, he said, and the Bill would give the Government “the ability to have censuses done when we think it is necessarily required.” PLP Members of Parliament Walter Roban and Wayne Furbert told the House that the legislation would leave the Government flying in the dark when it came to decisions on health, education and policies such as healthcare. Mr Furbert derided the notion of censuses being proposed by the Premier from “time to time”, while Mr Roban told MPs that recent years had seen profound changes to Bermudian demographics that were barely understood. However Marc Bean, Leader of the Opposition, accused the One Bermuda Alliance of seeking to take power as an “arbitrary Government”, and suggested their intent was to “manipulate data to that the negative impact of their social engineering will not see the light of day” — a reference to immigration policy, which Premier Michael Dunkley vehemently denied. The delay in not having a census this year would allow more cost effective and better collection of information, Mr Dunkley said, based on the advice of the Department of Statistics. After Parliament went into committee on the Statistics Amendment Act 2015, PLP MP Walton Brown proposed switching the line “from time to time” for “at intervals of not more than ten years. "The reason for this is to codify in law what has historically been in best practice,” Mr Brown said — although OBA MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said that “time to time” referred to the precedent of legislation being implemented “as soon as is practicable.” Mr Furbert disagreed, saying: “If we can get ten years in there somewhere in the right lingo, I think we can hold hands once again.” Mr Dunkley proposed a government amendment keeping “from time to time” but stipulating “providing that the minister shall direct that a census be taken not more than every ten years”. Mr Bean accepted the new wording, prompting Mr Dunkley to thank the Opposition for their support. The Bill as amended was approved just after 3.30pm.
May 29. Artemis Racing are looking to move their entire operation to Bermuda this year, America’s Cup organizers have confirmed. The home base of the Swedish challenger for the 35th America’s Cup — to be hosted by Bermuda in 2017 — is in San Francisco. But the America’s Cup Event Authority confirmed yesterday that the team are keen to move their operation to Bermuda through the America’s Cup regatta. The potential move would see additional Artemis Racing staff coming to the Island earlier than anticipated — a boost for the local economy. “It would mean the possibility of millions of additional dollars spent in Bermuda,” Dr Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, told the House of Assembly yesterday. The full Artemis Racing team base will require six additional acres of space. Among the team’s options is the former US Naval Base at Morgan’s Point, which stretches out into the Great Sound, the racing venue for the America’s Cup. “The team has been looking at different options and that’s one that has raised its head, for sure,” David Tyler, Artemis Racing spokesman, told The Royal Gazette. "Moving their operation here will allow Artemis Racing more time to acclimatize to the conditions in the Great Sound, which will be vital to the team’s bid to win the “Auld Mug”, the oldest trophy in international sport. After spending some time here on the Great Sound it has confirmed our original thoughts that this is a tricky venue and being here, learning the racecourse, will give us the best chance possible to win the 35th America’s Cup,” Nathan Outteridge, Artemis Racing helmsman, said. Iain Percy, Artemis Racing team manager, said he and his colleagues had been “overwhelmed” by the warm welcome and enthusiasm they had received from the community. Mike Winfield, chief executive of ACBDA, added: “We look forward to working with Artemis Racing in helping relocate their full team to Bermuda and doing what we can to assist them in setting up their full operational base here.” For the past few weeks, Artemis Racing have been sailing out of their temporary base at the Royal Naval Dockyard, where all of the teams will be based in 2017. Meanwhile, Dr Gibbons, who spearheaded Bermuda’s bid to host the next America’s Cup, also announced yesterday that Artemis Racing’s request for a concession order for relief from work permit fees and payroll tax had been approved. Oracle Team USA, who have already moved into their Bermuda headquarters in Dockyard, is the defender of the prestigious America’s Cup.
See above story
May 29. The 2015 Hurricane Season starts on Monday and, while forecasts suggest a quieter than average season, the Bermuda Weather Service is urging the public to stay on their toes. Deputy director of the Bermuda Weather Service James Dodgson said that international organizations such as the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Colorado State University, Tropical Storm Risk and the UK Met Office are all predicting a below-average season in the North Atlantic region. “This is due to two main reasons,” he explained. “The first is a developing El Nino weather phenomenon, which essentially creates more vertical wind shear in the main tropical development region (MDR) of the North Atlantic. This increased wind shear prevents weather disturbances from becoming better organized mature tropical weather features such as hurricanes — the vertical wind shear quite literally rips the developing disturbances apart before a mature development stage can be reached. The second reason for a predicted below average season is a cooler than average sea surface temperature anomaly that is prevalent in the MDR of the North Atlantic. Tropical storms and hurricanes feed off warm tropical waters that generally need to be 26.5C (80F) or higher. The heat trapped in the ocean is the fuel for tropical cyclone development. Therefore, if there is less heat, there is less fuel, hence less development.” This season, NOAA is predicting between six and eleven named storms, three to six of which could reach hurricane strength. Of those, they expect no more than two will reach major hurricane status. Despite the forecasts, Mr Dodgson said a slow season can still be destructive, noting the one-two punch of Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo which struck the Island last fall. “Last season was correctly forecast to be less active than average, however I don’t think anyone would say it was a quiet season for Bermuda. Whether the forecast is active or inactive, it only takes one tropical storm or hurricane to make it a busy season for Bermuda. I encourage the public to be equally prepared every year, and heed all the weather advice, including watches and warnings provided by the Bermuda Weather Service (BWS), Bermuda’s only official source of weather information. “The caveat to an El Nino-type season is that although we are less likely to see long track tropical cyclones affecting us due to reduced development in the MDR, we are more likely to see shorter track pop-up disturbances such as we did last year with Hurricane Fay. This is why the public must be equally prepared each season, right through the season, which officially runs through November 30.” He said that when the BWS issues a Tropical Storm Watch, the public should keep regular tabs on the forecast and warnings for potential changes. When a warning is issued, usually 36 hours before the event, the public should carry out their tropical storm/hurricane preparedness plan. Mr Dodgson urged the public to keep an eye on the BWS Facebook page throughout the season, and ‘like’ it to receive a regular feed of frequent and candid weather updates.
May 29. Insurance group Hamilton yesterday opened their new offices in the Waterfront centre. And group CEO Brian Duperreault said the new building underlined the firm’s commitment to Bermuda. He added: “Bermuda is our home — we feel so much at home in Bermuda we named the company Hamilton. Our headquarters are here and we have a large contingent of Bermudians here.” Industry veteran Mr Duperreault was speaking as Premier Michael Dunkley cut the ribbon at the new offices, in the Waterfront’s Wellesley House North. And the hi-tech workplace features a mini-golf course, complete with obstacles, a games room, and an interactive globe of the world that can track weather events that could impact on the firm’s business. Mr Duperreault said: “The office is designed to do a number of things — primarily, it’s where we come to work all day, so it has to promote communication and cooperation. We’re committed to going down a path of innovation and technology and we wanted to represent that with what we have here. The globe is a piece of technology that’s multifunctional. It will depict things like weather patterns, seawater temperatures, earthquakes and tsunamis and the effect of them. It’s a people business — with all the technology that’s out there and will be out there, it’s a people business and always will be.” The firm, which opened its doors two years ago in Par-la-Ville Road, has grown rapidly to include not only Bermuda-based reinsurer Hamilton Re, but an arm in the USA and Hamilton at Lloyd’s of London and houses 35 staff in its new home on Pitts Bay Road. Mr Duperreault said the putting area was “for fun. It’s important to have fun in life. We have a lot of brokers and clients who come through and a it’s a focal point, a place where people can enjoy themselves a little bit. The world is hard enough — you have to enjoy yourself once in a while.” The office features a variety of meeting rooms, all named after famous inventors like Alan Turing, one of the pioneers of computing who decoded the WWII German Enigma code. The new offices also feature sound-proofed pods at the edge of open plan areas and a boardroom equipped with the latest in information technology. And the interior walls are removable to quickly change the layout if required — and insulated with recycled jeans for a green touch. Mr Dunkley told the Hamilton staff: “I was very impressed with the environment you have created. We all know that business is tough and you have to take a great deal of risk in all you do. It impressed me because you have to create a work environment where people are happy and get things done and you have done that. Too often, we live in a world that’s way too negative — life is short and you have to get stuck in. Bermuda is definitely on the road to back — it’s taking longer that we would have liked, but we will persevere.”
May 29. Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, appeared in Magistrates’ Court yesterday to deny a charge of using offensive language. The charge is reportedly linked to an incident between Mr Bean and Toni Daniels, a former One Bermuda Alliance senator, outside of a Sandys polling station on November 6, 2014. According to the charge, Mr Bean called Ms Daniels a “f***ing political whore”. He is alleged to have added: “She’s a ten cent whore. I will pass her around and everyone will have a ten cent lick.” Mr Bean’s lawyer, Simone Smith-Bean, said that the Crown was being used as a “political tool” of the Bermuda Government, labeling the proceedings a “farce.” Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Cindy Clarke, however, said questions being raised by Ms Smith-Bean should be left for the trier of fact, while magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said allegations of an officer of the court being used for a political purpose should be taken elsewhere. Mr Tokunbo released Mr Bean on $5,000 bail and ordered the Crown to provide further written particulars of the offence to both Ms Smith-Bean and the court when the matter returns on July 3 to be mentioned. Several Progressive Labour Party figures appeared in court in a show of solidarity, including Deputy Leader David Burt, Wayne Furbert, Diallo Rabain, Walter Roban, Zane DeSilva and Marc Daniels.
May 29. The Bermuda Football Association has refused to say who it will vote for in today’s Fifa presidential election. Larry Mussenden, the BFA president, is in Zurich in his capacity as chairman of the Fifa ad-hoc electoral committee, while Mark Wade, the BFA first vice-president, Gregory Grimes, the second vice-president and executive member Crenstant Williams will attend today’s Fifa congress and election. Traditionally, Bermuda, as part of Concacaf, has backed Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president. However, this year the region’s individual associations were given a free vote by Jeffrey Webb, the Concacaf president, who was arrested on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the massive fraud that has rocked the sport. Webb, along with Charles Blazer and Jack Warner, his predecessors at Concacaf, and others, has been accused of a variety of offences including bribery, corruption and racketeering. The majority of Caribbean nations, Bermuda included, have benefited from millions of dollars worth of Fifa investment during Blatter’s reign. In March the BFA said that the “executive council will review all submissions from candidates and then determine the way forward.” Uefa briefly considered boycotting the vote, but will take part and are likely to back Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Blatter’s only challenger. “Enough is enough,” Michel Platini, the Uefa president, said. “People no longer want him anymore and I don’t want him anymore either.” Platini met privately with Blatter and asked him to go. “I am asking you to leave Fifa, to step down because you are giving Fifa a terrible image,” Platini said he told Blatter. “In terms of our image, it is not good at all and I am the first one to be disgusted by this.” For his part, the Fifa president refused to resign yesterday and claimed that he could not be held responsible for the actions of “a tiny minority”. Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term in office, said: “I am sure more bad news will follow. I know many people hold me ultimately responsible. I cannot monitor everyone all of the time.” Deflecting blame for the scandal, Blatter instead insisted he was the right man to guide Fifa through an incident that had brought “shame and humiliation” on his organization. “If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it,” he said. “I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.” Blatter said the crisis could mark a “turning point” for Fifa to clean itself up. “We will co-operate with all authorities to make sure anyone involved in wrongdoing, from top to bottom, is discovered and punished,” he said. “There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for Fifa, but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organization.”
May 29. The Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) has thrown its support behind new and tighter guidelines for clinical practice, including government healthcare cover for the mammogram, which screens for breast cancer. Although Minister of Health Jeanne Atherden has stressed that patients at risk of breast cancer will be covered for regular mammograms, the new guidelines have alarmed many with a shift away from early detection. Proponents argue that overly rigorous screening detects conditions that pose little risk. Mammograms are at present covered annually after the age of 40 but coverage under the new legislation would start at the age of 50. Michael Weitekamp, chief of staff for the Bermuda Hospitals Board, yesterday issued a statement in support of the guidelines, adopted from the United States. The guidelines, he said, are based on evidence from “voluminous research involving many hundreds of thousands of women from multiple countries and sponsored by neutral public authorities”. Dr Weitekamp also said the guidelines would not obstruct the decisions of women and their physicians. Patients will be covered for mammograms before the age of 50 if their physicians refer them. Women or men showing symptoms would be screened regardless of age, he said. Dr Weitekamp also said the practice of screening every two years from the age of 50 was similar to Canada, Australia and Britain. “We all want to do the best we can to catch cancer earlier, when it is often more treatable. This can make us fearful and want screening earlier. Annual screening from the age of 40 did not eliminate risk. Some women with very high risks should be screened earlier, and even the most frequent screening programmes do not catch all breast cancers. National screening guidelines, therefore, must rely on the best data and research; this tells us that there is no one size fits all solution, and that risk factors or symptoms should drive decisions for early testing.” The tests were said by the minister to account for nearly one third of the total cost for diagnostic testing on the Island.
May 29. Bermuda had a balance of payments surplus of $813 million in 2014, with the value of goods and services sold by the Island to the rest of the world easily dwarfing the value of goods and services the Island bought from overseas. As a barometer of the Island’s economic health, the new figures indicate a steady state of affairs, with no major swings in the value or volume of goods and services’ transactions between Bermuda and the rest of the world. However, the surplus is $25 million lower than in 2013, and is also the second lowest recorded by Bermuda during the past nine years. The lowest surplus was in 2009, during the global financial crisis, when the figure dipped to $626 million. Last year’s balance of payments were impacted by a reduction in travel receipts from cruise and air visitors, which fell $27 million year-on-year, and a net reduction in investment income of $56 million. There was a strong finish to the year with the fourth quarter figures showing a balance of payments surplus of $232 million, up $130 million on the same quarter in 2013. This was primarily due a 10.3 per cent decrease in the value of imported goods and an improvement in dividend income received, which was up $92 million on the corresponding quarter in 2013. The information was released by the Department of Statistics. Bermuda’s net international investment position (IIP) improved in the fourth quarter to $4,341 million, and increase of $442 million on the third quarter. The IIP is a record of Bermuda residents’ investments abroad and non-residents’ investment in Bermuda, including Government, financial and non-financial corporations.
May 29. Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) has been in discussions with the United Kingdom Fire Service about current and innovative practice trends. Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Ryan visited the BFRS senior management team while here on vacation to discuss areas of mutual interest. The UK Fire Service primarily responds to fires and road collisions, but there is an increasing interest in incorporating emergency medical services (EMS) as part of its remit — as is the case in Bermuda. The Fire Service Act was amended in 1996 to allow for EMS provision and in 1998 the BFRS began providing EMS care to its residents on a full-time basis. This in turn improved medical care response times in the western and eastern ends of the Island by having emergency medical technicians on scene within minutes. Mr Ryan was seeking advice from Bermuda’s officers about how the BFRS strategically implemented the initiative. He was accompanied by Bermuda’s Chief Fire Officer, Lloyd Burchall, as he observed local EMTs and firefighters handling patient care and equipment usage. According to Mr Ryan, “the BFRS has it right.”
May 28. Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd was ordered to pay Mexico Infrastructure Finance LLC more than $19 million yesterday by Puisne Judge Justice Stephen Hellman. The case, which was heard in the Commercial Courts, was brought by MIF for a total of $19,397,819, in the aftermath of Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences’ default of an $18 million loan along with fees and interest charges. Developer Michael MacLean, who is described as the managing director of Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd in some documentation, and Yasmin MacLean, were also named as defendants in the legal action. It is the latest chapter in a saga that resulted in the Par-la-Ville car park going into receivership. The Corporation of Hamilton had backed the loan, providing the Par-la-Ville car park in Hamilton as collateral. The car park had also been the site of the proposed hotel and residences that the company had planned to build. When Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences failed to pay back the money owed on the due date — December 31, 2014 — the car park went to receivers KPMG. The money was loaned to secure the main portion of funding for the major development project, but instead was paid to a company called Argyle Limited, based in Gibraltar, as a fee to provide a line of credit for investment purposes. The failed deal was cited by Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy as one of the reasons he assumed stewardship of the Corporation in January. MIF had asked for summary judgment in the case, and Justice Hellman awarded it after hearing lawyer Narinder Hargun break down the claim, and respond to counter claims brought by the defendants. Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences was represented by lawyer Marc Daniels, who explained that he had only been instructed by his clients on Tuesday. Summing up, Justice Hellman said he was “satisfied” in regard to the accounting of the claim, and that the money was owed to the plaintiff. On the other hand, he said the defendant “has suffered and continues to suffer losses on these matters” which, it was indicated, he planned to ask the court to assess in a trial. However, Justice Hellman said: “I cannot conclude that the defendant has any claim whatsoever in this matter.” He also said Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences had argued that the case should be heard by the New York courts. But he said the defence was “dealt a fatal blow” by a clause in the credit agreement which governed the terms of the $18 million loan. The parties had signed an agreement that meant that while the borrower must bring any legal action in New York, the lenders – MIF – benefited from a “non-exclusive jurisdiction” clause, which he said “waives the defence of non conveniens forum.” He said: “The borrower can bring the action elsewhere – in this case, Bermuda. Any lender is going to want to bring an action where a borrower and more importantly, a borrower’s assets, are located.” He noted that Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Limited is incorporated in Bermuda, and performs their business in Bermuda, and so he concluded the Bermuda court had jurisdiction. However, he said, it did not matter where the case was heard, the outcome would be the same. “The credit agreement provides non-exclusive jurisdiction,” he emphasized, adding that the balance of convenience favored Bermuda as the appropriate forum to hear the case. “I am satisfied there is nothing on the jurisdiction point,” he said. He concluded that Mexico Infrastructure was entitled to judgment, and also awarded costs to the plaintiff. Mr Hellman added that the ruling was “no reflection” on Mr Daniels, who had said during the proceedings that he was being instructed “in real time”. He had stepped in after the defendant’s previous counsel had withdrawn from the case.
May 28. Weather radar at the LF Wade International Airport has been out of service since February but should return by mid-August. However, the absence of Doppler radar poses no risk to the Island, as the Bermuda Weather Service has access to abundant forecasting resources. The assurance came from Aaron Adderley, general manager of the airport, as the Atlantic hurricane season is due to start on June 1. According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Civil Aviation, the Doppler weather radar — which provides a moving graphic of rain and storms — is “a specialized and complex radar that uses the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance. “The current Doppler weather radar was purchased and installed in July 2004. The radar replaced a smaller and much lower powered system, and was primarily intended to enhance the provision of weather forecasting in Bermuda. The radar experienced an outage earlier this year and extensive troubleshooting has been necessary in order to identify what the issue was and what parts were required to restore the system to service. Parts have been ordered, and their vendor will assist with installation once they arrive. The replacements will extend the system’s working life for years. While the radar enhances the way we are able to forecast weather — primarily our ability to more accurately assess thunderstorms, squalls, and hurricanes as well as their timing, their duration and their location — the Bermuda Weather Service is still able to forecast these weather phenomena accurately using the other tools and information readily available such as satellite imagery, radiosonde information, and weather model data; it is very effective indeed."
May 28. Some flights have been delayed at LF Wade International Airport as the facility’s radar undergoes service, according to an airport source. The radar maintenance, which was described as routine, is expected to conclude at about 2.30pm, although that is not an official time. Radar work also took place for “a couple of hours” this morning, the source said. Although the airport’s web site does not list any delayed flights, it was unclear how many flights may have been affected. Passengers on Air Canada’s 1.05pm service to Toronto reported delays earlier today.
May 28. Dangerous surf conditions have led lifeguards to close part of Horseshoe Bay to swimmers as of 3.15pm. Lifeguards will monitor the popular beach closely as rough seas are expected to last into tomorrow, with potentially worse conditions coming with high tides. A spokeswoman said beach visitors were being asked to follow any lifeguard signs and use “extreme care and caution while enjoying any beach.”
May 28. The Orange Route ferry service to St George’s has been suspended until further notice due to bad weather, the Department of Marine and Ports announced this morning. According to the Bermuda Weather Service, moderate to strong easterly winds will persist through today and into tomorrow, with rain also set for tomorrow. Winds are expected to ease over the weekend.
May 28. A local barrister has lost an appeal against a Bermuda Bar Council ruling, which resulted in him being banned from practising. The barrister, who was not identified in the Court of Appeal judgment, was taken before a disciplinary tribunal in 2013 after allegations were made against his conduct in a 2011 complaint. After hearing evidence, the tribunal found that the barrister had failed to take adequate steps to ensure that the complainant knew that she was acquiring an “extremely unusual legal interest” by purchasing not an apartment but a one half interest in a house consisting of two apartments, one of which she would be able to occupy The tribunal also found that he had failed to appreciate the basic duties of a conveyancing attorney, demonstrated by his “misconceived insistence” that his only client was the vendor and an “admitted error” in overcharging the complainant. As a result, they said he had failed to be “competent, diligent and efficient” in his professional activities and ordered that the barrister be suspended from conveyance work for two years. He was further ordered to repay the complainant for the $9,266.25 she spent on legal fees and pay the Bar Association $2,500 within six months of the expiration of his suspension. The barrister subsequently appealed both the tribunal’s judgment and sentence, taking the matter to the Court of Appeals. He argued that the tribunal had erred in law and was in breach of the rules of natural justice. Lawyer Saul Froomkin, representing the tribunal, responded that the appeal contained no reasonable grounds upon which the courts could set aside the decision, and that the evidence accepted by the tribunal was “overwhelming.” In a judgment filed in March, the Court of Appeal supported the tribunal’s judgment, dismissing the barrister’s appeals. “The gravamen of the complaint before the tribunal and the thrust of the argument before this Court was that there was no material change in the description of the property in the contract and the property interest conveyed. The appellant maintained before the tribunal, as he did before us, that there was no difference between the two descriptions. The tribunal described this as being the most unconvincing part of the appellant’s oral evidence, and set out by way of illustration the crucial elements of the two descriptions, and proceeded to declare itself satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that on this basis the appellant was guilty of contravening rule 6 (iv) of the [Barrister’s Code of Conduct]. We agree both with the tribunal’s conclusion and reasoning, and in relation to the grounds of appeal the Court respectfully agrees with and adopts the reasoning set out in the respondent’s submissions. It follows that the appeal against conviction must fail.” The court also upheld the tribunal’s sentence, saying that it was entirely within the expected range for such matters.
May 28. The proposed redevelopment of a “dirty diamond” in the West End is beginning to take shape — and the public is invited to have a say in the project. The work at Mangrove Bay Beach could even be completed in time for next year’s tourist season. William Spriggs, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation’s (BEDC) economic development officer for the Somerset Economic Empowerment Zone (SEEZ), said they had been promoting a new look for the area for three years. “Simply put, Mangrove Bay Beach is a dirty diamond and has been neglected far too long,” he said. “Somerset, and Bermuda as a whole, needs full use of all its natural assets, especially with the expectation that thousands of Bermudians and visitors will pass by the beach on their way to Dockyard to participate in the America’s Cup festivities.” Mr Spriggs said they were hoping that at least a dozen new seasonal businesses could be established on and around Mangrove Bay — boosting its appeal for visitors and residents. As well as food and drinks vendors, they are hoping to attract local companies offering tours and water sports, hair braiding and entertainment. “This should help bring more visitors to actually stop and stay around Somerset Village — people tend to just go straight to Dockyard and they travel straight through Somerset Village,” added Victoria Pereira, a senior planning officer with the Department of Planning. Mr Spriggs explained that the beach’s foreshore was eroding, there is no proper access, abandoned punts, water drainage issues and a lack of visitor facilities. “It needs a lot of help, there’s some fencing that needs to be done, there are some invasive species — there’s a lot of potential for conservation management,” Ms Pereira said. We’re looking at it having a very natural feel to it, we don’t want to concrete everything. It’s trying to maintain that natural environment feel of the whole area. In terms of the type of construction, we’re talking naturally rustic wooden structures — as little concrete as possible to keep that rustic feel.” It is also hoped that the junction of Mangrove Bay Road and Somerset Road will be altered to create additional space and to slow traffic approaching the area, Ms Pereira added. Mr Spriggs said: “We want to create a design theme that is right for Mangrove Bay. We have an opportunity here to be able to do something that’s a bit different that, at the same time, serves West End visitors to the best of its ability.” He said the SEEZ was excited about partnering with the right private and public entities to develop the beach. These include Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa, Sandys Parish Council, the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Department of Planning, Public Lands and Buildings, Highways and Parks. Mr Spriggs said that the partners were committed to having the beach ready for the 2016 tourist season, but that they were still assessing the full scale and feasibility of the project. “At this stage we are expecting private and public monies to develop the beach. It could be a mixture, it could be solely one or the other. The beach is along a thoroughfare going to dockyard and we are hoping that, in our fundraising efforts, whether it’s Government or whether it’s private, the private sector will see the value in restoring the beach for the benefit of not just the West End, but all of Bermuda.” Mr Spriggs said that the development could also highlight the strength of public-private partnerships to restore natural assets and boost the economy. He added: “We need more small businesses, we need to make happier tourists, and we need to involve our communities to help manage our problems and create new and exciting opportunities.” The SEEZ will be hosting a Mangrove Bay Beach Development Public Information and Design Session at Sandys Secondary Middle School from 6pm to 8.45pm on Monday, June 1. The public is invited to learn about the beach’s history, dynamics, what makes a successful beach destination, and to give their feedback and input on what should be incorporated into the beach’s design and development. For more information contact the BEDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bedc.bm.
May 27. The Bermuda Government has been billed for $1.66 million by the law firm MJM Limited from 2012 to the present, according to Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. Senator Fahy was responding to parliamentary questions from Progressive Labour Party Senator Diallo Rabain. Payments to the firm total $1.75 million. Sen Fahy’s response added that the paid amount exceeds the amount invoiced because of refunds, such as taxes and immigration applications, and payments to settle personal estates — which are not invoiced. The Ministry of Home Affairs has paid the largest amount to MJM: $1.1 million to date.
May 27. Health minister Jeanne Atherden has responded to allegations by Kim Wilson that changes in mammograms services could cause “death by delay." In the statement, Ms Atherden said the suggestion by the shadow minister was “misleading”, and that the Bermuda Government is not introducing legislation telling women they can have a mammogram only once every two years. “The said amendment in the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2015 seeks to ensure the coverage for Bermuda’s minimum health insurance package — the Standard Hospital Benefit (SHB) is grounded on evidence-based medicine, and in line with international best practice, with respect to screening mammography,” she said. “Women with a family history or other risk factors will still be covered for testing with a physician referral at any age. This amendment seeks to assure that women obtain physician input in the decision to use this technology in young ages where the science indicates that the benefits do not outweigh the risks. The health system right now informally follows the American College of Radiology guidelines for mammography, which recommends annual screenings for women aged 40 and over. A clinical review of various international guidelines from several countries has proposed changing the Bermuda standard to follow the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines which recommend that healthy, asymptomatic women aged 50 to 74 years be screened every two years. The USPSTF guidelines are recommendations which review, analyze, interpret and then report the evidence from a multitude of studies conducted by international subject experts. The recommendations are agreed upon using a robust methodology by a panel of esteemed physicians and researchers representing a variety of fields. The task group has a rigorous screening process to assure the members have no substantial conflicts of interest which would bias their opinions. Although the members represent multiple disciplines, all scientific fields cannot be represented on the task force for practical purposes. The Task Force is comprised of scientists and medical experts on prevention. The decisions are made purely on scientific analysis of the harms of over-diagnosis and the benefits of early detection. As in all aspects of science, there is never perfect consensus on any topic among even the experts; likewise there is variation in the opinions around screening mammography Locally, physician leaders from the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association, the Bermuda Medical Council, and the Bermuda Hospitals Board, support the recommendation in addition to the Bermuda Health Council. The USPSTF was identified as a reasonable set of guidelines for our health system as they are moderate in nature, falling somewhere between the recommendations of individual speciality groups in the USA (such as American College of Radiology) and the UK’s National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence guidelines. It is important to note again that unanimous agreement on a standard is not a realistic expectation, but the standard of evidence provided by international studies has produced international consensus on the benefits of starting screening at age 50. Any woman with an immediate family member with the disease, dense breasts or who have used hormones after menopause for five years, plus other risk factors known to the patient and her physician, will have full access to all mammography coverage necessary, as they do now. The decision of when to screen or not with mammography should be made by a woman and her physician, after consultation together. Starting screening mammography at 50 is recommended by international leading agencies and experts. Bermuda considered clinical guidelines from the US, the UK and Canada which ranged from annually from age 40 to every three years from age 50. The decision to use the USPSTF guidelines was based on the fact that international studies have found that annual screening for women with no symptoms and no risk factors leads to over-diagnosis, which results in repeated exposure to low levels of radiation and unnecessary treatment. The guidelines are highly credible and based on extensive meta-analyses of international studies. There is no local study to support the notion that Bermudians of African descent might benefit from earlier detection, and neither of our guest prevention experts (Dr Welch or Dr LeFevre), nor the physician representatives collaborating in support of adherence to USPSTF Guidelines, are aware of any study data that support improved outcome and less harm from “over-diagnosis” in such a subpopulation who are systematically screened earlier. It’s imperative to remember that these are screening procedures for women with no symptoms, no family history and no risk factors. Black women in Bermuda who do have a family history or specific risk factors will be referred for mammography by their physician and it will be covered under the standard health benefit. The legislative change clearly states that it is covered outside the guideline if there is a physician referral. Any insured woman at any age with a family history or other risk factors known to the patient and her physician will have full access to all mammography coverage necessary, as they do now.”
May 27. Animal welfare experts have praised the kind-hearted actions of members of the public that helped to save the life of a hawksbill turtle that swallowed a hook and fishing line. Chuck Waldron and his uncle, Keith Richardson, had been fishing off the dock at the Black Horse Tavern in St David’s when the turtle got caught on the line. The pair quickly brought the animal on to the dock on Friday afternoon and immediately called the aquarium for help. While they waited for the experts to arrive, they tended to the stricken turtle by pouring buckets of water over its shell to keep it cool. Aquarium curator Ian Walker arrived at the dock soon after along with students Alison Palmer and Nikki Cummings, from the Flagler College in St Augustine, Florida, who were on a college exchange. They transported the hawksbill back to the aquarium, where it was sedated and Dr Walker removed the line and hook. “The hook had gone more than 17cm down the turtle’s throat, so if it had remained there, it could very well have resulted in the animal’s death,” Dr Walker said. “Fortunately we were able to remove the hook without needing to open the turtle up. It has made a great recovery and we hope to be able to release it later in the week.” Tags on the mature adult hawksbill’s flipper show that it originated in Brazil and must have swam to Bermuda on its migration path from South America. Dr Walker praised the quick-thinking actions of Mr Waldron and Mr Richardson. “These guys took time out of their day and showed genuine concern for this animal,” he said. “They wanted to make sure that the turtle was OK and did the right thing by calling us straight away. This enabled us to get the turtle into the operating room and remove the hook and line. Some people might have just put the turtle back in the water, in which case there could have been some very serious consequences for the animal. It’s a timely reminder, especially as more people take to the water this summer, that these animals are around our shores and we need to pay attention to the signs and the speed limits that are there to protect them.” Mr Waldron told The Royal Gazette: “We all know that turtles are endangered animals in Bermuda and we did not want to just throw him back in. We’re pleased we were able to help and that the turtle is going to be OK. I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to just call the aquarium. It really does not take much to act.” If anyone comes across a stricken turtle or other marine animal they can call the aquarium on 293-2727.
May 27. Prospects for entrepreneurs during the 2017 America’s Cup are being explored with a “roadshow” of public forums around the Island. The Senate heard yesterday from Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, that about 45 people attended an initial information session on Tuesday night at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences in St George’s. Another session is set for 6pm today at Sandys Secondary Middle School, with a third next Tuesday at the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton. Sen Fahy said the aim was “to provide businesses with first-hand information on the events planned and the opportunities available over the next couple of years, and to allow entrepreneurs to ask direct questions”. The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has teamed up with the America’s Cup Event Authority, America’s Cup Bermuda and the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce to create America’s Cup Business Connect, which Sen Fahy said would serve as a conduit for America’s Cup information and business opportunities to those registered with the BEDC. “The BEDC has also agreed to participate on the selection committee of vendors for the AC World Series Event Village, to take place on Front Street in October. Applications will be released on June 1, with applications due on July 1.” He said an estimated $250 million was expected to be spent on the Island as a result of the 2017 event. The BEDC has $6 million available in loan guarantees, and thus far has 50 businesses on its portfolio: 38 loan guarantees and 12 micro loans. Guarantees total $1.7 million, allowing access to a further $5.5 million in financing.
May 27. The UK government has set up a special task force to snatch lucrative catastrophe bond insurance-linked securities business from Bermuda. The British Government — then a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition — signaled in its budget last March that it had set its sights on the alternative reinsurance market in a bid to attract a chunk of the $22 billion cat bond business to the City of London. Barry Le Page from the secretariat of industry body the London Market Group (LMG) said: “A task force has been set up, we are looking to have something produced by the autumn.” He added that the working group includes lawyers and fund managers as well as insurers and would look at changes Britain needs to make to compete with offshore centres such as Bermuda. Bermuda was the domicile of choice for 57 per cent of ILS in 2014 — with $16 billion worth of listings on the Bermuda Stock Exchange (BSX). BSX president and CEO Greg Wojciechowski said that Britain would struggle to take business away from the Island — but warned Bermuda could not rest on its laurels. He added: “Bermuda has developed a level of experience through its longevity supporting international business, including insurance and reinsurance and has deep experience and understanding of the market. Insurance-linked securities and the creation and support of these vehicles is an evolution of the development of the reinsurance industry. From our perspective, it shouldn’t surprise anyone in Bermuda that our experience and the success we have had to date should capture the attention of other jurisdictions. We should be flattered that a jurisdiction of the size and importance of London should notice Bermuda. It should be a very strong wake-up call that we have to continue to listen to what our customers want.” And he said that the Island should continue to develop the regulatory framework to “keep us at number one in ILS”. Mr Wojciechowski added: “This is still a very solid area of business for us and we are the largest exchange for listings of issued cat bonds. And it will take time for the UK to develop the infrastructure Bermuda has.” The catastrophe bond market has seen double-digit annual growth since the financial crisis, as yield-hunting investors seek out government bond-beating returns. Catastrophe bonds are issued by insurers as a hedge against a catastrophe, often as a cheaper or more flexible alternative to reinsurance. A record $8 billion worth of new deals were launched in 2014. But a report last year by the LMG and Boston Consulting showed London’s share of the global reinsurance market is declining while Bermuda has shown a rapid ascent. The report highlighted alternative reinsurance products such as catastrophe bonds as areas of growth. Bermuda has built up expertise at structuring the special purpose vehicles needed to convert insurance products into these capital market instruments, as it offers a more attractive regulatory environment. Britain would need to make similar regulatory changes to compete, industry observers said, while Bermuda also offers tax advantages which the new British Conservative government may find hard to replicate. “What the government’s appetite may be for this, set against a background of continuing austerity and spending cuts, will have to be seen,” said lawyers at Clyde & Co in a note. Britain is also competing with Gibraltar, which stole a march by launching its first insurance-linked security last month. But London already has the world’s biggest speciality insurance market, Lloyd’s of London. John Seo, managing principal of Connecticut-based Fermat Capital Management, which has a presence in Bermuda, said: “It’s a really good idea for London.” He added his firm he would open an office in London if it developed as a catastrophe bond centre. Mr Seo said: “If the nuts and bolts of the market are there, it becomes compelling.”
May 27. The European Commission has cleared the proposed merger between Axis and PartnerRe. The Commission said the deal did not breach European antitrust regulations — the last competition-related hurdle the two reinsurance firms had to clear. A statement from Axis said the merger “remains on track to close in the third quarter of 2015”, subject to approval by shareholders in both firms and regulators, as well as normal closing conditions. Italian investment giant Exor, however, is still interested in buying up PartnerRe as a stand-alone company for its portfolio. PartnerRe shareholders are expected to be asked to approve the Axis merger plan in the near future.
May 27. The president of a firm involved in the proposed airport redevelopment plans has dismissed claims that a slew of published e-mails between the parties show impropriety. Steve Nackan, president of Aecon Concessions, said there was nothing underhand about the communications between Aecon, the proposed prime contractor, Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), and the Bermuda Government over LF Wade International development plans. Earlier this month the People’s Campaign published a raft of e-mail communications between the parties that it said showed impropriety in the deal. After a press conference called by Finance Minister Bob Richards, in which Mr Nackan along with other CCC and Aecon bosses outlined how the project would work, the People’s Campaign accused the parties of “glossing over” the real issues around the airport. But Mr Nackan told The Royal Gazette: “The e-mails don’t show any impropriety whatsoever, just routine correspondence between people moving a business transaction forward.” He added: “The process the CCC team is undertaking is typical of assessing and proposing customized solutions for solving complex major infrastructure projects like the redevelopment of Bermuda’s airport. Although the process is typical for the CCC team, it’s a new approach for Bermuda that involves the Government of Canada, so our process may not be clearly and widely understood publicly. As the proposed prime contractor, CCC is happy to provide any clarification on the process itself, but in the meantime what I can say is that the focus of the CCC team’s approach and solution being proposed and considered is creating a world-class airport, jobs for Bermudians now and into the future, and enhancing Bermuda’s ability to attract investment and tourism to build and strengthen Bermuda’s economy.” Aecon’s president, Steve Nackan; its executive chairman, John Beck; CCC’s president, Martin Zablocki; and Finance Minister Bob Richards came together on Wednesday to outline their respective roles amid growing unease about the development proposal. The People’s Campaign — led by Reverend Nicholas Tweed; Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union; and Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union — said that attempts to provide clarity had failed to outline how the deal was put together. “To our great disappointment, instead of providing clarity and answering many of the questions surrounding this ‘deal’, the principals were silent on the question of how we have gotten to this point,” the People’s Campaign said in a statement.
May 26. Thousands gathered yesterday to enjoy the Bermuda Day Parade’s vibrant and energetic celebration of our Island. The starting point of the march, at the junction of Marsh Folly Road and Bernard Park, was alive early on with hundreds of dancers, musicians, Gombeys and Shriner clowns, all bedecked in colorful and eye-catching costumes. Continuing a tradition that is at least half a century old, Miss Bermuda and her court perched precariously on the backrest of a convertible, each girl beautifully gowned and crowned. Flowers and foliage transformed more than a dozen trucks, cars and even a bus into ocean scenes and bowers of flowers. Participants included the Bermuda Regiment, whose float reproduced a uniquely Bermudian terraced lawn with a benign canon acting as a garden feature, accompanied by honour guard. The Department of Corrections’ entry depicted life under the sea, with turtles, sea horses and brightly hued reef fish. Lobsters lurked under handcrafted rocks and a shark basked near the flowered ocean floor. United Dance Productions were out in force with at least 60 students dressed in rainbow-hued tutus and elaborate make-up. It had been seven or eight years since the well-established dance school had taken part in the parade, said founder and artistic director Suzette Harvey. “We’ll have fun and give back to the community,” she said before the parade began. “We have about 65 dancers with us today. For a lot of these children it will be their first time, because they are new, and young. We’re going to be doing soca and hip-hop, and we have a couple of contemporary pieces to try out on the street, to show we are a dance group.” Her dancers are aged from 3 to 18. “They are wearing tutus to demonstrate that they are ballet dancers, with florescent sneakers to show the hip-hop side of it,” Ms Harvey said. The Anointed Step Dance Ministry School opened just a year ago and were celebrating their first anniversary by participating in the parade. School founder Carmelita Millett said the students learn liturgical dance, hip-hop, ballet, tap and mime. “I always wanted a dance school since I was young, and it has come to pass,” she said. “This is a great way to celebrate a first birthday.” Dozens of her students were dressed in white outfits with the school’s colorful logo emblazoned on their shirts. Although the young people learn a variety of dance styles, “we’re doing hip-hop today”. While waiting for the parade to start, some members of Richardson’s Gombey Troupe explained that they were part of a 15-member group. Isaiah Smith, 13, said he had been dancing since he was 5 and has lost count of the number of parades in which he had participated. “We will be doing Fast Dance, Masquerade and Junkanoo,” he said, explaining that they are all special Gombey dance numbers. Shriner Louie “Loonie Tunes” O’Neill from New York, dressed in a clown costume, said: “We heard it had been a while since you had clowns in the parade so we were invited down to represent the Shriner clowns. “Bermuda Shriner Darrius Tucker invited the ‘Nobles’ [Shriners call each other Nobles] to come.” A local Shriner, Kirk “Lucky the Clown” Wade, was also taking part. The Shriners explained that they have a clown’s club and a clown college where they learn the craft of clowning, particularly to cheer up hospital patients and raise money for Shriners’ hospitals, where children, often burns victims, receive free treatment. More than 81 members of the Vasco Da Gama Club, the youngest just 6, were decked out in handcrafted blue, silver and white sequined dresses and suits. Club president Dennis Rodrigues said that they would be performing traditional Portuguese dances. “We’re celebrating the patron saint of lovers, São João,” he added. “Two ladies will be sitting on a garden park bench on our float and singing as we go along.” The Ikas Dance Group dressed in the parade’s floral theme, many with their faces painted with swirling tendrils, flowers and glitter. There were about a dozen dancers with their leaders, including Kiantae Glasford, who said that they would be performing soca and hip-hop routines on the parade route. St John Ambulance Bermuda was in the parade and on the sidelines should there be a medical emergency. They were led by their chairman, Justin Williams, who said they had a mobile hospital tent staffed by EMTs, an ambulance — which responded to a spectator’s intense allergic reaction and a number of first-aid situations — a colour guard and three squads in the parade, accompanied by three ambulances. “These included our mobile clinic, donated by XL Reinsurance and Medic 9, the result of a recent anonymous donation. “We were also proud to introduce our rapid individual response motor cycles. We would like to thank the Commissioner of Police, Michael DeSilva, for making this possible with the kind donation of two retired auxiliary police motorcycles.” Dr Phyllis Curtis-Tweed, principal of the Berkeley Institute, was looking proudly out over dozens of the school’s band members and majorettes, who were sparkling in Berkeley-hued gold, green and white-sequined and fringed costumes She said the band was established in 2012, and that this was third time they have performed in the parade. The band performs under the direction of John Woolridge, with the assistance of Karen Carlington, a music teacher at the school. Preparations for the parade took place in the arts department, headed up by Nikia Manders. Dr Curtis-Tweed said: “She is the dance teacher and she put together the routines.” The school also had help from Berkeley alumna Cher-Ann Brangman, who has experience with marching bands through the Bermuda Regiment, Dr Curtis-Tweed added. Sisters Tenisha and Shalane Dill decorated the truck that was to travel with them. “It looks phenomenal,” she said. Contemporary tracks including Uptown Funk and Shake It Off were to be performed by the school band. Tucked into the cab of his float “Gladwin Smith Presents Land and Sea”, its maker said he had been building floats for a quarter of a century. This year he created a garden and traditional moon gate, with reef fish swimming along the side of a transformed bus, the cab of which was decorated with vibrant yellow flowers. “It depicts the yellow submarine,” he said. “The idea is that you can explore Bermuda — Bermuda underwater and the Atlantic garden. I’ve been doing floats for 25 years and I have won just about every prize there is to win.” This year was no exception — he showed off his plaque for the Mrs JJ Outerbridge Award for Best Garden Float. Without spectators there would be no parade, and along the route, the Symonds family were watching from a spot opposite the Tennis Stadium, from which they have enjoyed the spectacle for the past three years. Nine members of the family attended, including matriarch Mary Symonds, who had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren with her. The Butterfield family also had a prime viewing spot, at the turn-off for St John’s Church and the Tennis Stadium. One of the 15 family members and friends enjoying the show was Jannikas Pascoe, who said: “I’ve been doing this all my life.” For the past five or six years, she has run a refreshment stall, called Jazzy Treats, selling sherbet, snowballs and ice cream bars. “But this year is a year off, to enjoy the parade,” she said.
May 26. A proposal to create a new marina on the waterfront at Barr’s Bay Park has been given in-principle approval by the Department of Planning. Last November, the Corporation of Hamilton filed a planning application with the department requesting in-principle approval to install a 17-berth marina at the Pitts Bay Road park. The application stated that the location would be ideal because the area is both protected from the wind and within walking distance of the city centre. According to the minutes of last Wednesday’s meeting of the Development Applications Board (DAB), the technical officer stated that the corporation was only seeking approval for the concept and proposed location of the dock, and that further details would be included in a final application. The DAB resolved to approve the details related to the siting and layout of the application on that basis, stating that an application for final planning approval must include additional, relevant studies including geotechnical and environmental studies.
May 26. Local firm Somers Construction has been awarded three contracts by Government since the One Bermuda Alliance took office, with a total value of more than $4.5 million. The firm was taken on for painting and repairs to bus shelter roofs in April 2013, for $26,000, and received a $4.5 million contract for a steam turbine generator building a year later. There was also a $1,953 contract on May 15 for interior painting of an electrical room. Craig Cannonier, Minister of Public Works, said the first two contracts had been open to tender. For the bus shelters job, another landscaper pitched $15,000 for the work, prompting Opposition MP Derrick Burgess to query why the lower estimate was not chosen. Mr Cannonier said the Office of Project Management and Procurement would have awarded the job to whichever was deemed best.
May 26. The new-look Hamilton Princess has signed up 200 new employees as it gears up for the summer season. And further job opportunities are still available across a range of hotel departments. The new staff — who will be employed mostly in the food and beverage department — includes 114 Bermudians. The historic hotel — owned by the wealthy Green family and undergoing a $90 million facelift — said the new hires were largely due to the ongoing renovations. Hotel director of human resources Jeanette Matthew said: “We have greatly increased our staff in an effort to continue to provide the level of service our guests have come to expect. “With so much happening at the hotel, including the opening of the Beach Club and the celebrity chef restaurant Marcus’, we are excited to have so many talented new employees on board, including many Bermudians, who are enthused and ready to contribute to the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club guest experience. There are still positions available and we encourage Bermudians to visit our website and apply.” Vacancies are still available in the banquets department, from service posts to directorial and managerial roles, while purchasing and stores is still looking for store keepers and a truck driver. The food and beverage department has general positions available at the Beach Club and Marcus’ and a number of accountancy positions are also up for grabs. Anyone interested in working at the Princess should visit fairmontcareers.com for more information.
May 25. Each flying the Bermuda flag from their sterns to show their (Hamilton) port of registration, the three huge regal vessels of the (US-owned by Carnival) Cunard Line paraded on the River Mersey, Liverpool, England. The Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria were there, in what had originally been their home port, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Cunard Line by Samuel Cunard. It was from Liverpool that Cunard ships pioneered their packet ship trans-Atlantic postal and passenger service to the USA and beyond, including the West Indies and Bermuda. Later, cruise liners replaced the packet ships. The Cunard Line also became prominent immigrant ships, carrying at one point nine million passengers who had earlier traveled from Europe, Ireland and the UK to board those ships in Liverpool for the New World. Cunard ships remained headquartered in Liverpool until the 1960s when they relocated to Southampton, England. It was from there they were re-flagged a few years ago as Bermuda Shipping Registry cruise ships.
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May 25. Chris Estwanik made a triumphant return to the Appleby Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby as he secured his sixth victory after a frustrating three-year hiatus because of injury. The 32-year-old pumped his fist as he crossed the finish line at Bernard Park in a rare display of emotion that emphasized just how much winning this year’s “special race” meant to him. Estwanik completed the new 13.1-mile course, starting in St George’s for the first time in decades, in a time of 1hr 7min 46sec, finished more than six minutes ahead of second-place Lamont Marshall, who crossed the line in 1:13:51. Stephen Allen came third in 1:14:38, while Ashley Estwanik held off Ashley Berry to win the women’s race in 1:22:43.
May 25. While all of the floats and dancers dazzled the crowds at the Bermuda Day Parade, only a handful were honored with awards by the Department of Community, Culture and Sports. Aerie’s Adventures Nursery and Preschool won the Premier’s Award for best float, while Sandys Secondary Middle School won the Reggie Ming Award for most beautiful float, and the prize for best Middle School float. Age Concern won the Minister’s Award for most original, while the Department of Corrections won the Ruth Thomas Heritage Award and the award for Best Government Department. Gladwyn V Smith won the JJ Outerbridge award for best individual entry, while the Friends of the House of Azores Bermuda won the LCCA Award for best charity entry. FACE — Ellen Douglas and Samuel Lynch — won the best community/volunteer/political prize. Other recognized entries included the Kiwanis Club Bermuda, Bermuda Regiment, the Vasco Da Gama Club and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.
May 23. In a rare political event, the Good Samaritan (Food Donation) Act 2015 proposed by Kim Wilson, the Shadow Minister for Health, passed in the House of Assembly with no Members of Parliament objecting to its passage. The new act aims to provide protection against liability for organizations that donate food to the needy, and supporters of the legislation believe it will mean that restaurants, hotels and supermarkets that prepare food will feel able to donate leftovers to charity. Premier Michael Dunkley and Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, expressed thanks to their parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the House for working together and co-operating on the bill. Late last night, Mr Dunkley, in a press release stated: “Collaboration is not just some buzzword. Today’s session proves that, in spite of our differences, there is room to respect good ideas. The bill is not perfect but the principle is something on which both sides agreed. We did not vote against the bill because anything that potentially helps those in need should not be held up because of flaws in drafting or other issues. It’s Bermuda first always.” The passage of the bill was unexpected and came after nearly three hours of debate with government members arguing against the need for additions to the standing legislation — the Volunteer Liability Act 2000. The Premier said that the existing legislation “did the trick,” arguing there was very little leftover food available from restaurants and supermarkets. He also reminded MPs of the risks of food production, citing the recent case of fatally contaminated Blue Bell Ice Cream. Without warning, at the end of the debate, political maneuvering provided the impetus for Ms Wilson to propose further amendments, which would have given protection to food distributors. She later withdrew those amendments, and the original bill was approved by MPs without objection. After the House adjourned, Ms Wilson said she was glad the Bermuda Government had decided to support the legislation, which will now go to the Senate. “We all see that getting the food to the people who need it is key, and the fact that many community organizations were saying [the legislation] was needed,” she said. “I have a much better story to tell my children tonight.” At the conclusion of the debate, when government opposition to the bill made it seem that it would not pass, a clearly disappointed Ms Wilson told MPs that she had described the legislation to her children yesterday morning. “Now I’m going to have to go home and tell them they didn’t feel it necessary to pass legislation to feed seniors and the hungry,” she said. She named several organizations: the Coalition for the Protection of Children, Family Centre, St John’s AME Church and her own church, Allen Temple AME Church. “We have all of these community groups and they all need more protection to feed the hungry,” she said. “They have identified a real need to bring more food into their coffers. I’m at a loss for words.” Ms Wilson had set out her argument for the Act earlier in the session, saying while existing legislation did provide some protection, it did not go far enough. She highlighted a report that found 80 per cent of organizations capable of donating food did not, because of fear of liability, but would reconsider their position if the legislation was reviewed to offer more protection. “We have a chance today”, she said to her colleagues in the House. Jeanne Atherden, the health minister, accepted that more people are suffering and living below the poverty threshold in Bermuda. However, she believed the present legislation offered organizations sufficient protection and said that they needed to be encouraged to donate more. “When I looked at the bill, my concern was, ‘Why was there a need for the bill? Is there a harm we are trying to solve?’” Members of both sides accused the other of politicizing the issue, with Zane DeSilva, the health minister of the previous government, claiming the only reason the Government was opposing the amendment was because it had been tabled by the Progressive Labour Party, while Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, health minister when the One Bermuda Alliance first formed the Government in December 2012, accused the Opposition of “justifying their existence” by trying to amend a “sufficient” Act. David Burt, the Shadow Minister for Finance, called the bill “an excellent idea,” and quoted from the environmental and sustainability organization Greenrock’s website. “The absence of a Good Samaritan law hampers the efforts of individuals and organizations seeking to assist the disadvantaged in Bermuda,” he said before encouraging the Government to get on board. “Support this bill and let us do something good for the people of this country on the eve of a holiday.” PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong added: “If we can eliminate red tape for the 1 per cent — for the America’s Cup — surely we can eliminate red tape for those in need.” Mr Bean said: “It has been repeated that this is an opportunity for co-operation and collaboration. The best social programmes in existence for 7,000 years have always been charity. Before integration, the black community received social upliftment not from the Government, but from the charities.”
May 23. The future of BBC Radio World News broadcasts in Bermuda on AM 1160 is up in the air, according to Kenneth DeFontes. Speaking yesterday, Mr DeFontes said the usual BBC broadcasts went off the air recently so that overdue work could be carried out on the transmitter, however the decision as to whether the broadcasts will resume has yet to be made. “The main thing is that it used to be sponsored, first by the United Bermuda Party and then by the Progressive Labour Party,” he said. "A while after they became government, the PLP decided to scrap it and we have been running it as a public service but times have changed. If we cannot get any money for it, we might drop it or put something else on the channel. These services are wonderful and people love them, but if we cannot make it pay we have to make a decision.” He partially cited competition as one of the factors at play, noting that there are eleven radio stations on the air competing for the attention of just 64,000 listeners. “There are just too many stations,” he said. “It’s crazy.” While a final decision has yet to be made, he said the company is actively taking note of how many people call in about the service. “Right now, about 25 people have called about it and we are recording their names and phone numbers,” he said. “At the right time we will make a statement or call them all personally.” Juliana Snelling, a regular listener, said she was disappointed when the broadcasts ceased and hopes that it will return to the air. “In addition to keeping up with local news, I depend on listening to BBC Radio World News on a daily basis to stay abreast of the world outside the Bermuda bubble and to teach our kids about what’s going on in the world as they listen to world news when we get ready for school in the mornings. We have listened to this for years and the world news, as sad as it is, keeps us grateful each and every day for how lucky our lives are here in Bermuda.”
May 23. He is celebrating 50 years in the hospitality industry, yet Coco Reef owner John Jefferis is showing no signs of slowing down as he announces an expansion of the hotel and the opening of a new restaurant. Mr Jefferis, who opened the doors to Coco Reef in 2004, is now looking to build 36 new condominiums and ten luxury residential villas on the eastern side of the Paget property. He has already obtained a special development order and expects that the first villa could be open as soon as February 2016, while he hopes the entire project will be completed within four years. More imminently will be the completion of a tapas and wine bar, and art gallery a short walk away from the hotel in the old Trimingham's building near Modern Mart. He hopes the restaurant, which will carry Caribbean and South American artwork, as well as some local art, will be open by October and could create up to ten new jobs. Mr Jefferis told The Royal Gazette: “I realized that to make this hotel successful, it needed a residential ingredient — you really need that to make it work. If we build a few of these, people will be excited to buy them. Everything is working in the right direction and we will be reaping rewards in the near future. I have been working on it for about seven years. I am talking to the same construction company that built the lobby to the hotel — PMC — and there could be anything from between 80 to 100 construction jobs and a further 45 hotel jobs when it is completed. The tapas and wine bar will be called Galleria and it will be attractive for people to have cocktail parties in there. The economy is going to get better; usually after a recession, things get better. The trends are cyclical. I wouldn’t invest money in something I didn’t think was going to work, so I certainly think there is a market for this sort of thing.” Mr Jefferis’s first job in the hospitality industry was a stint as a pot cleaner in a fish and chip restaurant in London aged 15. Some 50 years on, he has gathered many accolades. Moving to Bermuda in 1970, Mr Jefferis took a job at the Belmont Hotel, having completed an internship at London’s prestigious Savoy Hotel. He went on to become the youngest general manager in the hotel’s history before becoming managing director at the Elbow Beach Hotel and Development Company. While there, he instituted the first international toll-free reservation lines and introduced a hotel levy, a controversial move that was followed by the big hotels in Bermuda. As a past president of the Bermuda Hotel Association, Mr Jefferis was the driving force behind the Island joining the Caribbean Hotel Association, for which he later became president. In 2003, he acquired the lease for the Stonington Beach Hotel, which he opened in 2004 as Coco Reef, and in 2008 he won the Caribbean World’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Tourism and Travel. Asked what the most valuable lesson he had learnt in his career, Mr Jefferis said: “You should strive to make every customer feel like a king and feel special. It is also important that general managers must meet all the guests; that is our policy.”
May 23. There are lots of ways to celebrate a 40th anniversary. The Anglican Church of Bermuda is choosing to do it in a way that brings more souls to God. The church will host an open air service at the Arboretum tomorrow at 4pm. On offer is entertainment, fun and fellowship and a special message encouraging people to break down their barriers and be filled with God’s spirit of love and unity. Bishop Nicholas Dill shared with The Royal Gazette why the event holds such a special meaning. Q: What would you say is the significance of this 40th anniversary of the Anglican Church of Bermuda? A: On the Sea Venture, in 1609 there was a minister from the Church of England, Rev Richard Bucke. Since that time the Church of England has always had an active presence in Bermuda. Prior to 1975, the Church of England in Bermuda was the established state church, overseen by the Government through legislation. The changes to the law with the formation of the Anglican Church of Bermuda allowed the church to be self-governing, allowing it to take on its own character relevant to its place in these Islands. It was disestablished, and thereby put on an equal footing with other Christian denominations in the Island — opening the door for the possibility of greater unity and working together. The change of name is significant as it became a church “of Bermuda” — in other words, opened the door for greater Bermudianisation for the leadership down. The term “Anglican” recognized that the church is part of a worldwide family of over 68 million members. Q: What do you consider to be some of the biggest milestones/accomplishments of the church during that time? A: At the time of the Church of England in Bermuda Act 1975, there were eight Bermudian clergy serving overseas — but through the changes it saw some of them returning to their Island home to serve. Canon Thomas Nisbett was already here as the first black Anglican clergyman, but he was soon joined by the Rev. Dr Arnold Hollis in 1977, former Bishop Ewen Ratteray in 1980 (later to become the first Bermudian Bishop) and Canon James Francis in 1985 as the first black Anglican Canon to the Cathedral. Since then the church has been able to appoint Bermudians as Bishop — The Rt Rev. Ewen Ratteray in 1996, The Rt Rev. Dr Patrick White in 2009 and The Rt Rev. Nick Dill in 2013. Alongside this has been a proliferation of other roles and ministries in the church for the benefit of society at large. Q: How will the church be celebrating? A: This Sunday, May 24th, there will be an Island-wide open air event in the Arboretum for the whole church family. There will be various groups performing from about 3.15pm onwards, including the performance of a “Mini-Mosaic” on the last 40 years of Anglican history performed by Ruth Thomas and friends. There will be various activities for children and a party atmosphere culminating in a service for all ages at 4pm. Various individuals have also written about what the Anglican church means to them. Q: Why do you want people to come out and celebrate? A: This is a family time to celebrate our heritage. Part of our heritage is as the body of Christ, as brothers and sisters of all races, ages and backgrounds united under the banner of Jesus Christ. It is also the Feast of Pentecost, when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit upon those first believers. That was when the church took wings and went out into the world with a message of love and unity and at that time through their service, message and witness they changed the world! We are inheritors of that legacy. Much of the things that we now take for granted which have given us strength and stability as a community stem from our faith. Q: Can you share any insights into what the message will be at the special service? What do you hope people would take from it? A: Apart from celebration, the theme of this event is one of unity. The strap line is “One Spirit, One Church, One Diocese”. We will be encouraged to break down the barriers that exist between us, to be filled once more with God’s spirit of love and unity and with humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and love, to work together to bring the love, unity and peace that Jesus brings into our communities.
May 23. Insurance coverage for cancer-detecting mammograms is to be switched over to the more stringent clinical practices of the United States, according to a new health bill tabled yesterday in Parliament. In addition, the government insurance package known as the Standard Hospital Benefit (SHB) will be renamed the Standard Health Benefit in the process. The adjustment is part of a raft of SHB changes proposed by the Bermuda Health Council after a review of benefits. Local health authorities recently decided to follow the clinical practices of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and the switch was the subject of a conference earlier this month. Mammography accounts for 30 per cent of all diagnostic imaging costs in Bermuda, Health Minister Jeanne Atherden said in Parliament. Under the present regime, Bermuda’s health system follows the American College of Radiology guidelines for mammography which recommend annual screenings for all women aged over 40 years. The USPSTF guidelines call for “biennial screening for healthy, asymptomatic women aged 50 to 74 years”, Ms Atherden said. “Women with a family history or other risk factors will still be covered for testing with a physician referral. This will result in better use of scarce healthcare resources, while following best-practice international guidelines on screening.” As a result, SHB coverage for screening mammograms will be “required to adhere to the USPSTF guidelines”. Ms Atherden told the House that new standard benefits will be introduced under the Act to protect underinsured patients and promote cost-efficiency. The second set of changes will concern the allowance for fees and utilization and will add $2.73 to the Standard Premium Rate (SPR), while the third set of changes relate to the Mutual Reinsurance Fund and represent the largest increase to the SPR that amounts to $63.74. “These changes will help us direct healthcare to more appropriate, cost-effective settings, and protect the subsidy budgets."
May 23. The “inadvertent” naming of a person conducting a Public Access to Information query remains under investigation, but Public Works Minister Craig Cannonier has apologized to the House of Assembly, calling it an honest mistake. Saying he was “incredibly sorry”, Mr Cannonier told MPs he had erred during the May 15 debate on the taking of Bermuda stone from a construction site at Black Watch Pass. During that debate, Mr Cannonier told the House that Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and External Affairs, had made a PATI request — but making that revelation violated the rules of PATI, which protect the identity of persons making inquiries. Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess questioned whether it was appropriate for the minister to speak on a matter that was under investigation, as was announced on Monday by Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner. However, Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, said that it was acceptable for Mr Cannonier to finish his remarks as a personal explanation. Mr Cannonier said he prided himself on performing his duties to the best of his abilities, but like everyone he sometimes erred. He added that he had intended to show that he was “working on investigating the issue at hand, so that everyone could be comfortable with the steps we were taking”. He had then let slip the identity of “the individual who was doing his best to do his job within the letter of the law, and in no way deserved to have his privacy violated”. The minister gave his apologies to the Speaker and to fellow MPs.
May 23. A funeral home has launched another bid to build a crematorium in Bermuda. Amis Memorial Chapel has submitted a planning application to construction the building on Waller’s Point Road in St David’s close to the TCD centre. It’s the fourth time that Amis has tried to get permission to build a crematorium on the Island, which the funeral home maintains is needed to meet a rapidly increasing demand. “We have been working on this application for more than a year now,” said grief counselor Martha Amis. “We have completed a series of surveys and emission tests that we hope will satisfy the planners’ requirements. The proposed development is on land owned by BLDC close to the TCD centre in St David’s and just has car repair shops in the near vicinity. We believe that emissions should not be an issue given that the sophisticated technology used in the stack will mean that less emissions come out of the crematorium than a diesel vehicle. We very much hope that this development is given the go ahead as this is something we really need in Bermuda.” The latest application was submitted last week and advertised at the beginning of this week. Previously Amis Memorial Chapel has asked for permission to build a crematorium at Well Bottom in Warwick, next to its funeral home in Warwick and most recently Industrial Road in Southampton. However all three proposals were rejected by the Development Applications Board. Ms Amis added: “Just in the last week we have had two requests for cremations. At present this involves us flying the bodies to Canada and then taken down to New Jersey where the cremation takes place. The ashes are then brought back to Bermuda which can be a long process. “As cremation becomes more popular the greater the need there is for a facility like this. We have tried to do all our due diligence in advance and hope we can be successful this time.”
May 22. The Philippine Embassy team from Washington DC visited the Island for this year’s consular and labour outreach. Connecting with the Filipino Association, it fulfilled a number of official duties including the renewal of more than 200 passports, 12 birth reports, eight marriage reports and three oaths of dual citizenship, while more than 300 absentee voters were registered by the team for next year’s Philippine national elections. Authentication of documents were held by the consular team headed by consul Arlene Magno at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess on May 23 and 24. The Philippines Overseas Workers Welfare Administration also renewed memberships for Filipino contract workers on the Island. On May 22, the labour team, led by labour attaché Angel Borja Jr, paid a courtesy call to Premier Michael Dunkley, who was accompanied by Cabinet secretary Derrick Binns at the Cabinet Office. The Premier welcomed the group composed of Mr Borja, labour officer Oliver Flores, Rowena Comber and Sonia Loudermilk of the Filipino Association and acknowledged the contribution of Filipino workers to Bermuda’s economy. Mr Borja and the team visited the Department of Workforce Development and met with George Outerbridge, Oonagh Vaucrosson and Lauren Smith to address employment concerns of Filipino workers on the Island. Then the team visited a few business establishments employing Filipino workers. On May 23, an open forum was held with the Filipino community at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotel and was attended by Ms Vaucrosson and Mr Smith from the Department of Workforce Development The consul and labour attaché said the Bermuda outreach was a success as they aim to strengthen relations between the Bermuda and Philippine governments.
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May 22. A study of organisms in Bermuda’s caves has given researchers insight into how life adapts to permanent darkness. Scientists from the US and Germany compared crustacean species from caves around the world, studying Mictocarididae in Bermuda, Spelaeogriphacea in South Africa and Thermosbaenacea in Italy. While the organisms come from vastly different regions, all three are blind and have developed small stalks where their eyes used to be. Their findings, published in the online journal BMC Neuroscience, showed that not only did the species lose their sight, they had undergone changes to their brain and nervous system, improving their sense of smell and taste. Tom Iliffe, professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University, who carried out much of the research on the Island, told online publication Futurity that some of the species first colonized the caves more than 180 million years ago. Since then, they have undergone “regressive evolution”, losing body features which are not used. “Even with no light in the caves, evolution continued to proceed as it always does — these creatures were able to adapt and survive in this totally dark environment, while life on the surface of the Earth changed radically,” Dr Iliffe said. “Our findings suggest that these creatures, as they spent longer and longer time in complete darkness, changed independently during this evolutionary process, and they gradually reduced brain functions that were no longer needed.” Bermuda’s caves are home to about 60 native and indigenous marine invertebrates, ranging in size from large shrimp to microscopic organisms, with some species found only in a single cave. Dr Iliffe has made numerous trips to Bermuda to carry out research over the past 12 years, mapping the Island’s cave system and studying the life found within. In 2011, he led a four-man team in the deepest manned scuba dive in Bermudian waters, swimming 444ft to what was the edge of the Island during the last Ice Age.
May 22. A voluminous report appraising procurement for the airport terminal redevelopment has been tabled in the House of Assembly. Finance Minister Bob Richards said his ministry had taken on the firm Deloitte, in conjunction with the British Government. Commissioned in March and driven in part by “anxiety in the public domain”, the report is hundreds of pages long and cost about $130,000 — roughly half of which has been covered by the British Government. The evaluation, which will come up for debate by MPs, did not cover architectural designs but costs, economics and value for money. It examines “whether the existing analysis and documentation on the proposed Bermuda Airport Development was sufficient to support an investment decision based on HM Treasury’s Green Book guidance for the evaluation of public sector spending proposals.” Green Book prescriptions assume a competitive bid process and the Bermuda Government is not obliged to follow Green Book standards, Mr Richards said. “Considering where we are in the process, the findings in the report are not surprising, and we still have opportunities to close the gaps identified in the Deloitte Report before entering into ant contracts,” the minister said, adding his certainty that the report would add “substantial value to the project.”
May 22. There have been no random site inspections by Immigration officers from January 1 to May 15 this year because of “limited human resources”, according to Sylvan Richards, the Junior Minister for Immigration. Although there have been two work permit violations uncovered in that timeframe, Mr Richards told the House of Assembly in response to Opposition questions that the Department of Immigration is employing only ten officers at present. There remain 21 civil penalty cases active, including that of a company that was brought into the public domain by Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and External Affairs. The investigation is separate from the two other violations mentioned, Mr Richards said, declining to confirm the company in the third matter because the matter is still pending. Mr Richards also declined to publicly name the first two companies, identifying them as “companies A and B.” Questioned by Progressive Labour Party MP Rolfe Commissiong, Mr Richards named them as The Reefs and Chopsticks, respectively. The former got “a stern warning” for landing a person at the airport without a work permit; in the latter, the employer and employee were each fined $5,000 for employing a person outside the scope of their work permit.
May 22. The cruise liner that ran aground in Bermuda this week has arrived in Boston. The Norwegian Dawn ploughed into the reef bordering the North Channel when she temporarily lost power on Wednesday evening. The ship was refloated later in the evening and assessed before leaving Bermuda at 2.30pm yesterday. The liner and her 3,500 passengers and crew arrived in Boston today. The ship is scheduled to arrive back in Bermuda on Sunday at 11am. This morning in the House of Assembly, transport minister Shawn Crockwell outlined again the chain of events after the grounding and praised everyone involved in the operation." Fortunately, there were no reported injuries, no water ingress, no oil spillage or pollution threat, and the vehicle remained stable,” said Mr Crockwell, who commended local authorities for managing the vessel and two others with a combined 8,000 passengers.
May 22. Morgan’s Point could become the temporary headquarters for Artemis Racing in the lead up to the 35th America’s Cup. The Swedish challenger is presently based alongside Oracle Team USA at the Royal Naval Dockyard but have not ruled out moving their operations to Morgan’s Point, albeit temporarily. “The team has been looking at different options and that’s one that’s kind of raised its head for sure,” David Tyler, the Artemis Racing spokesman, said. “Obviously at the moment we are not going to be moving our base here [Dockyard] until much later in the year, or beginning of next year.” Mike Winfield, America’s Cup Bermuda chief executive, said the organization is presently helping to cater to Artemis Racing’s needs between now and the America’s Cup in 2017. “There are discussions under way with the ACEA, ACBDA and Artemis as to the team’s needs in the intervening period, and where the right fit would be. We are hopeful that Artemis will be moving the majority of their team to Bermuda, thereby benefiting Bermuda significantly, and our focus is on making that a reality.” Once completed the South Basin will serve as the hub of operations for the next America’s Cup. Planners have given the green light to begin major reclamation work from the seabed to create the America’s Cup Village in the South Basin. The work will involve dredging to both the North and South Channels to provide the 11 acres of land which will also provide additional space for team bases.
May 22. The Parliamentary Accounts Committee is keen to track down the missing project manager who oversaw the Port Royal Golf Course redevelopment. The PAC held a public meeting yesterday to deliberate on the $24.5 million project, which has been the subject of a special report by the Auditor General. The project had originally been budgeted at about $3.5 million. Government and Opposition committee members heard more than an hour of testimony from former Port Royal general manager Bill Pitt, who explained repeatedly that it was the Port Royal board of trustees and project manager Daniel Lemoine who made all the decisions in regards to the development. “I was the general manager, not the project manager,” he said. “Mr Lemoine has the expertise for the golf course redevelopment. He knows exactly what to do for golf course redevelopment.” Mr Pitt said his role had been to assist the project manager. Under questioning, he said that progress reports were submitted to the board of trustees by the project manager. However, he and the golf course superintendent both countersigned authorizations for payments, although he said that larger sums were the remit of the board. PAC chairman David Burt asked if members of the committee would like to speak to more witnesses, with One Bermuda Alliance member Susan Jackson replying that “the number one person is the project manager.” Mr Burt responded: “I would wholly agree with you.” Ms Jackson told the committee that there was very little information about the project manager, but her own research had found that a Daniel Lemoine was connected with a company called Golf Consult Ltd, which had been incorporated under the laws of Dominica. “There’s only a post office box for the company,” she said. Her research also showed that payments to Mr Lemoine were made through a Federal Bank of the Middle East in Cyprus. “It looks as though this is a bit of a phantom to track down,” she said. Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert said that Mr Lemoine had been recommended “by persons working for the Bermuda Tourism Authority pushing golf overseas.” He suggested that those individuals might be able to help find him, although he expressed concern at the cost of bringing him to Bermuda to give evidence before the PAC. Ms Jackson suggested using Skype. “It’s simple, and without expense,” she added. Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive officer Bill Hanbury responded to Mr Furbert’s comments, saying that the BTA did not exist at the time and the “persons working” actually worked for then Minister of Tourism Wayne Furbert and the then Premier Dr Ewart Brown. Earlier in the hearing, Mr Pitt said he had attended a board of trustees meeting at which it was stated that the directive had been given to renovate the golf course. “I don’t know where the directive came from,” he added. Responding to Mr Furbert’s question about his recollections of the initial $3.5 million budgeted for the golf course work, he said: “I don’t recall that number. The only number I remember is $13.6 million or $14.6 million — that is the only number I recall.” Government had reimbursed the board of trustees $14.9 million — $1.3 million more than the authorized figure of $13.6 million, according to the Auditor’s Report. Asked about the amount spent and his opinion of this, Mr Pitt said: “The money that was spent on the project was because it was a major overhaul. The work performed there was just amazing. I couldn’t believe my eyes.” He said he had been impressed with the now-missing project manager, adding: “He was efficient.” Major Marc Telemaque also answered PAC questions, explaining he had been Cabinet Secretary from 2006 to 2010. Asked whether he had been satisfied that Financial Instructions were adhered to, he said: “The Financial Secretary was responsible for the management and oversight of Financial Instructions.” He also told committee members that “advice to Cabinet if confidential. Advice to Cabinet on policy is confidential.” Ms Jackson asked Maj Telemaque if he had read the Auditor’s Report on the golf course, and sought his views on it as a lawyer. “The Government doesn’t pay me to be a lawyer, so I can’t help there,” he said. PLP MP Lovitta Foggo asked if there was anything in the report that struck him as “ being odd.” “I don’t think there is anything to be gained by communicating my thoughts,” he said.
May 22. A team of archaeologists will return to Smith’s Island next week as they continue to explore one of the oldest homes that has been studied in Bermuda. Dr Michael Jarvis, from the University of Rochester, and his crew of professors, graduates, undergraduates and volunteers will initially focus on the “Oven Site” (right) on the eastern part of the island, which is believed to date back to the early 1600s. Last year the team made a series of breakthrough discoveries during the dig that helped them to date the old property, which has an oven cut into the rock. This summer they will be going deeper in the hope of discovering animal bones and other artifacts that will provide clues about who lived there and when. “At the end of last year we determined that the Oven Site evolved in two phases,” Dr Jarvis said. “We think it began as one small room some time between 1613 and 1619, then in around 1640 they extended it and rebuilt the house. There is then evidence of it being occupied by Native Americans between 1640 and 1710 before the site was abandoned. In the 19th century quarrying dumped a tonne of rubble on the site and preserved it. We hope that by further excavating the site we will find out a lot more about who was there and what they were doing there as well as some valuable artifacts. This site is one of the first domestic sites to be found and studied in Bermuda. These were the very early settlers with perhaps a tobacco farm. We hope we can come back with the evidence to help prove that to scholars.” The team will also be returning to several other dig sites that have been explored in the past few years around Smith’s Island, including Cotton Hole Bight, Smallpox Bay and the new Cave Site. They initially believed Cotton Hole Bight might have been where Bermuda’s first three settlers, Christopher Carter, Edward Waters and Edward Chard, set up camp on Smith’s Island in 1610. Although the archaeological evidence did not support the hypothesis, Mr Jarvis said the team had not given up hope of finding the elusive “first home in Bermuda” which was on Smith’s Island. They also plan to return to Smallpox Bay, where old military buttons from the 19th century were found last year, and the new Cave Site. Mr Jarvis said: “There is real mystery around the Cave Site. It does not figure on any of the old maps and was discovered quite by accident. The roof of the cave was very carefully chiseled out — someone took the trouble to do this, so we are looked to find out why and what it was used for.” The team of archaeological enthusiasts will begin work on Smith’s Island next Tuesday and the project is expected to last five weeks. Mr Jarvis is looking for volunteers to help with the work this summer. If you are interested contact him at Michael.email@example.com. To find out more about the work that has taken place on Smith’s Island, go to Mr Jarvis’s blog at www.smithsislandarchaeology.blogspot.com.
May 22. A Bermuda insurer and reinsurer is to list its shares on the Nasdaq Capital Market. Till Capital Ltd will start trading on Nasdaq next Tuesday. Till chairman and CEO William Sheriff said: “We are extremely pleased to be listed on the Nasdaq stock market — an important step in our overall corporate strategy to build awareness of Till Capital within the US investment community. This listing is an integral step in the success of the company, giving us access to the world’s largest investment community. As an innovative financial company, we will benefit substantially from the greater liquidity and investor awareness that comes from listing on the prestigious Nasdaq exchange.” Till operates through two wholly-owned subsidiaries, Omega Insurance Holdings, which owns Canadian firm Omega General Insurance and consulting and project management company Focus Group and Resource Re. Bermuda-based Resource Re underwrites insurance policies using a long-term investment strategy.
May 22. Bermuda speciality reinsurer MultiStrat has bought up a US company, it announced last night. The Island-based firm has taken over Annapolis Consulting Group (ACG), a Maryland international consultancy business that provided services to the reinsurance sector — its first acquisition in the US. ACG, which also has an office in Bermuda and one in South Carolina, specializes in the resolution of legacy claims and captive run-offs. MultiStrat Re CEO Bob Forness said: “MultiStrat is excited to welcome the ACG team to our group of speciality reinsurance and advisory service companies. ACG’s expertise, knowledge and relationships will be essential to MultiStrat Group’s design and delivery of cost-effective risk protection, capacity and legacy solutions for the captive market.” ACG CEO Sean Logan added: “Teaming with MultiStrat will provide ACG with access to tools that will multiply our effectiveness.” MultiStrat will also take over ACG Brokerage (Bermuda) as part of the deal, subject to approval by regulators. MultiStrat offers reinsurance and advisory services and also specializes in launching and developing asset manager sponsored reinsurance firms through several subsidiaries of the holding company.
May 21. A veteran lawyer is to become a commissioner of the Island’s telecommunications watchdog. Kenneth Robinson has joined the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda (RAB). RAB chairman Carl Musson said: “We believe he will be an excellent addition to our small group and we look forward to working with him.” Mr Robinson, who has been a lawyer since the 1970s, retired as a partner in the former Appleby, Spurling & Kempe, now Appleby, in 2005. But he remained senior counsel and later a consultant to the firm. He was also a legal consultant to the-then Business Development Unit of Government between 2011-12, which involved him in a wide range of legislative reforms to the commercial sector. A specialist in corporate and commercial law, Mr Robinson has also served on various public boards and tribunals, including the Land Valuation Appeals Tribunal and the Bermuda Housing Corporation. He is a serving member of the Tax Appeals Tribunal.
May 21. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts expects to look at the Port Royal Golf Course improvements capital development project during its meeting today. The Public Accounts Committee is chaired by David Burt, the shadow minister of finance, and is made up of Members of Parliament. It is authorized by the House of Assembly to look at public expenditure. The committee also investigates findings reported by the Auditor General in the annual and other special reports. The standing committee is holding a public hearing at 2.30pm in the Senate Chamber, in the Cabinet Building on Front Street.
May 21. Seasoned America’s Cup campaigner Francesco Bruni is in Bermuda sailing with Swedish challenger Artemis Racing, The Royal Gazette can reveal. Bruni was among Artemis’s crew that sparred with Oracle Team USA, defender of the “Auld Mug”, in the team’s wing-sail foiling AC45 development catamaran in the Great Sound yesterday. There is growing speculation that Bruni has parted ways with Luna Rossa, the Italian team, and joined Artemis on a full-time basis. However, David Tyler, Artemis Racing’s spokesman, dismissed that suggestion. “Francesco has been invited to train with us but there’s no formal relationship at all,” Tyler said. “He’s just been invited to come in and train with us for the rest of the week.” Bruni served as a tactician on Luna Rossa at the previous America’s Cup in San Francisco, and his services had been retained for the next instalment of the “Auld Mug'" to be held in Bermuda in 2017. However, the multiple world, European and Italian champion has been left in limbo following the withdrawal of Luna Rossa from the next America’s Cup. Luna Rossa, backed by fashion house Prada, followed through on their threat to pull out in protest of a controversial amendment to the class rule, that reduced the size of the catamarans for the next America’s Cup from 62ft to 48ft. The America’s Cup class rules could be changed only by unanimous consent, but Oracle Team USA led an amendment to change the class rule to a majority vote — a process the Italians deemed as “unprecedented” and “illegitimate”. It is the first time in America’s Cup history that the class rule has been revised in midstream, and 48-footers will be the smallest boats to be used in the event’s history. Bruni has been involved in three America’s Cup campaigns with Luna Rossa and has competed in as many Olympic Games. In 2010 Bruni made his debut on the World Match Racing Tour and achieved his first victory at that level a year later at the Match Race Germany. His only other win on the Tour arrived at the 2013 Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda where he beat Sir Ben Ainslie to become the first Italian skipper to lift the King Edward VII Gold Cup — the oldest match racing trophy in the world for competition involving one-design yachts. The closest Bruni has come to winning the World Match Tour Championship was in 2011 when he finished second behind England’s Ian Williams, who is also a past Gold Cup winner, and topped the ISAF Match Race world rankings that same year.
May 21. The key players in the Government’s airport redevelopment plans have pledged transparency and employment opportunities for Bermudians. Aecon’s president, Steve Nackan; its executive chairman, John Beck; and Canadian Commercial Corporation’s (CCC) president, Martin Zablocki; joined Finance Minister Bob Richards to outline their respective roles in a deal that has been the subject of political and public criticism. Mr Nackan said the project was still in the “early development stage”, but he hoped that if the Private Public Partnership arrangement was agreed on, that ground could be broken in June next year, with the airport completed in 40 months. He said his firm had already invested about $1 million in the initial stages of the project, but had done so at its own risk. Mr Nackan told The Royal Gazette: “As for employees, our general philosophy and approach is to ‘embrace and enhance’ the existing team. “Given the early stage of the project’s development though, we have not yet had the opportunity to meet them all and assess skills. But at a high level we don’t foresee a need to deviate from the approach outlined above.” Asked if he had been surprised by the level of criticism and opposition to the airport project, he said: “It has been our experience that these developments tend to court a lot of controversy. This type of project involves many stakeholders and it affects the whole community, so it’s no surprise to see a lot of political tension and debate. Some of the issues have been challenging to go through but this goes with putting together a complicated infrastructure project in any country.” The press conference came as the airport proposals continued to take flak from various quarters of the community, after revelations by the grass-roots group the People’s Campaign about e-mails between Mr Richards, CCC and Aecon. Mr Richards has repeatedly rebutted claims that the e-mails suggest impropriety, even as a Progressive Labour Party delegation took Opposition concerns about the project to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The PLP have called repeatedly for the project to be halted and put before a request for proposal. The Opposition also claim that Aecon, which has ties to Bermuda via Somers Construction, was clearly the preferred contractor from the start. Mr Zablocki maintained that CCC was committed to transparency and high ethical standards, and described the project as a “low-risk procurement option.” He said: “CCC works very closely with Canadian companies when pursuing projects abroad. In many cases, Canadian companies engage CCC when there are opportunities that can benefit from government-to-government contracting. That is the case for the proposed solution to redevelop the LF Wade International Airport. Aecon brought this project to CCC’s attention after conducting its own due diligence on the opportunity. Bringing the project to CCC is just a first step. Once Aecon formally brought this opportunity to CCC’s attention, CCC reviewed the potential project to determine if it was a good fit for its government-to-government contracting model and assessed Aecon’s ability to deliver on the contract by carrying out its established due diligence process and thoroughly reviewing the company’s business ethics and managerial, technical, and financial capabilities.” Both Mr Nackan and Mr Zablocki pointed to the success of the Quito Airport Project in Ecuador that both organizations were involved in, and which now operates with 99 per cent local workforce. Mr Richards said the CCC and Aecon solution was “tailor-made” for Bermuda and that the project would employ hundreds of Bermudians in the construction and operational phases. Asked whether he called the press conference to “clear up a mess”, he replied: “I would not call it that. There has been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding, some justified, some not. This press conference brings clarity. It’s a chance to understand what we are trying to achieve. It’s a chance to see the people we are doing business with, look at their credentials and track records and see the kind of organizations they represent. When you look at the characterizations that have been made of these business partners, it is completely off base and unjustified.” The Finance Minister’s comments came a few hours after he announced the conclusion of an independent appraisal of the airport project that looked at the method of procurement for using CCC. Mr Richards said: “To improve the value of this unique proposal, and recognizing the anxiety in the public domain with regard to the proposal, the Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with Her Majesty’s Government in London, engaged the services of Deloitte, following a competitive tendering process, to conduct an independent appraisal of the method of procurement for the redevelopment of Bermuda’s airport using the CCC.” The Deloitte report will be tabled before the House of Assembly.
May 21. A global law firm is to open an office in Bermuda — one of the first major international firms to enter the Bermuda market. And the move could bring a jobs boost to Bermuda with recruitment of lawyers and other professionals to staff the new office. Walkers, founded in the Cayman Islands and with offices in seven other jurisdictions, decided to open up shop in Bermuda due to client demand and the volume of offshore business involving Bermuda. Cayman-based managing partner Ingrid Pierce said: “We have thought for quite some time — and we have had clients ask us as well — whether we would be able to have a practice in and provide Bermuda law services. We thought about it for a while and the combination of people asking us to do that and multi-jurisdictional deals involving Bermuda convinced us.” Ms Pierce said it was too early to say how many jobs would be created by the new firm or where it would be based, although it is hoped the new office in Bermuda will open its doors by the end of the year. But she added: “We will be looking to recruit and we will take it from there.” The firm said it aimed to offer a full range of legal services, including litigation, insolvency, corporate, investment funds, finance, insurance and trusts. A statement added: “Walkers will provide multi-jurisdictional legal services to clients who require legal advice on any combination of Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Irish and Jersey law.” Walkers’ Singapore managing partner John Rogers said: “As with our other global offices, we intend to become a major force in the legal services industry in Bermuda and to grow and develop talent in that jurisdiction.” Ms Pierce added: “This year has been an exceptionally strong year for Walkers and these decisions are aligned with our ongoing strategy of targeted expansion. Starting new and different businesses is an exciting place to be and we are committed to long term investment in these projects.” Walkers was founded more than 50 years ago in Cayman by sole practitioner William Walker and the firm expanded it operations in Cayman before opening its first overseas office in London in 1999. In addition to the Caribbean, London and Singapore, the firm now has offices in Hong Kong and Dubai and employs more than 400 people around the world. The firm has won a series of awards, including Offshore Law Firm of the Year from legal publications Alpha, The Lawyer, PLC Which Lawyer?, and Asian Legal Business. Walkers has also been awarded Cayman Law Firm of the Year by Who’s Who Legal and shared top spot as the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners’ (STEP) Offshore Legal Team of the Year.
May 21. An American tourist who drowned at the West End, despite a rescue attempt by members of America’s Cup team Oracle Team USA, has been named as Kevin Keeley, 52, of California. Mr Keeley had been on board the local boat Aristocat but began having difficulties while swimming in the area of Watford Bridge around 3.45pm yesterday. The Oracle training catamaran was in the area with an EMT on board and came to his assistance, taking him to Watford Dock, where he was picked up by an ambulance and taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Marine Police also came to assist. Mr Keeley was pronounced dead at approximately 4.20pm. Police have assigned a family liaison officer has been assigned to assist his loved ones. His death came less than 24 hours after another foreign national, 25-year-old Wilmis Herrera Moreno, a guest worker from the Dominican Republic, drowned while swimming in the area known as Paradise Lakes. Police thanked those who came to assist during both incidents. Police spokesman Dwayne Caines has also urged the public to be careful and take precautions while swimming. “The waters can be very unforgiving,” he said. “We are asking those individuals who do choose to swim to make wise decisions while they are in the water. You must always swim with someone who is a strong swimmer, just as you should always look out for each other. If you are boating over the holiday, you should file a plan, take the appropriate safely precautions and ensure that the proper safety mechanisms, such as a first-aid kit, are on board.” The Bermuda Police Service will be hosting a press conference tomorrow at 11am at Hamilton Police Station to talk about water safety, along with other issues pertaining to the Appleby Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby coming out of the East End.
May 21. Belco could be burning natural gas instead of heavy oil fuel within four years, if energy regulators back the utility’s plans to change its principal electricity-generating fuel. That’s the view of Walter Higgins, the chief executive officer of Ascendant Group Ltd, Belco’s parent company, who is preparing to submit plans for the future of the Island’s electricity supply to the Energy Commission within the coming weeks. Mr Higgins estimated that the infrastructure and plant investment needed to achieve the conversion to natural gas would cost in the region of $170 million. The plan envisions liquefied natural gas being shipped in from the US, delivered to a purpose-built terminal, where it could be stored and regasified, and delivered via a pipeline to Belco’s Pembroke power plant for burning. The details are contained in Belco’s ‘Integrated Resource Plan’ (IRP) which Mr Higgins hoped to have ready to present to regulators by June or July. As well as conversion to natural gas, the plan includes an expanded role for solar energy and an energy conservation programme. Mr Higgins said the company would seek permission to carry out in-depth studies in order to make accurate estimates of the impact on electricity prices. “It’ll take us about eight months of serious, detailed engineering before we can go back to the regulators and say ‘here’s what it’s going to cost and here’s what the effect on the customers’ rates would be. If they say ‘go’, it’s about two years from there to convert to natural gas — so about 2019, probably.” The purpose of the IRP is to propose optimal solutions for delivering a reasonably priced and reliable electricity supply, while also working towards policy goals, such as reducing emissions and increasing use of renewable energy. Mr Higgins said conversion to natural gas would be worth the investment for the Island. "Thanks to advances in gas extraction techniques, notably ‘fracking’ which allows access to gas deposits trapped in subterranean rocks, the US has an abundance of natural gas reserves. While energy markets tend to be volatile, the glut of ‘shale gas’ has created a reliable supply and a relatively stable market for natural gas. The fuel adjustment charge on Belco bills, which fluctuates with fuel prices, would be less prone to violent swings with natural gas. Belco has 17 generators, of which five are combustion turbines and the rest are reciprocating engines that work like diesel engines. Most of these can be converted to burn natural gas, but not the oldest ones — which are close to 30 years old and are already operating inefficiently. Gas also burns more cleanly. “The conversion will solve emission problems — both the things you see coming out of the stacks today and carbon emissions. We can reduce the carbon emissions from our plant by about 30 per cent by converting to natural gas. In the world of the future, cutting carbon emissions won’t be a matter of being good, but rather mandatory. That’s coming, it’s just a matter of when. Solar energy can play a growing role in the electricity supply, the IRP will argue. Bermuda’s a good candidate to deploy solar energy in a couple of ways. One is rooftop solar thermal to heat the hot water in your house. There are about 10,000 good candidate rooftops in Bermuda (out of a total of a bout 36,000 rooftops). They face south and are not shielded by trees or other buildings. One drawback of solar is the difficulty in storing the electricity produced for use when the sun is not shining. In the case of water heaters, however, the heat is stored in the water. There is also the potential for “utility-scale” solar in Bermuda, thanks to a fall in the price of solar panel technology that makes it more economically viable. The third leg of the IRP is energy conservation, an area in which there is much room for improvement. People are still not doing much energy conservation. The building codes are not as strict as they might be, and existing housing stock is generally not built to good energy efficiency standards, even for this mild climate. With utility-sponsored energy conservation, we could go the house, wrap the water heater, tint the windows, insulate the attic — that becomes part of the resource that’s helping everybody’s bill go down, because it means we don’t have to burn as much oil or build as many engines.” Another proposal in the IRP features advanced metering systems that could give both Belco and its customers real-time information on electricity usage.
May 21. Reinsurance firm PartnerRe is to hold talks with Italian firm Exor in a bid to push up its $6.8 billion rival offer to the proposed merger with Axis. PartnerRe said it had been given a waiver by Axis to open talks with Exor — but repeated its commitment to the deal with Axis. PartnerRe chairman Jean-Paul Montupet said: “PartnerRe’s board of directors is open-minded and focused on creating value for our shareholders. “Although we were disappointed that Exor has made misleading statements regarding our prior discussions, we are interested in a proposal that may lead to superior value for our shareholders. While we believe that PartnerRe is worth materially more than Exor has offered and the terms they have proposed are deficient, we stand ready to negotiate with Exor in good faith to determine their willingness to propose a transaction that, taking into account price, closing certainty, timing and other terms, is in the best interests of our shareholders.” Exor raised its original $6.4 billion bid for PartnerRe — equivalent to $130 a share — to $6.8 billion, or $137.50 a share, earlier this month. The cash deal went up against the all-share merger proposition and Exor said it intended to retain PartnerRe as a stand-alone company and keep existing management and staff. The Axis PartnerRe deal would create the world’s fifth largest reinsurer and the two companies have said joining forces would save $200 million a year — with some of the savings from redundancies among the combined Bermuda-based staff of around 130. And the two reinsurance firms — near-neighbors on Pitts Bay Road in Pembroke — would also probably require less office space. After PartnerRe rejected Exor’s initial bid, it announced a sweetener for shareholders — an $11.50 per share special dividend for shareholders if the $11 billion merger was completed. The “break fee” — payable if one of the companies walked away from the deal — was also increased from $250 million to $280 million. But Exor, controlled by the billionaire Agnelli family, whose business empire includes a large stake in carmaker Fiat Chrysler and Turin-based top flight football club Juventus, said the revised Axis-PartnerRe deal was “a clear admission” that the proposal had undervalued PartnerRe. And Exor added that the special dividend would eat into PartnerRe’s capital to the tune of $550 million and weaken its financial strength. Exor has built up a 9.3 per cent shareholding in PartnerRe, the largest single shareholder in the reinsurer. The firm’s proposal was backed by another large shareholder, Franklin Mutual Advisers, which held a 4.6 per cent share in PartnerRe at the end of last year. Franklin Mutual Advisers chief executive Peter Langerman said the Exor bid was “much superior” to the January Axis-PartnerRe deal — and added his company had expressed concern over the merger when it was announced in January.
May 20. Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy has issued a warning that penalties with respect to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act are in effect. Speaking in the Senate this morning, he said penalties under the legislation came into effect on April 1 last year. Mr Fahy pointed out that if a work permit application for a resident work permit holder is submitted, “no less than one month and no more than three months prior to the expiration of the current work permit,” then an employee can continue to work beyond the expiration of the work permit. However if an application is incomplete, the employee must stop working when it expires. Mr Fahy also described the violations against the act, which include employing a person without a work permit, employing a person outside the scope of their work permit, working without a work permit and working outside the scope of a work permit. He said: “An employer and an employee can each be levied civil penalties — and multiple penalties can be levied to either the employer or employee in the same case for different offences in accordance with the role each plays.”
May 20. RG Opinion. When the term “Loyal Opposition” was first introduced in the British parliament in 1826, it was greeted with more derision than enthusiasm by legislators on both sides of the aisle. This wasn’t entirely surprising. Until the early 19th century the duty of an Opposition was famously understood to mean it “opposed everything, proposed nothing and turned out the government.” Simply put, the Opposition’s only loyalty was to itself as it pursued mercenary and self-serving ends rather than those which might better advance the public good. But as representative and responsible parliamentary democracy evolved, the Opposition was called upon to play an increasingly central role in the political process. Checking and balancing the administration of the day’s programmes and policies, scrutinizing and challenging its actions, the role of the Opposition gradually evolved into that of a government-in-waiting. The phrase “Loyal Opposition” is meant to suggest that while it might be intractably opposed to an incumbent Government’s agenda, the party’s allegiance to the larger constitutional framework in which parliamentary democracy operates remains unchallengeable. This is true wherever the Westminster system has been adopted. So in Bermuda the Opposition’s first loyalty is to the common interests, aspirations and concerns of the community, not partisan one-upmanship. At least that’s the theory. But the Island’s current political climate is increasingly marked by polarization, hyper-partisanship and a tendency to place party political interests above all else. So observers could be forgiven for concluding the term “Loyal Opposition” has reverted to its original, derisively ironic meaning in Bermuda. Certainly we’re currently witnessing more gridlock, partisan rancor and selective outrage than we’ve seen in many years. It amounts to a programme of sheer obstructionism, of course, one fuelled by expediency and opportunism rather than any legitimate desire to participate constructively in the public debate.. The Opposition is taking its cue from the increasingly unpleasant — and routinely unhelpful — behavior of its leader. Engaging in misogynistic or homophobic tantrums when he isn’t busy savaging constitutional safeguards ranging from Government House to the role of the Speaker, his recent suspension from Parliament was as predictable as it appears to have been deliberately sought. Certainly his constant attempts to portray himself as the scapegoat for others’ misdeeds — and his ongoing failure to accept responsibility for even his most incendiary comments — suggests more than a touch of the manufactured Martyr Complex. Using disorderly conduct as a media stunt —allowing him to act out the role of sacrificial victim to Implacable Political Forces supposedly arrayed against him — seems to have been his actual objective. Presumably the Opposition Leader’s media handlers advised him the publicity value inherent in courting a parliamentary vote of censure would entirely trump any and all other considerations. When it comes to pure electoral calculus, the political consultants might actually have a point. Even the most shamelessly contrived persecution narratives have, after all, been known to be rewarded at the polls both here and elsewhere. But in terms of the actual role the Opposition should play in our political system, such cheap theatrics cannot help but diminish the entire process. No one has defined that role better than the late Canadian statesman John Diefenbaker. In a celebrated 1949 speech, he said: " if the Westminster system is to be preserved as a living institution, then the Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions. When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured. It upholds and maintains the rights of minorities against majorities. It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people. It should supervise all expenditures and prevent over expenditure by exposing to the light of public opinion wasteful expenditures or worse. It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote.” But Diefenbaker stressed the Opposition could not oppose just for the sake of opposing. "Criticisms have to be based on reason. Counter-proposals have to be responsible and practical for the Opposition has an ongoing obligation to the people to provide a viable alternative government to the one in power." But Bermuda’s recent experience would suggest a throwback to a much earlier time, one when the Opposition opposed everything, proposed nothing and was so entirely fixated on turning out the government that critical thought got tossed out as well.
May 20. NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — The IRS’s scrutiny of tax avoidance in offshore locations has discouraged bidders from taking over reinsurers, potentially reducing the companies’ value. Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd and Platinum Underwriters Holdings Ltd, both based in Bermuda, have each said in recent regulatory filings that potential suitors backed away last year because of risks tied to taxes. US lawmakers and government agencies have been seeking to limit what they see as loopholes. Senator Ron Wyden pressed in June to crack down on the use of reinsurers as tax shelters for hedge-fund investors and managers. Then in September, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew issued rules to discourage the tax-avoidance technique known as inversions — including language that some said might prevent legitimate insurance mergers. “The clock struck midnight, the US government put more scrutiny on these things,” Ryan Byrnes, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, said by telephone. “Until there becomes some clear guidelines as to what’s allowed, I think we’re not going to see too many US companies buying Bermuda companies.” Montpelier and Platinum each eventually agreed to be purchased by Bermuda-based insurers. Montpelier, in a May 8 document tied to its deal with Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd, said that it was approached in August by the another company in the insurance industry about a possible combination. The suitor, identified in the document as “Party A”, made a preliminary proposal and arranged a meeting between senior managers of the companies. Then, on September 23, the potential partner said that “as a result of proposed changes to tax regulations that had recently been announced, Party A was no longer interested in pursuing a potential transaction with Montpelier”, the document shows. That was a day after Lew issued rules to discourage inversions, where US companies avoid taxes by shifting their legal addresses abroad, usually through an acquisition of a smaller foreign firm. Among other things, the rules invalidate an inversion if the target is a mere “cash box” with little business activity. Insurers have warned that the definition of cash box could be interpreted too broadly, penalizing those who want to acquire bona fide operations. Bermuda for years has been attracting reinsurers, companies that provide back-up coverage to primary carriers guarding against unusual or large risks, such as hurricanes. Some of the more recent ventures there are tied to hedge funds, like Dan Loeb’s Third Point Reinsurance Ltd and John Paulson’s PacRe Ltd. Some reinsurers backed by hedge funds are set up to provide the manager a pool of capital that isn’t subject to client withdrawals, as well as the opportunity to expand assets under management by investing premium dollars before paying claims. Others are more geared toward allowing US investors, including fund managers, to reduce taxes due on gains. Platinum, which eventually was acquired by RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd., said it received a separate offer from a suitor called “Party F” in June. Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, wrote a letter to the Treasury Department days later asking why hedge-fund reinsurers continue to proliferate after the Internal Revenue Service promised a crackdown in 2003. On June 23, Platinum was notified that the bidder was “unwilling to move forward with the proposed transaction due to the substantially elevated regulatory risk to Party F resulting from the Wyden letter”, the target company said in a January filing. The Treasury told Wyden in August that it was concerned about the “loophole” used by hedge fund managers. Last month the IRS said it plans rules to determine if some companies are holding more assets than they need to back their insurance operations — a sign that they might be getting a tax break inappropriately. “There was a window of time where, theoretically, a hedge fund could have bought Platinum, but they would have been disinclined to do so last year because there was so much uncertainty around rules,” Josh Stirling, an analyst with Sanford C Bernstein & Co, said in an interview. PartnerRe Ltd, the Bermuda-based company seeking to fend off a hostile bid from Italy’s Exor SpA and instead merge with Axis Capital Holding Ltd, also has disclosed that it had another opportunity. PartnerRe decided in June that no transaction was possible with the potential partner, which wasn’t identified in a March regulatory filing. Given the timing, tax considerations may have discouraged the potential PartnerRe party as well, Byrnes said. Celia Powell, a spokeswoman for PartnerRe declined to comment, as did Kekst & Co.’s Jim David and Peter Hill, who represent Montpelier and RenaissanceRe. The Treasury hasn’t yet issued formal, detailed rules to implement its September announcement, and insurance industry representatives have asked for language to protect what they see as legitimate mergers. Stirling said US insurers may avoid inversions in Bermuda because of the reputational risk after deals in other industries drew criticism from some lawmakers and President Barack Obama. Hedge-fund firms may eventually become more willing to pursue deals there once IRS regulations are finalized, he said. “People like the idea of there being clarity,” Stirling said. “If there were actually rules, it might actually lead to more activity.” Stirling and Janney’s Byrnes said that for the time being, it easier for Bermuda companies to combine with one other. Platinum said Party F had offered $82 a share in cash. That’s 7.9 percent higher than what RenaissanceRe agreed to pay. “The scrutiny has probably made some of those potential asset managers pause at looking to do a deal” in Bermuda, Byrnes said. “It’s maybe made less competition.”
May 20. The Norwegian Dawn finally set off for Boston just before 2.30pm yesterday after her overnight adventure. After a second hull inspection in the morning, the ship — which lost power and ran aground on the reefs on Tuesday night — was deemed seaworthy. It is not yet known what caused the Dawn to lose steerage. The ship crashed into a channel marker before coming to a halt on the reefs. Dean Bottomley, owner of First Division Maritime, was one of five divers called to carry out the initial hull inspection. He described a moment of elation amid the worry and confusion when he and the team reached the ship. He told The Royal Gazette: “It was really unique when we got there — you would have thought we won the parade or something. As soon as the passengers saw us in our dive suits they were going crazy, throwing us flowers and everybody was waving and saying, ‘wow they are here!’ We felt like superheroes. It is probably the most prestigious dive I have done.” Mr Bottomley, with divers from Crisson Construction and Marine and Ports, dived to about 30ft at 8.30pm, just as it was getting dark, and could see very little because of sediments kicked up from the seabed. “We saw nothing — the visibility was so bad it was like working with Braille. We were going along the hull and feeling with our hands if there was any breach in the integrity. We didn’t find any major structural damage. One of the bow thrusters was blocked — it had picked up a chunk of coral inside so couldn’t be used. The thruster helps the maneuverability in tight quarters — they said that they would isolate that thruster.” Divers were yesterday preparing to take underwater video of the hull as part of a second inspection. Transportation staff yesterday had to ferry passengers from three ships that were in port — the Dawn, the Norwegian Breakaway and the Celebrity Summit. Jerome Robinson, Wedco transport coordinator, was meeting with taxi and minibus drivers as passengers of the Dawn were disembarking early yesterday. “It is going to be a very challenging and busy morning but we have five people on the ground — three transportation coordinators and two TCD officers — so hopefully with the five of us we can get through the day. The Dawn has got more than 2,600 passengers, the Summit has close to 3,000 passengers and the Breakaway has about 4,000. On top of that are about 3,000 crew members. The plan is the Breakaway will go to anchor at Grassy Bay and the Government tender, which can carry 750 passengers, is going to tender them from the ship to the GTA [ground transportation area].” Extra Tourism Authority staff had been enlisted to help the Visitor Information Centre organise the tourists. Passengers from the Dawn appeared to be in good spirits despite the ordeal. Chris Debenedetto and Christine Bortnyk, from Boston, described how they could feel the ship shaking before it leaned to one side. Ms Bortnyk said: “We could see the boat shift all the way to one side then all the way to another side, then we heard this screeching sound and the boat just stopped. It was a little scary. Some of the women on our floor were away with their husbands and had left their children at home. Some were saying, ‘I’m a mom! I want to get back to my children’. That was a little unnerving to hear. If there was any place to get stuck there’s no better place than Bermuda.” Andrea Hansen and Greg Bejtlich, from New Hampshire, described a moment of panic before the captain made the announcement explaining what had happened. Ms Hansen said: “Some people were overreacting and grabbing life vests but it soon calmed down. The crew were deploying the little rafts to go and take a look at the ship. There was someone who was changing out of her bathing suit when her floor was evacuated and she only had shorts, a bikini and no shoes for the entire night, so she was a little bummed out. We were making jokes because last year we went on vacation in May and got into a car accident, so we are going to avoid vacations in May!” Denise Perry, from Rhode Island, said: “I was having dinner and all of a sudden we felt a boom — you could feel something gravelly. The captain made the announcement that they had hit the reef and were going to be trying to figure out the damage because if there were any holes we weren’t going anywhere.” Ms Perry joked that she felt like she was on the Titanic. "Everything is back to normal, all the activities are scheduled as planned except the casino is closed because we are in port and the shops are not open,” she said. A jovial Tom Pappas, from East Providence, said: “I just wanted to let my children know that everything was fine. It was an adventure and now we can write home about it. We’re in paradise and you can’t beat that with a stick.”
May 20. A cruise liner carrying more than 3,500 passengers and crew ran aground in the North Channel off Bermuda. The Norwegian Dawn had just left Dockyard when she temporarily lost power and ploughed into the reef. Divers and a tug boat were immediately sent to the stricken 965ft vessel to assess the damage. The Royal Gazette understands that the ship was hard against the reef but there were no reports of leaks to the vessel. Two tug boats started to try to pull the Dawn off the reefs and free the vessel at about 10.30pm. The tugs, Powerful and Edward M Stowe, were at full power trying to pull the Dawn from the stern. The vessel was successfully refloated after 11pm and is expected to head for Heritage Wharf, Dockyard, this morning for observation after a night spent anchored on the Crescent. The Dawn, which has been a regular caller to Bermuda for many years, arrived in Bermuda on Sunday for a two-night stop from Boston. She had just left King’s Wharf on her return journey when the incident occurred at 6.10pm. News of the grounding quickly made news across the world, with USA Today and other American and British media outlets reporting on the incident. A statement by Norwegian Cruise Line said: “On Tuesday, May 19, at approximately 5pm Eastern Standard Time, Norwegian Dawn temporarily lost power as the ship was departing King’s Wharf, Bermuda. “The ship’s propulsion was affected and, at which time, the vessel made contact with the channel bed.” According to the cruise line, all passengers and crew on board the vessel were safe and power was back up on the ship and all on-board services were continuing as scheduled. “The ship’s team is currently assessing the situation and we will provide more information as it becomes available,” Norwegian said. On board, some passengers took to social media to report what was going on. Rachel Hansen provided regular updates on Twitter. Just after 6pm, she posted: “I’m currently on a Norwegian Cruise line ship called the Norwegian Dawn that has ran into a coral reef and has stopped moving. We may be evacuated off the ship depending on how the evaluation of the damages go.” Ms Hansen posted photos on her account as the damage to the cruise ship was assessed, and reported that passengers were still trying to have a good time despite what had occurred. At about 8.30pm she stated: “We were just told we will definitely not be leaving today.” Just before 10pm she added: “Last we have heard the earliest possible time we will be moving is tomorrow morning. We do not know what time or what we will be doing after.” Half an hour later she tweeted: “Just heard new news from the captain saying that with high tide coming in we will see if we can get off the coral reef and drop anchor. If we are able to get off the coral reef we will wait until tomorrow morning to see what the next plan of action is.” The plight of the Norwegian Dawn is unlikely to affect the arrival of the Norwegian Breakaway and the Celebrity Summit, which are scheduled to berth in Dockyard this morning. Yesterday afternoon a Bermuda Radio spokesman said: “There has been an incident with the Norwegian Dawn and her transit outbound to sea via the North Channel. She is stationed in the Channel and it looks like she may possibly have run aground. We are really just assessing the situation. We can report that there is no water ingress or any pollution at the moment. It is very early days at the moment. We will get the tugs out there and some divers in the water to assess the situation.” At about 12.20am, Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, confirmed that “following its departure from King’s Wharf in Dockyard this afternoon, the cruise ship Norwegian Dawn ran aground while transiting the North Channel. There are 2,675 passengers and 1,062 crew members on board. There were no reported injuries, the vessel remained stable and there was no intake of water or pollution threat. Efforts were made to refloat the ship at high tide around 10.26pm. Government tug boats were on hand to assist and the ship was successfully refloated shortly after 11pm. She will remain anchored overnight and a hull survey will be carried out in the morning. I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Marine and Ports team, our pilots and the chief maritime operations controller for all of their hard work this evening.”
May 20. A burglar has left a grandmother devastated after plundering her collection of family heirlooms and prized jeweler worth tens of thousands of dollars. Vaughan Sullivan’s unique collection of Chinese gold coins, pendants and rings date back more than 100 years and includes a limited edition Tucker’s Cross. Ms Sullivan says the break-in left her feeling “violated” and her family has called on those responsible to “have a heart” and return the valuable haul. “I have nothing to pass on to my children now,” said Ms Sullivan, who has three daughters. “It’s the worst feeling to know that all these precious items have been taken and could just be melted down by someone for some money. Each piece of jeweler had a story behind it and to me each piece is invaluable. I have been around the world and every item that has been stolen is has huge sentimental importance to me.” Ms Sullivan’s daughter, Sonja Oliveira, added: “I don’t think the people that do things like this have any idea of the effect this kind of theft can have on a senior citizen. This collection means everything to my mother; it’s been a life’s work for her. If I was to offer any advice to others it would be photograph all your valuables so that you have a record of what you own and do not keep your jeweler in the bedroom. It needs to be kept in a locked, secure safe. This jeweler means nothing to anyone melted down, but it means the world to my mom.” The family home in Hamilton Parish is believed to have been targeted during the second half of last week. Ms Sullivan only discovered the theft had taken place on Sunday when she went to put on some of the items of jeweler that had been stolen. Police were called to the property that day and examined the house for forensic clues. Ms Sullivan said: “The worst part is that I may never see these items of jeweler again. They were supposed to be a legacy I could pass on to my children, but now I have nothing. “Some of the jeweler dated back more than 100 years and had been passed down to my grandmother. I just hope that these people can do the right thing and give the jeweler back, or if people see my jeweler at least contact the Police. But I worry it may be too late now.” Police confirmed that officers were investigating the break-in. “Inquiries regarding this reported burglary continue and witnesses or anyone with relevant information should contact the Criminal Investigation Department on the main police telephone number, 295-0011,” a spokesman said.
May 20. Finance Minister Bob Richards has announced the conclusion of an independent appraisal of the controversial airport redevelopment project. According to a statement, the appraisal looked specifically at the method of procurement for the project using the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). Mr Richards said: “In order to improve the value of this unique proposal, and recognizing the anxiety in the public domain with regard to the proposal, the Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with Her Majesty’s Government in London engaged the services of Deloitte, following a competitive tendering process, to conduct an independent appraisal of the method of procurement for the redevelopment of Bermuda’s airport using the CCC. “The purpose of this engagement was to evaluate the business case, value for money and affordability of the existing proposal and to provide a high-level cost effectiveness opinion for the proposal being put forward. The engagement was commissioned in March 2015, and also assessed whether the existing analysis and documentation on the proposed Bermuda Airport development was sufficient to support an investment decision based upon HM Treasury’s Green Book guidance for the evaluation of public sector spending proposals. It is important to note that HM Treasury’s Green Book’s prescriptions assume a competitive bid process and that the Bermuda Government is not obliged to follow “Green Book” standards, however the Green Book guidance is some of the highest in the world with regard to public sector procurement, so we shall use the findings of the Deloitte report to enhance the project moving forward. Considering where we are in the process, we still have opportunities to close the gaps identified in the Deloitte report before entering into any contracts. The government is certain that the Deloitte report will add substantial value to the project, both by improving value for money for the Government of Bermuda, and by further reducing risk.” Mr Richards also said that, following discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Deloitte report will be tabled in the House of Assembly. The Progressive Labour Party has repeatedly voiced concerns about the One Bermuda Alliance’s handling of the redevelopment project. A PLP motion that would have required the contract to go to tender was rejected by the House of Assembly on Friday by a vote of 19 to 12, with members voting along party lines. A delegation of PLP MPs have since traveled to Britain, and are today scheduled to meet with representatives from the FCO to discuss their concerns.
May 20. Police have named a 25-year-old Dominican guest worker, who drowned last night while swimming off Long Island at Paradise Lakes, as Wilmis Herrera Moreno. A Bermuda Police Service spokesman stated it appears that Mr Moreno was initially on a 15ft open boat with four other people in the waters surrounding Long Island an area commonly referred to as Paradise Lakes before he got into difficulty while swimming at about 6pm last night. CPR was performed on the 25-year-old guest worker during transport by marine police vessel to Darrells Wharf, and then in an ambulance as he was being conveyed to the King Edward Memorial Hospital. However, Mr Moreno was pronounced dead at 7.10pm. A family liaison officer has been assigned to assist the drowning victims loved ones. Police added that the investigation into this sudden death continues, and anyone who may have been boating in the vicinity of Long Island on Tuesday afternoon is asked to contact the main police telephone number 295-0011.
May 20. Health Minister Jeanne Atherden believes nurses could be more involved when it comes to health policy and creating legislation. Ms Atherden was responding to comments by Maxine Herbert-Watson, of the Bermuda Nurses Association, during the proclamation of International Nurses Month this month. Ms Herbert-Watson said: “We implore our Health Minister to give us a seat at the decision-making team. We are cost effective and care effective and with redesigned health systems and full participation of nurses in policymaking, the healthcare landscape can be transformed. The BNA is committed to supporting its members in the goal to improve and maintain optimal wellness for the people of Bermuda. I implore all nurses to join in this journey to make a difference in the health of this country one client at a time and truly be a force for change. According to the International Council for Nurses, and I quote, ‘Nursing is often described as the sleeping giant that should be awakened to realize its full potential. Nurses are at the core of health delivery but marginalized from contribution to health policy development and decision-making’.” Asked whether nurses had the potential to have more input, Ms Atherden said: “Without question. Nurses play a fundamental and critical role in the healthcare continuum and their insight into many aspects of patient care and health policy generally is valued. “Collaboration is an important part of how this Government approaches the development of healthcare policy. Nurses will continue to form part of the valued stakeholders with whom we consult. The extent of their contribution will not be limited by me as Minister; I welcome their views and input. It is being considered already.” When appointed shadow health minister, Kim Wilson formed a committee to meet and discuss Government bills in relation to health. The first person she reached out to was a nurse. She said: “Nurses should be intimately involved in the formation of healthcare policy. Their input and experiences are invaluable, particularly as they represent the largest sector of healthcare workers on the Island. Most policymakers and legislatures have very little direct knowledge about the nursing practice. As such their involvement can certainly include matters of which they have first-hand knowledge. The very first person I reached out to serve on the committee was a nurse because, as direct caregivers, nurses spend more time with patients than most others within the healthcare system and this input has been invaluable. Healthcare issues are at the forefront of most countries’ agendas and Bermuda is no exception.”
May 20. Bermuda Triathlon Association have named a six strong squad for next month’s Island Games in Jersey. Tucker Murphy and Travis Cooper will compete in the men’s competition, while Martina Olcheski-Bell, Karen Smith, Julia Hawley and Belinda Castree will represent the Island in the women’s event. The women triathletes appear to be Bermuda’s best hopes for a medal, with Olcheski-Bell the national champion at both Olympic distance and sprint distance. Smith’s hopes, meanwhile, rest on her recovery from a recent foot injury which prevented her from finishing either national championship race. Murphy, who competed in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, will lead the men’s team as he aims to better the sixth place he managed in the 2013 Island Games held in Bermuda. Murphy’s time of 2hr 06min 41 sec was six minutes behind that of winner Bobby Oag, of the Orkney Islands. In addition to the individual event there is a team competition for men and women with the lowest combined time for the top three on each team counting towards the women’s medals. Bermuda took silver in the women’s team category in 2013 and the men narrowly missed a medal finishing fourth. The triathlons will be over a course used each year for the Jersey Triathlon, a tough course featuring a 1500 metres swim, 40km bike and 10km run. The triathlons take place on 28th June, with the men starting at 12.15pm and the women at 12.30pm Bermuda time. The team will be managed by Neil De Ste Croix.
May 19. A delegation from the Progressive Labour Party is taking its concerns about the One Bermuda Alliance to the British Government, according to a party statement. Leader of Opposition Marc Bean, Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott, Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and External Affairs, and Shadow Minister of Tourism Zane DeSilva are set to meet tomorrow with representatives from both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Commonwealth Parliament Association. Chief among the delegation’s concerns are the OBA’s plan for the redevelopment of the LF Wade International Airport, allegations of systematic government corruption and Parliament being “in disrepute.” The statement continues: “The OBA government refuses to yield on this matter, and in support of our fellow Bermudians, we must stand up to ensure the best deal possible for our island in redeveloping our airport. The PLP is requesting a Swiss challenge at a minimum. A Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement which requires a public authority, which has received an unsolicited bid for a public project or services to be provided to government, to publish the bid and invite third parties to match or exceed it. This would allow any other contractors that are capable of redeveloping the airport to have an opportunity to place a bid on said project. At a maximum, the PLP would like the UK to instruct the OBA government to cancel the memorandum of understanding with CCC/Aecon and begin the process over, beginning with a request for proposal (RFP). It is the view of the PLP that a competitive tender process is the only way to ensure that Bermuda gets the best deal for the privatization of the airport, which in its current form, will give the Canadian company Aecon the rights to over $1 billion of revenue. During the debate in Parliament, not one member of the OBA was able to assure Bermuda that we are getting the best deal and that is because with a sole source contract Aecon does not need to compete against any other company with regards to price. The Good Governance Act requires that the Office of Project Management and Procurement approve the award of all contracts. The Office of Project Management and Procurement has not approved of this deal, however Finance Minister Bob Richards and the OBA are moving this deal forward without the approval of the very department that is there to ensure that proper tendering processes are adhered to. These processes are in place to ensure that public funds are handled properly and Minister Richards’s declaration that they would continue to move forward despite the lack of approval from this important department should alarm all persons and companies that pay taxes. The recent release of e-mails, and the admission by the Minister of Finance that he was aware that Aecon was the contractor from the very beginning of this process, calls into question this entire deal. Despite these revelations and the concerns voiced by the opposition, community groups, independent commentators and 75 per cent of voters — Premier Michael Dunkley, Minister Richards and the remainder of their OBA colleagues refuse to rethink this sole-sourced deal to the Canadian company AECON. There is the hope that when presented with these facts that the UK will intervene and put a stop to this reckless behavior from the Dunkley/Richards administration.”
May 19. A passenger on board the Liberty of the Seas was rushed to hospital last night after suffering a suspected seizure. The cruise liner had arrived in Dockyard at about 9am yesterday from Cape Liberty and was berthed at Heritage Wharf when the emergency was reported to Bermuda Radio at 6.45pm. An ambulance was dispatched to the East End and arrived at the ship at 7.30pm. The passenger was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for treatment. This is the second similar incident to take place in the past two weeks. On May 7, a cruise passenger was rushed off the Crystal Serenity, which was anchored in the Great Sound. The male passenger, who required urgent medical care, was taken to Albuoys Point at just after 2.15am on board one of the ships tenders.
May 19. Kevin Keeley, a 52-year-old American visitor, encountered difficulties while swimming in the waters near Watford Bridge. Despite life-saving efforts, he was pronounced dead later that afternoon.
May 19. Voter confidence figures compiled by statistician Cordell Riley show residents increasingly disenchanted with the ability of either political party to manage the Island’s economy. “It’s interesting that neither party comes out on top — the One Bermuda Alliance just edges past,” said Mr Riley of the survey, compared with last year’s responses. The Profiles of Bermuda study of 407 registered voters showed three in ten, or 32 per cent, trusting the OBA with a similar number voicing faith in the Progressive Labour Party at 29.1 per cent. However, a 32.1 per cent endorsed neither party. “Neither” was not given as an option, meaning that voters had to volunteer that response. “They’re not seeing the economic turnaround,” Mr Riley said. “At my Budget forum recently we talked about the ‘green shoots’ being seen in the economy — those shoots can die. It’s still very much in the early stages and voters are not feeling the impact. We’ve seen an increase in retail spending, but that’s not enough. We’re seeing some construction going on at the West End, but not hundreds of people being employed, which means the average voter is not going to give an overall seal of approval.” Mr Riley said that while the voter confidence results were not statistically significant compared with the 30 per cent who opted “neither” in the survey a year ago, the change in this year’s “neither” result might be because slightly more voters rated the economic conditions as poor in 2015 — 38.5 per cent, compared with 37.2 per cent in 2014. Mr Riley added that younger voters between 18 and 34 were more inclined to trust the PLP’s stewardship of the economy: 42.6 per cent, compared with 37.4 per cent last year. Voters 55 and older were more inclined to trust the OBA: 38.6 per cent, compared with 37.1 per cent in 2014. “Results by race were compelling,” Mr Riley said. “Just over six in ten of white and other voters (61.7 per cent) trusted the OBA to do a better job of handling the economy, but this figure was down significantly from three quarters (75.6 per cent) recorded in 2014. Just over four in ten black voters (42.6 per cent) trusted the PLP to do a better job with the economy, down from the 44.9 per cent recorded in 2014.” There were no statistical differences by gender or income. Asked if the OBA might have staked too much on the vaunted 2,000 new jobs, Mr Riley said the pre-election promise — now midway through the party’s administrative term — was problematic for the Government. “They campaigned on turning the economy around and being better managers,” he said. “Certainly that’s what got them elected. Two and a half years on they have found it much more difficult because of events outside their control. There has been talk of another recession coming in 2015-16.” Mr Riley said that the strength in the US dollar meant that Bermuda’s air arrivals, a key indicator for tourism’s revival, were likely to fall this year, bottoming out at 220,000. “Historically, non-dollar destinations tend to reap rewards. We’re likely to see an increase in European tourism and to destinations south of us. Bermuda becomes less attractive,” Mr Riley noted, pointing out that Travel Weekly reported that Delta Air Lines planned to cut down on international flights because of the soaring US currency.
May 18. Bermuda-based oil shippers are seeing their income rocket as oil tanker rates surge. Increased production in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as relatively low oil prices encouraging major buyers like China to hoard crude, are driving a spike in demand for the ships. Companies including Nordic American Tankers, Frontline and Teekay Tankers are benefiting from the highest spot market charter rates for more than six years. Teekay, which operates a fleet of 32 tankers of various sizes, announced first-quarter profits of $39 million on Thursday. Teekay’s chief executive officer Kevin Mackay said it had been “the strongest quarter in six years”. “Over the past four months, crude spot tanker rates have achieved the highest average levels since the strong winter market of 2008,” Mr Mackay said. “The continued strength in the tanker market reflects the strong tanker market fundamentals on the back of a shrinking mid-size tanker fleet, increased crude oil trade volumes and growing global oil demand. Low global oil prices, high crude oil supply, and seasonal factors such as increased oil demand and winter weather delays, have provided further support to the crude tanker market during the first quarter.” Nordic American Tankers (NAT) has a fleet of 24 Suezmax tankers, each of which can hold about one million barrels of oil. Last week, it also reported strong first-quarter earnings. NAT needs a charter rate of $12,000 per day to break even — in the first quarter its average charter rate for a ship was $37,000, compared to $24,000 in the same period last year. Saudi Arabia has led efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) to increase production in spite of a falling crude price in order to defend market share against US shale oil, which is more expensive to extract. Last month, the Saudis produced about 10.3 million barrels a day, close to the highest level in three decades. The glut of oil has driven prices down and encouraged stockpiling. Some investment banks have been leasing tankers to store oil to be sold at a profit in the future. Meanwhile, China has been topping up its strategic petroleum reserves. Last month, the nation bought the equivalent of 7.4 million barrels a day, rising almost 17 percent from March. Also serving to widen the tanker operators’ profit margins is the 50 per cent fall in the price of bunker fuel that the tankers burn over the past six months. The situation marks a dramatic change from last summer when many oil shippers were struggling, as the surge in US domestic oil production has reduced demand for shipping to North America. Last July, Bermuda-based Windsor Petroleum Transport Corp filed for bankruptcy. Frontline managed to survive after restructuring its debt. But today’s market is much healthier for the numerous Bermuda tanker operators. “The world is flowing over with oil, which is good for the ones transporting it,” Eirik Haavaldsen, an analyst at Pareto Securities AS in Oslo said on Friday. “This is the weakest point of the year when crude tanker rates are usually at their lowest.”
May 18. A new report finds that President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on non-US reinsurance companies would backfire on the US economy. The report, entitled, “Do We Want Special Interest Trade Protectionism in the Tax Code?” was published by Arthur Laffer, a former member of President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board and describes the proposal as “bad tax policy”. The report estimates that the proposal would produce a loss of $1.35 billion in US gross domestic product, along with estimated private-sector losses of $4.07 for every $1 in additional tax revenues collected by the US Treasury. The proposals targeted by Dr Laffer seek to deny tax deductions for certain reinsurance premiums paid to foreign-based affiliates by domestic insurers. Such plans were put forward by President Obama in his 2016 budget proposal and previously introduced by US Sen Robert Menendez, US Representative Richard Neal and US Representative Bill Pascrell in the last several sessions of the US Congress. Bermuda-based reinsurers with US affiliate insurers would be impacted. Dr Laffer said the proposal also involved trade protectionism implemented through the tax system, “done at the behest of domestic insurers and reinsurers seeking protection from foreign competition. The economic effect of the proposal would be to raise the cost of capital and force insurers into less efficient and more vulnerable capital structures, with less risk spreading and global risk diversification. The result of that would be to raise the cost of insurance for consumers and business, particularly property and casualty insurance against such risks as hurricanes, earthquakes, and terrorism, as insurers seek to pass on the cost of the tax. The proximate result would be less essential insurance coverage against such risks. This consequence particularly harms small businesses, which cannot grow or even enter a market, without essential, affordable, insurance coverage; in addition, inadequate insurance coverage could impair a small business’s ability to stay in business following a catastrophic event.” The Coalition for Competitive Insurance Rates, of which the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers is a member, welcomed the report’s findings. Tom Feeney, the CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, said on behalf of CCIR: “Efforts to reform the tax code by imposing additional taxes on international affiliate insurers and reinsurers would force the industry as a whole to reduce the size and scope of their US offerings, making coverage during the next hard market less available or unaffordable for the companies and consumers that depend on it the most. And, when higher insurance rates are passed down to policyholders, economic growth is stalled, a glaring fact routinely overlooked by policymakers in Congress. The unintended consequences of a tax on foreign affiliate insurers and reinsurers far outweigh the benefits. The only potential winners are the select few firms that stand to profit from decreased market competition. A robust insurance market, open to as many competitors as possible, is essential to protecting consumers and allowing businesses to operate and grow.”
May 18. The defeat of an Opposition motion opposing the proposed redevelopment of the airport was a “setback” but not the end of the issue, according to shadow finance minister David Burt. The motion, moved by Mr Burt, also called for the project to be subject to a public Request For Proposal (RFP) process. But after more than six hours of debate in the House of Assembly on Friday night, the motion was defeated by 19 votes to 12, with all Government MPs voting against it. Last night, Mr Burt said “a competitive tender process is the only way to ensure that Bermuda gets the best deal. The public can rest assured that while the defeat of this vote in parliament is a setback in our mission to ensure Bermuda gets the best deal, it is not the end of this issue. We will not sit back and allow Michael Dunkley, Bob Richards and the OBA Cabinet to run roughshod over the good governance act, financial instructions, Auditor General recommendations, and the will of the people of Bermuda. We will do all we can to ensure that this deal is handled with the highest standards of tendering and ethics to ensure that over the next 35 years, the Bermudian people get the best deal possible.” At the end of Friday’s debate, Mr Burt said he knew that there were OBA MPs who did not support the way the airport project had been handled and he urged them to have “courage in their convictions” and support his motion. However, the motion was defeated by seven votes. Only 12 PLP MPs were present in the House when the vote took place, excluding Speaker Randy Horton. By then, Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, had been suspended from the Chamber after a motion to censure against him was carried by Government MPs, while Zane DeSilva, Dennis Lister and Derrick Burgess were not present for the vote. Mr Burt claimed Government’s unanimous rejection of his motion showed they were “intent on disregarding the basic and fundamental rules of good governance. During the debate in Parliament, not a single member of the OBA was able to assure Bermuda that we are getting the best deal and that is because with a sole source contract, Aecon does not need to compete against any other company with regards to price. The OBA have been in office for 29 months and during that time they continue to bypass the rules that were put in place by the PLP following the recommendations of the Auditor General to strengthen the tendering process.” The redevelopment of the airport has become a hotbed of political and public debate. The People’s Campaign has demanded accountability over the airport development proposal. It has charged that a mass of e-mails show tainted dealings with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and the contractor Aecon that was chosen for the job. Finance Minister Bob Richards has maintained that nothing untoward took place during the discussions with the CCC and Aecon, saying he had not known about Aecon until a June 4, 2014, meeting in Toronto, which was brokered through the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Mr Burt added: “The Good Governance Act requires that the Office of Project Management and Procurement approve the award of all contracts. The Office of Project Management and Procurement has not approved of this deal, however Minister Bob Richards and the OBA are moving this deal forward over the objections of the very department that is there to ensure that proper tendering processes are adhered to. These processes are in place to ensure that public funds are handled properly and Minister Richards’ declaration that they would continue to move forward despite the lack of approval from this important department should alarm all persons and companies that pay taxes. The recent release of e-mails and the admission by the Minister of Finance that he was aware Aecon was the contractor from the very beginning of this process calls into question this entire deal. Despite these revelations and the concerns voiced by the opposition, community groups, independent commentators, and 75 per cent of voters, Premier Dunkley, Minister Richards and the remainder of their OBA colleagues refuse to rethink this sole sourced deal to the Canadian Company Aecon.”
May 18. The Progressive Labour Party has said leader Marc Bean has its “unwavering and unreserved support” after his suspension from the House of Assembly. A motion of censure, which was brought by One Bermuda Alliance MP Mark Pettingill, was carried by a majority of MPs in the House on Friday. But PLP chairman Maynard Dill said this evening that Mr Bean had the backing of the party amid the “undemocratic” and “borderline dictatorial” activities that occurred in the House. “At a time when Bermudians are facing record job losses, a historic low in tourism arrivals, skyrocketing prices on essentials, and to many a sense that Bermuda isn’t working for Bermudians, the OBA seems more interested in destroying Marc Bean than with getting on with the job of reducing the high unemployment rate that is affecting the social fabric of Bermuda,” Mr Dill said. “The OBA continues to refuses to admit missteps, and correct them by doing the right thing and doing what is right for the benefit of Bermudians and Bermuda. We understand their political campaign of trying to destroy the integrity of our leader Marc Bean, as this has been a ploy against all our leaders. Consequently, we call on the Government to put their party campaign aside in favour of the interest of Bermuda and Bermudians, with fairness and transparency. The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party will not be silenced, will not be intimidated and will remain unwavering in our commitment to a Bermuda that works for all and not just for the chosen few.”
May 18. An animal advocacy group has condemned Government’s decision to put down two illegal pit bull dogs. “This type of event, which is traumatic for both the pet and the owners, is exactly what we advocate against because we should have a well organized and humane system for dealing with larger dog breeds,” said Grace Markham, a spokeswoman for Punish the Deed not the Breed Bermuda. The group, which has been petitioning Minister of Environment Jeanne Atherden to reclassify pit bull dogs as a restricted rather than prohibited breed, described the practice of obtaining someone’s pet and putting it down without permission as “very disturbing” and “unjust”. Ms Markham spoke out after Government confirmed last night that two seized dogs were to be put to sleep. “Having obtained a warrant, animal wardens, accompanied by the Police, conducted a search of a Southampton residence in which they found a two-year-old pit bull dog and a 10-week-old pit bull puppy,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Seniors and the Environment. He added that both dogs were illegal and, after a discussion with the director, the decision was made to put them down. “No satisfactory information was forthcoming on the source of the illegal dogs and for various reasons, the illegal dogs could not be transferred out of Bermuda,” the spokesman said. “A file is being prepared for the consideration of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.” The seizure of the dogs caused an outcry on social media at the weekend, with people calling for the legislation to be amended because it is “unjust”, “unfair” and based on “archaic” laws. An online petition set up by Punish the Deed not the Breed Bermuda at the beginning of April has already attracted 1,080 signatures. “While we’re happy for the show of support from the community lately, it deeply saddens us as a group that it has to come from someone losing two loving/loved pets due to the flawed system we have in place,” Ms Markham said. “We will continue to advocate for pit bulls to be put on the restricted list, so that this senseless killing of a breed can finally come to an end. “Dogs shouldn’t be punished for being born a specific breed.”
May 17. A new report by the Bermuda Tourism Authority has revealed that a bookings spike for individual travelers to the Island is making up for a slump in the group travel segment. According to a monthly hotel room nights analysis, individual hotel room bookings are up by 9.8 per cent, while group travel bookings are down by 13.8 per cent over the next 12 months. “This is why you’ve heard us use phrases like ‘on the right track’,” said report author Glenn Jones, the BTA’s director of public and stakeholder relations. “Individual travelers is one number the BTA can impact materially in the short term and it is clearly impacting that number in a positive way.” According to a BTA statement, statistics show that its sales and marketing strategies have helped generate more individual hotel room nights for the island, but to fill the hole left on the group side of business, it must generate more growth in the second half of 2015. “If we could get group business for 2015 that would solve everything because it means thousands of air visitors and hotel room nights,” Mr Jones said. “But it’s too late to grow the group number materially in 2015. The main aim now is to win more individual vacationers to fill the gap. These travelers, on average, book 45 to 60 days out and are the target of new marketing efforts, which began in November.” Mr Jones added that a rise of 10 per cent in individual bookings over the next year suggests that the new marketing is working. For this year, individual leisure and business air visitors are forecast to represent 82 per cent of all hotel room nights sold, while group travel is expected to represent 18 per cent, and the goal is to balance those numbers better for 2016. “As our new report explains, when group business like corporate meetings is secured, it takes 12 to 36 months before that group flies to the island. So the lackluster group performance we see in 2015 is as a result of sales contracts secured, or not secured, up to three years ago,” said Mr Jones, who added that group travel is defined as a minimum of ten rooms per night. The report, titled “Group Travel: Where We Are and Where We’re Going”, was distributed electronically to hundreds of tourism industry stakeholders in a monthly bulletin. It provided information on the group travel sales process and explained the strategies the Tourism Authority has implemented to improve the market segment’s performance. The strategies include a new sales partnership with Associated Luxury Hotels International, a realignment of business development managers in North America, and a refocus of sales strategies from travel agents in geographic regions to vertical group business categories. “The reorganized sales team is structured specifically to develop new business opportunities, uncover new leads and convert new bookings for Bermuda,” chief sales and marketing officer Victoria Isley said. “By focusing on respective categories that align with Bermuda’s product, the BTA will be able to truly meet the needs of group customers whether they’re looking at a destination wedding, a corporate leadership summit or a sports training retreat.” The BTA’s report maintains that a strong performance in group business leads to a successful year for the entire industry and not just the host hotels; area attractions, transportation providers, event planners, restaurants and others in the tourism value chain benefit when there is a thriving group segment.
May 16. In the wake of some public confusion over whether the One Bermuda Alliance paid for Finance Minister Bob Richards to appear on television, the governing party stated yesterday that there had been no transaction involved. Mr Richards’s ZBM appearance at 8pm on Thursday, with journalist Gary Moreno, followed a longer interview conducted by the station on Monday night with the People’s Campaign. In that earlier broadcast, ZBM broke the news that the People’s Campaign had obtained a trove of e-mails under Canada’s freedom of information laws. The communications detailed the approach of the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) to come up with a public-private partnership to build a new airport terminal for LF Wade International Airport. The group maintained that the e-mails suggested that Mr Richards had been less than forthright about the proposal, which was announced to the public in November 2014. In particular, Mr Richards has been accused of misleading Parliament and the public by declaring in the House of Assembly that CCC had handled the hiring of Aecon, a construction company with strong links to Bermuda’s Somers Construction. Mr Moreno prefaced Monday’s interview by calling it “special paid programme put on by the People’s Campaign, joining us here tonight”, rather than the regular broadcast of Let’s Talk. Thursday’s interview with Mr Richards was preceded by an on-screen notice calling it “a political broadcast” from the OBA. Mr Moreno told the minister it was a special broadcast allowing him to respond to the allegations made against him by the People’s Campaign. “None of those claims are true,” Mr Richards said. “We have conducted our affairs as it relates to the airport above board and by the book.” Midway through the interview, as Mr Moreno began a question, the minister interjected: ““Before I answer that question, may I ask you a question? Is this a paid political broadcast on behalf of the OBA?” “I was not made aware of it being a political broadcast,” Mr Moreno said. “What I was advised of was a special broadcast giving you the opportunity to respond to the comments that were made by the People’s Campaign. I wanted the people to understand that,” Mr Richards said. “We’re both on the same page.” Listener LaVerne Furbert of the Bermuda Industrial Union phoned in to query the nature of the broadcast, with the minister giving repeated assurances that his interview was not a paid political broadcast — and as Mr Moreno wrapped up the interview, he closed with: “Just before we leave, let me be clear: this was not discussed with me as being a political broadcast.” That rebuttal was confirmed by the OBA.
May 16. An afternoon of high tension in the House of Assembly ended with Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, being escorted out of the Chamber by the sergeant-at-arms and a police officer. Mr Bean was suspended from the House until next week after a motion of censure, which was brought by One Bermuda Alliance MP Mark Pettingill, was carried by a majority of MPs. The motion called for Mr Bean’s suspension because of his actions on March 16, when he is said to have “verbally threatened” government MPs, saying “I’m going to take you out.” Outside the Chamber, a defiant Mr Bean addressed the media and supporters, and brought into question the future of Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House. “We will be bringing a censure motion to explain the Speaker’s position is no longer tenable,” he said. “I could not defend myself against this bogus motion,” he said. The Opposition leader accused Mr Horton of being complicit in the action taken against him by government MPs. “Next week will be the last week that Randy Horton will be a Member of Parliament in this House,” he said. All 19 OBA MPs voted in favour of the motion to censure Mr Bean, while the 16 Progressive Labour Party MPs abstained from the vote. Earlier, Mr Bean had defended his comments in March, saying they were meant in a political context. During his allotted 30 minutes, he made a series of claims about aspects of the Hamilton Waterfront development deal and how certain government ministers would be facing 15 years in prison for taking bribes. He also referred to a series of prepaid phone numbers that he said were connected to ministers, an offshore bank account and the active nature of the investigation into “Jetgate”. He said: “It does not matter what you all vote, the people of Constituency 26 put me up here. No one in this country will remove me from my constitutional duty. How’s that?”. Mr Horton repeatedly interrupted the Leader of the Opposition during his speech saying that parliamentary rules prevented him “impugning” other MPs during a motion to censure him. The increasingly heated exchange ended with Mr Bean saying that he would be taking the phone numbers to the financial crime unit of the Bermuda Police Service, and with Mr Horton saying “your time is up”. The debate itself, which had included contributions from Mr Pettingill, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Walton Brown and Sylvan Richards, appeared to end in confusion, with PLP MPs insisting that the House could not suspend a Member of Parliament; it could be done only by the Speaker personally. However, Mr Horton maintained that a majority of MPs did have that power to suspend a member, before MPs proceeded to vote by name. In reference to PLP MPs’ decision to abstain, a party spokesman said: “The PLP felt that to participate in the vote would legitimize what we believe to be a flawed motion and flawed procedure. Therefore, as a caucus we decided to abstain in support of due process for our leader.”
May 16. A motion opposing the proposed redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport and calling for a public request for proposal process to take place was defeated last night by government MPs. The motion, moved by David Burt, the Shadow Minister for Finance Minister, was subject to more than six hours of intense debate by MPs from across the political divide. At 12.20 this morning, the motion was defeated by 19 votes to 12, with all government MPs voting against it. Mr Burt called for a competitive RFP process for the redevelopment of the airport that gave the best deal for Bermudians and urged One Bermuda Alliance MPs to have courage in their convictions and support the motion. However, the motion, which stated that this Honourable House does not support the sole sourcing of a developer and concessionaire for the proposed new terminal at LF Wade International Airport and further, we recommend the project be subject to a public RFP process, was defeated by seven votes. Only 12 Progressive Labour Party MPs were present in the House when the vote took place. By then, Marc Bean, the Leader of the Opposition, had been suspended from the Chamber after a motion to censure against him was carried by government MPs, while Zane DeSilva, Dennis Lister and Derrick Burgess were not present for the vote. The redevelopment of the airport has been a hotbed of debate in the past week. The Peoples Campaign has demanded accountability over the development proposal for the airport. It has charged that a mass of e-mails, published online this week, show tainted dealings with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and the contractor Aecon that was chosen for the job. Finance Minister Bob Richards has maintained that nothing untoward took place during the discussions with the CCC and Aecon, telling The Royal Gazette that he had not known of Aecon until a June 4, 2014 meeting in Toronto, which was brokered through the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The PLP has called for Mr Richards to resign over the agreement with the CCC, charging that Aecon's selection was a backroom deal.
May 16. Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Immigration, has said the House of Assembly was “brought into disrepute” yesterday after Public Works Minister Craig Cannonier disclosed that Mr Brown made a request through the Public Access to Information (PATI) Act. Mr Cannonier was responding to a question by the Opposition asking whether the minister would release all e-mails in relation to the removal of stone from the Black Watch Pass construction site last month, to which Mr Cannonier said the communication has been released already to the ministry’s internal audit department. Mr Cannonier said he had discussed the issue of the PATI request with Mr Brown when he was at the Ministry of Public Works to provide identification for his request to be processed. Mr Brown said that Mr Cannonier told him he had already heard about the request. A PLP statement yesterday afternoon read: “The PLP is duly concerned at comments made by Minister of Public Works, the Hon Craig Cannonier, in the House of Assembly, regarding a PATI request. According to Section 12(4) of the Public Access to Information Act: ‘The identity of a requester shall be kept confidential and, except with the consent of the requester, may not be disclosed to any person other than a person who is required to deal with the request under this Act. Ministers are not involved in the handling of PATI requests, so the only likely conclusion is that someone told Minister Cannonier, and he has in turn, told the public via his comments in the House of Assembly. This unidentified person and Minister Cannonier have both violated Section 12(4) of PATI. This is very disconcerting.” The statement went on to point out that responsibility for PATI sits with Cabinet Office and the PLP called on Premier Michael Dunkley to investigate how Mr Cannonier obtained the information about the request. The party added that Mr Cannonier repeating the information in the House, “shows a complete lack of professionalism and tact. The public must be concerned that a Cabinet Minister would place confidential information into the public domain in violation of the laws of Bermuda.” Attorney-General Trevor Moniz said Mr Brown asking a question in the House that was already subject to a PATI request for information was a “misuse of process in the House.” Mr Cannonier, who apologized to Mr Brown for bringing his PATI request into the public domain, said he was as perplexed as the Opposition as to why the member of public would remove the stone prematurely without authorization, despite having formally applied for it through the ministry. Mr Cannonier did reveal that the stone was worth $875, backtracking on an earlier pronouncement that the rubble fill material was worth nothing and was merely trash. The material was removed by a member of the public who claimed a Works and Engineering employee said that he could remove it because it would have been heading to the dump otherwise. However, the employee was not authorized to grant permission and the rubble was ordered to be returned to the government quarry. An internal investigation is continuing into the miscommunication that led to a member of public taking the stone and into the timeline of events.
May 16. The Freemasons Fund for Bermuda drew high praise for its donations to local charities this week. Meals on Wheels, PALS and the Coalition for the Protection of Children each received $2,000 at a presentation at Freemasons Hall. The Fund is the fundraising arm for all 13 Masonic lodges on the Island. It’s donated more than $200,000 to charities since it was established a few years ago, said its president, Glendall Phillips. Bermuda is considered unique because, despite its relatively small size, it has representatives of the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland. Each of the lodges is a member of the FFFB and contributes accordingly. Donations are not made to religious, political or Masonic organizations, Freemasons or their families. Meals on Wheels president Joe Gibbons said the organization's volunteers deliver approximately 160 hot and nutritious meals to people in need. He said the donation would be used to continue that service. The money would be used by PALS to continue the care it provides for cancer patients at home, said the charity’s executive director Karen Dyer. Sheelagh Cooper, chairperson of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said the funds would help in their efforts to meet the needs of children and their families. Their mission is twofold: to heighten public awareness of children’s issues and advocate on behalf of them and their families, and to provide services which address critical but unmet needs to ensure that all children grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. A main element of the Coalition is providing breakfast to children in eight different schools.
May 16. Bermuda’s lack of net debt reduction was flagged as a matter of concern by the Auditor General in her audited financial statements relating to the consolidated fund mentioned in the House of Assembly yesterday. The annual accounts of the Bermuda Government’s consolidated fund for the year ending March 31, 2014 were given a clean audit opinion for the second consecutive year. However, the Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews included paragraphs as “other matters”, including the increased level of net debt and the need for the Government to take action to address it. Net public debt increased by $291.6 million during fiscal year 2013-14 and stood at $1.768 billion at the end of the year, representing a 19.7 per cent increase. Other matters were “ongoing incidents of non-compliance with the Government of Bermuda’s financial instructions; and the preparation of Summary Financial Statements”. Premier Michael Dunkley said: “The Government shares the auditor’s concerns in these areas and has already started to tackle these matters. “For instance, Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Finance has already moved to a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which is seeking to eliminate the deficit and ultimately reduce the debt.” The total revenue raised by the consolidated fund for 2013-14 was approximately $883.9 million, representing an increase of $17.3 million, or 2 per cent, from 2012-13. Also in the House, Tourism Development Minister Shawn Crockwell announced two new appointments to the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission — Judith Hall-Bean and Derek Ramm. Ms Hall-Bean retired in October 2013 as Assistant Cabinet Secretary and has more than 40 years’ experience in the public service, having served as department director of both human resources and tourism. Mr Ramm was appointed from overseas and serves as director of anti-money-laundering programmes for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. He is responsible for the oversight of anti-money-laundering compliance at 24 casinos. They join three other commission members — chairman Alan Dunch, deputy chairman Garry Madeiros and Denis Tucker. Mr Dunkley tabled a bill titled the Statistics Amendment Act 2015 to postpone the Census for 2015-16 because of budgetary constraints. The total cost incurred to conduct the 2010 Census was $2.9 million. As a result, an amendment must be made to the Statistics Act 2002, which requires a census of Bermuda’s population every five years. “It was determined that deferring the Census in 2015 would allow the Government to allocate the funds to more pressing initiatives,” Mr Dunkley said. Culture Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin announced upcoming events taking place as part of Heritage Month. This year’s theme is “Bermuda: An Atlantic Garden” and includes glass-bottom boat tours and a guided tour by Andrew Bermingham. Heritage Month culminates with the Bermuda Day Parade on May 25.
May 16. The Bermuda Electric Light Company has been awarded a $4.5 million government contract to replace the street lights throughout Bermuda with light-emitting diodes, or LED, luminaires. The contract was announced in Tuesday’s Royal Gazette. Among the advantages of LEDs are lower energy consumption and a longer lifetime. A government spokesman explained the Island-wide initiative, which was contracted to Belco by the Ministry of Public Works, will replace approximately 4000 high pressure sodium street lights with LED luminaires, which includes all the lights they maintain. The street light replacement project does not include the lights maintained by Wedco. The spokesperson said: “In December 2013 a pilot study of LED lighting was carried out on Trimingham Road between the two roundabouts. This involved 14 LED luminaires which also featured wireless control communication. “This pilot study demonstrated the performance of this technology in the local environment. Basically LEDs offer significantly reduced energy consumption — figures around 50 per cent are realistic — which means reduced energy cost. Also, (they mean) reduced environmental emissions, reduced maintenance costs and improved lighting levels.”
May 15. Objectors to an appeal by Pink Beach site owners of a Development Applications Board decision have said the subdivision of the prime real estate was a “bait and switch” tactic, with the owner claiming agricultural land they had proposed to save “was now desperately needed,” according to Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce. The organization, along with area residents, have mounted significant and extensive objections to the owners’ appeal of the Dab's refusal to sanction the building of 10 units in two buildings which will be two to three storeys in height, along with a communal swimming pool, driveway and parking for 13 cars and ten bikes, along with the relocation of previously approved sewage treatment plant, using the land that is zoned agricultural reserve. Owners Sardis Development Ltd have said they have discovered they need to develop the arable land in order to make the project financially viable. They are seeking in-principle permission to build the additional development. The owner had subdivided the Pink Beach property, preserving five and a half acres of the original 13.5 acres for a private home, on the beach that previously served the guests of the original hotel. Sardis Development Ltd is currently developing the remainder of the site as a resort. The board of directors of Hidden Cove Ltd, who represent the residents of condominiums adjacent to the development, said in their letter of objection: “ ... it would seem that a classic “bait and switch” campaign has been employed by Sardis Development that once approval was gained for all aspects of the hotel and condominium development, attention would be turned to eliminating the Agricultural Reserve in order to construct rental units.” One of the objectors said: “How is it that Government would ever allow building on arable land in Bermuda, which is such a precious commodity?” BEST, in its letter of objection, stated that the application was initially submitted in early December 2014, and BEST had strenuously objected to the proposal to build on the Agricultural reserve. “This application was refused by the DAB,” the environmental organization said. Sardis has already won a subsequent appeal, which was accepted by the Acting Minister of Home Affairs earlier this year; however, the objectors to the original application were not notified that the case was going to be heard. Permanent secretary for the ministry Randy Rochester said in a letter to the objectors that the decision has been redacted. “It was been brought to our attention that formal objections to PO474114 were not given the opportunity to review and comment on the appeal case, associated with the application. “As such the decision made by the acting minister in considering the appeal, was premature.” The oversight was blamed on a clerical error.
BEST’s objection to the Sardis Development Limited appeal, which runs to eight pages, states:
•The owner achieved (the) subdivision through false pretences.
•The owner then did a “bait and switch”, claiming the agricultural land he proposed to save was now desperately needed.
•The owner has an alternative solution available to him in that other land holdings can be made available to compensate for the self-made land shortage problem.
•The proposal to trade land and protect it via a Section 34 agreement is unreliable and unacceptable.
BEST said: “Throughout the entire process the applicant was aware of the implication of developing around agricultural land. There is substantial proof that the applicant was aware and accepting of the conditions required for agricultural land, and even willing to restore the land. This point cannot be overemphasised. The applicant knew as early as February 2014 that development upon agricultural reserve land was not acceptable.” BEST also said that “Everyone was lulled into believing the agricultural reserve land was safe, was going to not only be preserved but upgraded via an agricultural rehabilitation plan.” BEST quoted Adwick Planning, who they said stated in January that increased costs had been uncovered as the project has developed over the last nine months, and it has become important for the developer to be able to utilise all potential sources of revenues. Adwick Planning was also quoted by the environmental organisation as saying: “While the concern for building on agricultural reserve may be understandable given the nostalgia that is attached to farming in Bermuda the quality of the 0.9 acre of agricultural land should be considered an important factor.” BEST responded: “Our concern and the concern expressed by technical officers is not based on nostalgia but rather attention to future survival,” and said that the agricultural land could be upgraded through composting.
May 15. The People’s Campaign called on Finance Minister Bob Richards to give a public clarification on “inconsistencies” and “mistruths” over the proposed airport terminal redevelopment at a town hall meeting last night. The group released e-mails this week that include communications by Mr Richards, and e-mails between members of the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and the contractor Aecon. Mr Richards has been accused of misleading the public and the House of Assembly with his statement that CCC hired Aecon for the project. At the meeting, which was attended by several hundred people and paneled by union presidents Jason Hayward and Chris Furbert along with Reverend Nicholas Tweed, the group called on Mr Richards to address the selection of Aecon, saying that Aecon appears to have driven the process that resulted in its selection. “Minister Richards had stated that CCC brought Aecon to the project, but the evidence clearly establishes that Aecon brought everyone to the project,” Mr Hayward said, as the panelists talked audience members through quotes extracted from the e-mails. The group raised concerns over what steps Mr Richards took to ensure that proper due diligence was carried out and questioned if Mr Richards was not concerned that Aecon was selected as the developer prior to CCC assessing the viability of the project. “How many of you can go to the bank and take out a loan and they give you the money and then they come back and say ‘you go fill out the paperwork’”, Rev Tweed asked. The group then questioned references in the e-mails to Aecon using “CCC cover” and creating “a paper trail”. “This is one of the more disturbing revelations,” Mr Hayward said, “If I’m an upfront, selected, known developer or company, why would I need to take the cover of another company to come to Bermuda to do a due diligence on a site that I’m already known to the Government as the developer for?” In addition, the group raised concerns over Mr Richards sharing his ministerial statement with CCC prior to announcing the airport proposal — and has criticised the minister for telling his Department of Communications and Information officer that he make “fuzzier the no new debt part in view of the funding gap”. Mr Hayward said: “It is unacceptable for the Minister of Finance to have ‘fuzzier’ anything. Fuzzy is the opposite of transparency. How long are we going to let our Minister of Finance get away with this type of behavior?” The panelists concluded their presentation by asking members of the public to gather outside the House of Assembly today at 9am and handed the floor over to audience members. One member of the impassioned crowd called for legal action, while another suggested taking the matter to the United Kingdom. Several members insisted that unity and peaceful protest were the only way forward, while others called for immediate action and violence. The panelists were quick to discourage the latter, stating they believe in effective, non-violent protest. During a live interview on local television last night, Mr Richards stood by his statement that he knew nothing of Aecon before a meeting in Toronto held in June last year and added that he had been totally honest, above board and straight with the people of Bermuda. The matter goes before Members of Parliament today.
May 14. More jobs for Bermudians will be created at Bermuda Telephone Company (BTC) if it is acquired by Digicel, and investment will be made to improve the performance and reliability of BTC’s network infrastructure. Those are two of the outcomes Digicel foresees should it move ahead with the proposed transaction that was announced in January. The Regulatory Authority of Bermuda (RAB) has studied the deal and last week issued its final decision, which gives a green light for the acquisition subject to Digicel agreeing to a number of conditions. Digicel is reviewing the 40-page decision document and is expected to respond within the next few days. The combining of Digicel and BTC would create a telecommunications heavyweight to match KeyTech Group, which has CableVision Bermuda and Logic as subsidiaries and cellphone firm CellOne as an affiliate. In its decision document, which was made available to the public this week, the regulatory watchdog acknowledged there was a risk from Digicel and KeyTech subsequently having joint dominance in the sector. The RAB noted such a duopoly could open the door to tacit coordination on prices and division of the market. However, it did not think this was likely given Digicel’s expressed intention to invest in upgrades and extensions. “The result can be expected to be more robust competition in price, service quality and innovation, which will be to the benefit of the people of Bermuda,” the RAB stated. It also said it would keep a vigilant eye on developments through its market review process. In its representations to the Authority, Digicel indicated it did not anticipate job losses at BTC as a result of the buy up, and foresees more jobs in technology, customer service, sales and marketing, with new hires being predominantly Bermudian. The company told the RAB it “currently locates employees relating to its Bermuda operation largely in Bermuda and there is no current plan to change this approach with respect to the acquisition of BTC. “As an example, unlike some competitors, Digicel maintains a local call centre which manages the majority of customer enquiries in Bermuda and is staffed by Bermudians.” A major theme in the RAB’s conditions is the safeguarding of access to wholesale networks and services, at fair prices, for other firms with communications operating licences. As an example, for any regulated wholesale services a Digicel-owned BTC offers to other Digicel affiliates, which can then be bundled, there must be equivalent services available at “conditions no less favorable” to non-affiliated wholesale customers. If BTC offers new retail services it would be obliged to ensure there is a fully tested “fit for purpose equivalent” wholesale service available for other access seekers. There are similar stipulations listed in the RAB’s decision document designed to ensure other operating licence holders have access to services and network infrastructure at wholesale pricing. Digicel would be obliged to give other regulated communications companies fair access to the BTC network, and provide services and information under the same conditions and same quality as it provides to its own affiliates and partners. It would also be required not to make technical modifications to the network that would “unreasonably or unnecessarily obstruct or impede” other non-Digicel communications operating licence holders from connecting with the BTC fixed-line network. A key requirement is that a Digicel-owned BTC should, for the present time, keep its existing financial and product accounting information system separate from all other Digicel affiliates. This is to aid transparency and address concerns that there might be unfair favoring of Digicel affiliates regarding advance information on fixed network plans, unfair bundling of services or unfair pricing. RAB also stated that BTC’s historic importance to Bermuda in providing a landline telephone network and as “carrier of last resort” for basic telecommunications for many residents, meant it must be maintained as a “viable commercial entity”. There are safeguards to ensure it is not asset-stripped or transferred outside Bermuda. Four companies involved in the electronic communications sector, together with eight individuals, submitted comments to the RAB regarding the proposed deal. LinkBermuda, TBI and CellOne did not oppose the transaction, although urged the RAB to pursue a number of stipulations to ensure a “level playing field”. The fourth company, iTech, said it opposed the deal on the basis it would create a duopoly, and was concerned Digicel did not have the same interest in being a wholesale access provider as BTC stated it had in 2012. Of the individual submissions, six were opposed to the buyout, citing concerns about loss of employment, blockage of competing services, poor service quality and an anti-competitive effect. One respondent was neutral on the deal and one was in favour. The RAB stated in its document it expects the transaction between Digicel and BTC to enhance the Island’s competitiveness globally. It said: “Digicel Group (Bermuda) has represented that it will invest in the upgrading of BTC’s legacy network infrastructure. This has persuaded the Authority that the proposed transaction will do much to enhance Bermuda’s competitiveness globally by making it an even more attractive place for the financial services industry and other technology-dependent industries to invest.” The RAB’s decision document can be read at the website www.rab.bm. Note: Companies Involved: Barrie Holdings Limited, a Bermuda company with a vested foreign ownership licence, bought the Bermuda Telephone Company in a $30 million deal from KeyTech Group last year. In January Digicel Mobile, as Telecommunications (Bermuda and West Indies) Ltd, announced it was seeking to buy BTC. Digital Mobile is owned by Wireless Holdings (Bermuda) Ltd, which is part of Digicel Group (Bermuda). In turn, Digicel Group (Bermuda) belongs to the larger Digicel Group Global, which operates in 33 markets in the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia Pacific region, and which is wholly owned by Irishman Denis O'Brien.
May 14. The decision to delist the old Royal Naval Club building at the entrance to Dockyard has prompted opposition and concern from the National Trust. The structure, which dates back to the early 1820s, was taken off the list of protected buildings this month by Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. Senator Fahy told The Royal Gazette it had been a difficult decision, although the structure was in a “considerable state of disrepair.” He also revealed that plans were afoot to refurbish and repair the club’s three neighboring listed buildings; the Bungalow, Star of India and Moresby House. “These decisions are difficult because, clearly, the architectural and cultural heritage they represent is of the utmost importance,” said Mr Fahy. “There are some economic realities to consider, though. In this case, at a minimum, the building needed a new roof and, indeed, it is very likely that only the facade could have been retained. This is not to condone deliberate negligence on the part of building owners but, here, I am aware planning permission and a building permit are approved already for work that will ensure the restoration and reuse of another listed building, the Bungalow. In addition, the Star of India has planning approval for its rehabilitation too. In due course, we anticipate having all three of the remaining listed buildings repaired and inhabited. In that way, some balance is being achieved.” Jennifer Gray, chief executive of the Bermuda National Trust, told The Royal Gazette that the trust had hoped the America’s Cup might provide opportunities to renovate the old structure. She said that the trust had submitted a formal objection to the Ministry’s proposal to delist the building. “The trust is concerned that the Royal Naval Club at 28 Pender Road has been delisted,” she added. “The Royal Naval Club and its neighbor to the north, the former Moresby House at 26 Pender Road are both fine buildings, regardless of their condition through neglect. We had sincerely hoped that the America’s Cup would have provided the ideal opportunity to renovate and find a new use for historic buildings that have been long neglected, such as these in the Dockyard area, rather than to tear them down.” The Royal Naval Club — one of a cluster of three old naval buildings at the entrance to Dockyard, was built in the early 1880s and served as an officers’ and then as a naval ratings club and canteen. Ms Gray said that the old club and other early old naval buildings should be “treasured” and demolition by neglect should not be encouraged. She added: “It has much the appearance and scale of sizeable British and American railway stations and provides a variety to Bermuda’s architectural heritage. The Dockyard has been the focus of a heroic restoration and preservation effort in the past three decades and now is not a good time to turn away from this conscious effort. Other than the merits of this particular building, the Trust strongly objects to the delisting of buildings which have been allowed to deteriorate — it negates the whole principle of listing. The best thing to do is not always the easiest.”
May 14. Education Minister Wayne Scott has given his full backing to Duranda Greene, the under-fire president of the Bermuda College. Full-time members of the Bermuda College Faculty Association issued a press release last week regarding the result of a secret ballot and vote of no confidence in Dr Greene — public support for whom at ministry level was not forthcoming until Tuesday. “The Bermuda College falls under the remit of the Ministry of Education and as Minister of Education, I would like to state that Dr Greene continues to have my support in her capacity as president of the Bermuda College,” Mr Scott said. “As minister, I am always open to dialogue in resolving matters in a synergistic and collaborative manner for the benefit of all. However, open dialogue is a two-way process and the ministry at no time was approached by the faculty association with any of the concerns raised in their press release. Dr Greene has kept the ministry fully abreast of operational activities at the Bermuda College and I believe she has provided excellent leadership in the midst of the financial challenges, particularly in the areas of financial management, performance management and customer service.” Mr Scott added that he would be similarly agreeable to meeting with the representative of the faculty association and that it is his hope that the Bermuda College Board, the president and faculty can work together to resolve their differences.
May 14. A showdown at Parliament is in store, with the Opposition calling for the resignation of Finance Minister Bob Richards and the People’s Campaign urging the public to gather tomorrow outside the House of Assembly. The Progressive Labour Party has called for the agreement for a new terminal at LF Wade International Airport to be halted immediately, but Mr Richards emphatically rebuffed accusations of tainted dealings. The minister told The Royal Gazette that he hoped for a new announcement on the proposal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, or CCC, by the end of this month. “We’ve had challenges — the main one has been the UK Government, but we’re working through that,” Mr Richards said. While the deal with CCC and the contractor Aecon Concessions is “strictly a commercial transaction”, he said some in the British Government viewed the airport deal as “something that falls under the aegis of external affairs, which is their purview.” It has been more than a year since Mr Richards declared that Bermuda’s ageing airport needed to be replaced, possibly through a public-private partnership (PPP) like the one awaiting approval with CCC. While the PLP maintains that documents released by the People’s Campaign prove that Aecon was chosen from the start in a back room deal, Mr Richards insisted otherwise. He said that after his Budget statement last year, Aecon presumably “picked up on that and saw an opportunity in Bermuda”. “The important, critical thing is that the Government of Bermuda, particularly myself as the leader of this, made no contact with Aecon before the meeting of June 4, 2014,” the minister said of the initial sit-down with CCC, held at the Toronto offices of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, or CIBC. Describing the project as highly complex, particularly in its financing and projections of future airport revenues, Mr Richards said he had learnt of the PPP model offered by CCC in April 2014 when informed by CIBC, which was giving the Government financial advice. “The economics around these things are always tailor-made to the project itself. In very broad terms it’s not that different from the PPP that the Government did for the new hospital wing. There are important features that are different — most importantly, the airport project will not include a guarantee by the Ministry of Finance and the Government.” Mr Richards acknowledged that the lack of open tendering would be unpalatable to some, but said resorting to a sole sourcing for the project was legitimate under the Government’s financial instructions. “What we have done is hire an international construction company to verify value for money before any deal is signed or ground broken. Let’s face it, the traditional tendering process has not worked well for Bermuda. The Berkeley Institute, the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building, the Sylvia Richardson building, the old departure terminal at the present airport, Heritage Wharf — they all resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of overruns. I’m giving up the tendering so that I can have a guarantee of performance, and I think that’s a good trade-off.” Much has been made of references in the e-mails, published online, to the need for “CCC cover” cited by Aecon’s president, Steve Nackan, before a visit to Bermuda. “I’m not sure what they’re talking about — other than the fact that the cover they’re talking about may have related to the fact that this is referred to as a CCC project,” Mr Richards said. “If you look at the structure of the model, Aecon is called the CCC developer. A lot of this model uses the CCC name, reputation, et cetera to go forward. You don’t want to confuse the word ‘cover’, to think that it’s a front in a typical use of that word, because CCC are more than just providing cover; they’re more like providing cover in the insurance sense, because they are providing a guarantee to the Bermuda Government against overruns and against delays.” Mr Richards also came under heavy fire for his remark, in an e-mail just before the agreement with CCC was signed in November, that he had “fuzzied up the no new debt part in view of the funding gap.” According to the minister, the phrase signified his intention to be deliberately vague about the airport’s revenue stream at the start of the project. “What we’re talking about is numbers that I didn’t know. I didn’t want to tell anybody that we had a funding gap of X dollars, because a lot of things were in motion and I didn’t know what the number was. The “funding gap” referred to a discrepancy between future airport revenues, which will finance the PPP, and the actual cost of the project. The key metric is your projection for the people walking through that airport every year, and the reason that is particularly challenging for us here in Bermuda is that for the last 30 years the traffic history has been a downward track.” Early e-mails between the Canadian businesses refer to “privatization.” That’s something that one of the parties said to each other, but it didn’t come from the Bermuda Government,” Mr Richards said. Mr Richards said it would take about 3½ years to build the new airport terminal, with other plans in the works to add a solar power facility on the vacant runway by Castle Harbour known as the finger. Enhanced airport retail and departure tax earnings would pay off the roughly $250 million project over 30 to 35 years, which the PLP have characterized as handing over $1 billion to Aecon. The Opposition yesterday decried Mr Richards’s handling of the deal as shoddy, self-interested and harmful to the Island’s reputation. While the PLP agree that the airport is in need of replacement, Shadow Finance Minister David Burt has said that replacing it now was premature, and that the Government ought to confine its attention to boosting air arrivals. Asked if he planned to attend the People’s Campaign gathering set for 9am tomorrow, Mr Richards signaled that he would not. “I like to have reasoned discourse; if folks want to march and have speeches, that’s their constitutional right. But we’ve got an agenda to do for the benefit of the people, to provide jobs, and we’re going to do that.”
May 14. Unethical business and poor governance have been revealed in the volumes of e-mails released by the People’s Campaign, according to Leader of the Opposition Marc Bean and Deputy Leader David Burt. Both said that Finance minister Bob Richards ought to tender his resignation over the conduct of the deal for a new terminal at LF Wade International Airport, but neither held out hope for an investigation by Government House. “It would be customary to call on Premier Michael Dunkley to show that he will not condone this activity in his Cabinet and under his leadership,” Mr Bean said. “It would also be customary to warn the Premier that failure to act will show that he supports this behavior, and that is an indictment on the entire OBA government. Unfortunately, I am obligated to state what must be apparent and obvious to all at this point in time. The habits of willfully poor governance, cronyism and corruption are not the issues of one or two ministers of Cabinet. Rather, it is a problem that is systemic within the higher levels of the OBA as an entity.” Mr Bean said the minister had injured the Island’s reputation, and misled the House of Parliament by maintaining there had been no previous relationship with the contractor Aecon, which would be taken on by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). Now we see evidence in these documents that Aecon was using CCC only as a front, and that Aecon was the preferred contractor the whole time,” Mr Bean said. The CCC has acknowledged that Aecon approached them over the business opportunity presented in Bermuda. According to the CCC, it subsequently agreed to take on Aecon for the job. However, the Progressive Labour Party has said e-mails show a concerted effort, possibly known to Mr Richards, to obscure giving the contract to Aecon. “For the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance to admit in an e-mail that he ‘fuzzied up the no new debt part’ speaks to his character and lends me to question what else has this minister ‘fuzzied up’,” Mr Burt said, adding that Mr Richards’s statement that he could sidestep the competitive procurement process for the project should alarm all Bermudians. “The internal machinations revealed in these e-mails display a callous disregard for the interests of this country and there is a strong inference to be drawn that this country’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance is either complicit or acquiesced in this entire affair. It is now clear to all that this deal is not honest and is without merit. It cannot proceed and it must be stopped immediately.” The airport proposal is up for debate tomorrow in Parliament.
May 13. Bermuda Government Ministers have been accused of giving away control of LF Wade International Airport to foreign interests. The grass roots community group the People’s Campaign has called a town-hall meeting for tomorrow night, urging “all Bermudians to make their voices heard” on Friday at 9am at the House of Assembly, where Parliament is due to resume at 10am. It came as the Campaign made public e-mails hundreds of pages long documenting the inside discussions behind the Government’s deal to redevelop the airport. The documents, obtained by the group under Canada’s freedom of information act, were aired in part on ZBM on Monday night. Campaign members Rev Nicholas Tweed, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert and Bermuda Public Services Union president Jason Hayward called on the One Bermuda Alliance administration to give full disclosure on the proposal, saying the documents suggested malfeasance on the part of the Government. Yesterday the group accused Finance Minister Bob Richards and Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell of potentially surrendering “hundreds of millions of dollars in government revenues”, as well as ceding control of the Island’s airport to the Canadian construction giant Aecon Concessions. The series of e-mails was posted online at the site airportemails.tumblr.com. Mr Richards, who returns today from overseas, insisted on Monday that suggestions of impropriety were false. The minister was not available for comment last night. If approved, the plan to build a new terminal will rest on a public-private partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). CCC, which has kept a low profile during political wranglings over the proposal, last night issued a statement in response to the allegations. Mr Richards has said in Parliament that the decision to take on Aecon rested with CCC rather than the Government — a statement he reiterated as “100 per cent accurate” this week. In its statement, CCC said that Aecon had alerted the corporation to Bermuda’s need for a redeveloped airport, and defended subsequently taking on Aecon as a contractor. The Government and Opposition have disagreed stridently over the deal with CCC since it was announced by Mr Richards in November 2014, when he signed a tentative agreement with Luc Allary, CCC’s regional director Caribbean and Central America. The e-mails include a communication from CCC’s Andrew Shisko to Mr Allary in April 2014, in which he writes that the intention was to “privatise” the airport — something the Government has consistently denied. It was also likened to a similar deal with Cayman, which was dropped after the British Government intervened due to concerns over the lack of open tendering. Other communications have Mr Richards telling CCC representatives that he could use his ministerial power to “put aside the typical competitive procurement processes”. Premier Michael Dunkley has defended bypassing the open tendering process, emphasizing the need to move swiftly. In the CCC e-mails, the Bermuda deal was subsequently called a “rehabilitation” of the airport, similar to the corporation’s job in Quito, Ecuador. Steve Nackan, president of Aecon Concessions, referred in a July 2014 e-mail to the importance of maintaining “CCC cover” during a visit to Bermuda for site diligence. E-mails show Mr Richards keen to move ahead: airport general manager Aaron Adderley suggested to Mr Nackan that a draft memorandum of understanding be prepared by late July, followed by Mr Richards asking if “we will get something before Cup Match”. During repeated clashes with the Progressive Labour Party over the deal, Mr Richards has maintained that the selection of Aecon rested with CCC, rather than Bermuda’s Government. However, the position of local construction official Michael Butt on Aecon’s board aroused PLP suspicions. No request for proposal accompanied Aecon’s selection. Mr Butt is the chairman and chief executive officer of Somers Construction Ltd and holds the same position for Toronto-based general contractor Buttcon Ltd. The released e-mails has CCC’s director of business development and sales, Don Olsen, querying the notion of the Aecon team using the CCC logo during their visit to the Island. Other e-mails referred to generating favorable press once the deal went public, including a reference to “a script” and suggestion of getting questions “planted”. CCC and Aecon traveled to the Island in August 2014 to meet with Mr Richards and others, including Stephen Poon of Somers Construction. Communications later that month suggested that the proposal grew “problematic” for CCC, and included the following from Mr Nackan to Mr Olsen: “We are spending a ton of $$ daily on this. Going back to Bermuda with a message that we need an approach we tabled is going to be highly embarrassing, will erode trust and is risky.” An October 31 e-mail from Mr Adderley references “overtures” by CCC to the British Government “in an effort to overcome the disinclination that has been shown thus far in authorizing the Entrustment that Bermuda seeks.” A November 8 e-mail from Mr Richards enclosing his ministerial statement announcing the deal, addressed to Mr Adderley and the Department of Communication and Information, includes the line: “I’ve fuzzied up the no new debt part in view of the funding gap.” In the wake of the press conference, at which Mr Richards and Mr Allary signed a letter of agreement, Mr Adderley told Mr Allary: “By the way, the UK approved the Entrustment.” “How did they do that?” Mr Allary responded. “We decided to push their hand by calling the press conference before the approval was granted,” Mr Adderley replied. By December 2014, Mr Nackan was observing that the Government was “getting hammered over all kinds of issues, including lack of tender, back room deals and concerns about corruption”, after CCC’s past links to SNC-Lavalin, a company tainted by claims of corruption, emerged in the House of Assembly. “We have to find a way to support them,” he added. Mr Nackan summed up a later PLP town hall meeting on the issue as largely attended by “PLP party faithful”, with “a barrage of mostly negative and misleading claims” — and recommending a “focused communications strategy” in response. Meanwhile, an internal message among CCC staff notes attention from Cayman toward Bermuda’s airport deal, adding: “If we get this over the line then we could be on for that deal in Cayman after all.” In a rare public statement on local controversy over Bermuda’s airport redevelopment deal, the Canadian Commercial Corporation last night issued the following: “The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), a Canadian Crown corporation, through discussions with Aecon was alerted to the exciting opportunity to redevelop the LF Wade International Airport. As standard procedure when opportunities are identified in this way, CCC assessed the viability of the project with the Government of Bermuda to ensure that it was a good fit for this unique contracting approach. CCC also ensured that the supplier had the ability to successfully pass its rigorous due diligence process, including an integrity compliance review by a committee within CCC and an assessment of the supplier’s technical, managerial and financial capability. As a past supplier on a similar project, CCC was aware that Aecon has substantial experience and a strong track record in developing, financing and operating transportation infrastructure projects in Canada and globally. CCC stands by its decision to work with Aecon as the prime Canadian subcontractor to CCC in support of the Bermuda Government’s aim to solve the complex challenge to deliver a first tier airport. CCC is committed to the highest standards of bilateral co-operation and ethical business practices with regard to the development of this project and looks forward to working together with the Government of Bermuda on a tailor-made solution to the pressing need to redevelop the LF Wade International Airport.”
May 13. A new business offering air tours over the Island is about to take flight after almost a year of planning. A four-seat, jet fuel-powered Cessna 172 aeroplane is sitting at the airport poised for take-off thanks to a joint venture between Blue Sky Flights and Longtail Aviation. Businessman John Tomlinson of Blue Sky Flights has spent the best part of a year cutting through red tape gaining proper authorization to bring the aircraft to the Island for commercial use. Not only will residents and tourists be able to take specialized tours, but trained pilots will be able to hire the craft privately and pilots-in-training will be able to use it to get flight hours under their belts. The Bermuda Tourism Authority is supporting and marketing the venture and the first flights are “imminent.” Mr Tomlinson told The Royal Gazette: “The Cessna is a classic trainer aircraft and it is excellent for sightseeing because it has wings that are above the cockpit. It really is the Volkswagen of the skies. It is a smooth, controlled ride and allows you to have an experience that will live with you for the rest of your life. It will be available for hire during the America’s Cup for people to get a different perspective of the sailing. We will have different tours tailored to people’s interests such as a ship wreck tour, fort tour and golf course tour and we expect whale watching will be very successful. The vibration in the cabin is much reduced and it affords the ability to go low and slow in order to appreciate the magnificence of Bermuda. Over land, one can fly at a minimum of 1,500ft which is low enough for you to see everything but also gives you a good perspective of the landscape. About 65 knots would be a reasonable cruising speed.” The Cessna will be able to carry up to four passengers depending on weight and will cost in the region of $400 to $450 for an hour-long tour or slightly less for a qualified pilot hire. About ten pilots have expressed an interest in doing the tours. Mr Tomlinson said he was inspired to bring commercialized air tours to Bermuda after the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association formed the company Vector in 2006 and brought a plane to the Island for trained pilots to fly privately. “My intention was to support them in any efforts to commercialize it. The only aircraft you can have in Bermuda is one that flies on jet fuel, which is why there are no propeller aircraft here. So I committed to finding an aircraft that would be fit for purpose. Many people, some formally associated with Vector, have been most encouraging by the fact that we have been successful in commercializing an aircraft.” Finding the aircraft was just the first in a number of hurdles Mr Tomlinson and the team had to clear in order to launch a viable commercial air tour business in Bermuda. “There was negotiating relationships between Bermuda’s Department of Civil Aviation, the Federal Aviation Authority in the US, the Department of Airport Operations and Bermuda’s air traffic control tower as well as everything from negotiating with Sol Aviation over the supply of fuel and setting up accounts, to agreeing terms for leasing the hangar and pilots’ room. There were times I thought it wouldn’t go ahead. At one point I saw myself flying the aircraft back off Bermuda but with the alignment of DCA and Longtail Aviation this dream has been delivered.” Having purchased a suitable craft in Brussels, rather than have the craft “shipped to Bermuda in a box,” Mr Tomlinson decided to embark on a 4,500-mile, multi-stop flight taking in several countries along the way. His pilot took him over the UK, Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the States where they circled the Statue of Liberty five times “because we were allowed to and it was fun.” Mr Tomlinson said he hoped this would pave the way for more commercial aircraft operations in Bermuda, including crafts that are suitable for adventure activities such as sky-jumping and parachuting. “The future of aviation is looking promising with the success of this operation. The hope is that this will open the doors for other aircraft to be operated safely in accordance with Bermuda’s regulations. “ Flights could operate every day throughout the year but are entirely dependent on weather conditions. Mr Tomlinson is due to give a presentation at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute next month outlining his journey to Bermuda on the Cessna as well as the future of aviation in Bermuda.
May 13. Minister of Home Affairs Michael Fahy announced tribunal reform plans, speaking on the resumption of the Senate this morning. Senator Fahy said that he envisages this as a pilot project focusing on tribunals under the Ministry of Home Affairs, with the “hope” that it would expanded to other ministries. He said the appointment of a full-time adjudicator or unified tribunal system will “streamline, consolidate and rationalise the plethora of statutory tribunals, rights of appeals and boards of inquiry, which have arisen over many decades of legislative activity.” He added that cost considerations have also been taken into account. “The need for action is even stronger given our present economic climate and the post-SAGE reality we live in,” he said. “We simply have to find a way to do more with less.”
May 13. Senators called it “a sad day” as they spoke on the passing of the Municipalities Amendment (No 2) Bill 2015, which provides for ministerial control of corporation affairs. The legislation also gives the Minister of Home Affairs, or a person appointed by the minister, the right to attend corporation meetings and give direction. It continues to allow for ministerial stewardship of the corporations should that be deemed necessary, as was the case when Sen Michael Fahy took control of the Corporation of Hamilton in January as the controversy of the Par-la-Ville car park falling into receivership intensified. The bill, which affects the municipalities of Hamilton and St George, passed with two objections. Minister Fahy, during debate on the bill, said the new legislation would give the Government oversight — “Not taking over (the municipalities), but oversight,” he said. Sen Fahy told senators he had brought the bill before the Senate instead of the House of Assembly because he wanted to ensure the legislation was under way before last week’s municipalities elections, so that both the voters and those running for office knew what the Government’s intent was. Now the elections have been held, he said: “I have met with the Hamilton Council already, and I’m meeting with the St George’s Corporation next Wednesday.” Sen Georgia Marshall, the newest Government senator, said she hoped the amendment would “stem the tide, buttress what we have already and ensure the longevity of our municipalities”. Both Sen James Jardine, an independent, and Sen Jeff Baron, of the One Bermuda Alliance, said that debating this bill made it a sad day, but did not argue against the amendments. Sen Jardine said: “There is no question that this bill does in fact give the Minister control over a variety of aspects of both Hamilton and St George. It is an unfortunate day that we find ourselves in this position.” Senate president Carol Bassett supported the amendments. “At this juncture, I don’t think we have a choice,” she said. OBA Sen Lynn Woolridge said she was in support of the bill. “The OBA believes in accountability. This is what this bill is about. These powers are powers of last resort.” She compared the municipalities to local governments in other jurisdictions. “Municipalities are like local governments, but are answerable to national government.” However, the opposition senators, the lone dissenters, criticised the bill, with Sen Diallo Rabain (left) saying that it “spits in the face of democracy.” The Opposition Senate Leader noted there had been several amendments to municipality legislation. He added: “I just wish they [OBA] would make up their minds about what they want to do. “I don’t support this bill in its current form.” Sen Renee Ming, the Shadow Minister for Municipalities, who is also a St George’s MP, said: “I see this as legislation that hampers and makes the corporations powerless. I’m talking about both Hamilton and St George.” She also described the powers to be given to the Home Affairs Minister to temporarily take over the financial governance of a corporation when it is believed finances are being mismanaged, governance is in a poor state, or if it in the public interest as “very subjective.” Sen Fahy responded to criticisms, saying: “The ex officio member simply attends (the meetings).” He also criticised the setting up of the Democracy Trust by the previous municipal administration, which held 20 year leases on most City properties. “The Democracy Trust was an attempt to stymie the elected Government’s right to govern,” he said. “To me it matters not which government is in place. The day-to-day running of the Corporation is not for the Minister of Home Affairs, it is for the Hamilton Corporation secretary and staff, as it should be.”
May 13. Earthquake-stricken Nepal is getting help from Bermuda via the global non-profit Adara Group but needs run high, according to group founder Audette Exel. “The scale of the catastrophe cannot be appreciated until you see it,” Ms Exel told The Royal Gazette from Katmandu. She rushed to the Nepalese capital as soon as she could after last month’s double earthquake killed close to 10,000 people. “They have many decades ahead to get back on their feet,” she said. “But, at the same time, I have been so very moved by the strength and courage of the Nepali people. It’s mind-boggling.” The Australian-based non-profit group Adara, which has an office in Bermuda and has a 17-year record of helping Nepalese communities, is capably equipped to assist in the country’s worst disaster for 80 years. However, the devastation is widespread and the arrival of relief has been painstakingly slow for much of the country. There were more deaths yesterday when another powerful earthquake and a series of intense aftershocks shook the north close to Mount Everest. Ms Exel and other volunteers work from Adara’s office on the outskirts of the city, but they camp on the lawn because it is unsafe to stay indoors. Nepal’s terrain has continued to rumble almost unabated since the first earthquake on April 25. “The ground is still shaking,” Ms Exel said. “We had four major aftershocks on Sunday.” Damage has been eerily selective across a landscape ranging from mountainside to valley, and from isolated villages to the teeming mosaic of Kathmandu’s neighborhoods. Some areas are not untouched but still functioning, while there are areas an hour or hour and a half’s drive away that have been completely and utterly destroyed,” Ms Exel said. “There is a broad spectrum of damage. You have all these old buildings constructed without any building codes, and brick and stone walls that killed a lot of people when they collapsed. With the rainy season creeping in, some people have begun to take shelter in the structures left standing. Doors are left open so that those inside can flee when an aftershock hits. Now that we have the monsoons coming, this is going to move into the public health emergency phase quickly,” Ms Exel said. Adara has been helping to furnish the countless people left homeless with basic shelter from the elements. About 4.2 million people have been affected across a region that Ms Exel first got to know as a trekker in the 1980s. Like many visitors, she fell in love with Nepal — and ultimately returned with “a very big dream of doing work with people in extreme poverty”. She said yesterday: “The only good news is that our team and the children we have rescued are all safe. We are very well equipped to help people in need; these teams are awe-inspiring.” She has been sleeping outside the office with about 20 of Adara’s rescued children and the staff. Meanwhile, child advocate Pralhad Dhakal has been leading relief efforts under the mantra “We are safe, so now we must save others”. Ms Exel said his example had proved to be galvanizing for the rest of the team. We were one of the first teams in Katmandu, three days after the earthquake,” she said. “It’s really because of his leadership. I have never been so uplifted by the human spirit as I have been working with the Nepali team over the last ten days. The school built by Adara is clearly not safe and locals speak of buildings that remain standing but which are softened. Decades of recovery work lie ahead. We’ve got years of rebuilding ahead of us. I am leaving soon but I am back and forward to Nepal all the time. The next step will be for Pralhad and the team to decide on the plan ahead.” Part of the non-profit’s work has been to fight against child trafficking, and the problem has flourished even as the region struggles to regain its footing. “When people are at their most vulnerable, that’s when predators strike,” she said. “In this situation, you see the magnificence of people, but you also see the incredible darkness in people taking advantage of those who are vulnerable.” Adara Group is urgently calling for donations, she added. “This is a very complex recovery process,” she said. “Working with the right organization really does matter.” To make a donation, contact Pamela Barit Nolan, development manager at Adara Development (Bermuda), at 279-2107. NB: Many local organizations have answered the call for help from Nepal, where earthquakes have left much of the country in ruins. Among them is Wesley Methodist Church, according to member Leo Mills. A collection was organized last Sunday as the congregation heard from Nepalese residents living in Bermuda. “One particular advantage for Wesley Methodist is that we are affiliated with the United Church of Canada,” Mr Mills said. “They have undertaken to provide matching funds for whatever the churches raise. That is going to be quite a fillip to the eventual monies raised in Bermuda, which will make what we hope will be a meaningful and significant contribution.” Another collection will be made during the coming Sunday’s service at Wesley Methodist, he said. Alternatively, those wishing to help can contact the church’s office at 292-0418 and speak with secretary Margaret Ingham.
May 13. Premier Michael Dunkley met with the leadership of Royal Caribbean International yesterday with a view to strengthening relations with the cruise line. The meeting, described as a “courtesy meeting” to discuss mutual matters of interest, will also involve Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport. Mr Dunkley left the Island for Florida yesterday and is scheduled to speak before the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Florida today. The conference, being held in Orlando, is organized by Florida’s emergency management community with the theme of “Rethink Resilience: Connecting Capabilities for Stronger Communities”. A spokesman said: “The event brings together individuals from various governments, the private sector, emergency management personnel, the healthcare industry, voluntary organizations and related professions to enhance their professional knowledge, foster inter-agency co-operation and collaboratively plan to improve disaster readiness.” Mr Dunkley was invited to speak at the event about Bermuda’s hurricane experiences. In his capacity as the chairman of the Emergency Measures Organization, the Premier will highlight the steps that Bermuda takes in preparing for a severe storm and the efforts undertaken after such a significant weather event. He will also highlight Bermuda’s most recent hurricanes, Fay and Gonzalo. Mr Dunkley is scheduled to meet with Dr Richard Knabb, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Centre, during the conference.
May 13. Emirates Team New Zealand’s campaign to win the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda appears to be back on track after its title sponsor confirmed that it would continue to back the team. Emirates airline revealed yesterday that it will return as the team’s major sponsor for the third time for the sailing spectacle, which will be held on the Island in 2017. The announcement comes as Emirates Team New Zealand faces the prospect of going into the biggest event in the sailing calendar without government funding. Grant Dalton, the Emirates Team New Zealand chief executive, who has been scathing of the decision by the America’s Cup Event Authority to hold the America’s Cup in Bermuda, described the latest development as encouraging. “We have made considerable progress because the Emirates Team New Zealand brand is an international leader, well recognized in the sport. Emirates airline has been with the team since 2004 and their decision to stay with us is important. We are fortunate to have such loyal and committed sponsors.” A report by ABC News today said there had been speculation that Emirates might not return as the team’s top sponsor, perhaps forcing the Kiwis to drop out. However, the airline’s decision to stick with Emirates Team New Zealand could now encourage the team’s other long-term backers to recommit for 2017. “It’s a brick in the wall but a significant one,” Mr Dalton added. Emirates Team New Zealand looks set to lose its government funding because America’s Cup officials pulled the qualifiers from Auckland during a spat over changing the size of the boats in the middle of the cycle. That dispute led to the withdrawal of Luna Rossa, but the Italian team has since been replaced by SoftBank Team Japan, whose skipper will be Dean Barker, the New Zealander who could only watch helplessly as Oracle clawed back from an 8-1 deficit to successfully defend the “Auld Mug” in San Francisco in 2013. The addition of the Japanese team to the mix left only the involvement of Emirates Team New Zealand as a question mark in the challenge against Oracle, especially after New Zealand Prime Minister John Key declared on national radio last month that “the end of the road” had come for government investment in the team. Sir Tim Clark, Emirates’ president, said in a statement that the decision to renew a relationship that began in 2004 was recognition of the success of Team New Zealand in helping to build the Emirates brand globally. “Our recommitment for the next America’s Cup challenge is testament to the spirit, skill and strengths the team has shown,” he said. “Our investment in Team New Zealand is one of the reasons Emirates has continued to soar in brand recognition.” Emirates Team New Zealand’s first outing in the next campaign is an America’s Cup World Series event, sailed in the smaller, one-design AC45 catamarans, in Portsmouth in July.
May 13. The death of hundreds fish in inshore waters is suspected to be the result of an algae bloom. According to a statement released yesterday by the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment, several fish “die-offs” have been reported since Saturday. “A change in wind direction may bring more fish carcasses to shore but would also disperse the bloom and reoxygenate the water column,” a Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman said. “We expect the conditions which caused the die-off to diminish; already a check of Shelly Bay today revealed no further mortality. It is important for the public to keep in mind that these kinds of episodes do occur naturally. Swimmers at Shelly Bay have not reported any resultant illness, and the Department of Health has no reports of related illness. There is no cause to avoid swimming, however, the ministry reminds people to not consume any dead fish, nor should the fish be offered to any pet animal.” The first discovery of dead red-eared sardines, also known as pilchards, in the region of Shelly Bay, Hamilton Parish, was inspected by a biologist from the Department of Conservation Services. The biologist estimated that several hundred fish had been affected and observed a suspected algae bloom, which, according to the statement, may be the cause of the dead fish. Samples of the fish and water were collected for testing. Dead fish of the same species were also reported in the Spanish Point area, Whalebone Bay and Coot Pond, St George’s, but the number of fish at the latter sites were small. A further suspected algae bloom was reported in the waters off Tucker’s Town and another along the north shore of Harrington Sound. The plankton bloom, when coupled with calm weather and light easterly winds, can create low oxygen levels in the waters of western-facing bays, such as Shelly Bay and at Spanish Point, which could have caused the fish mortality.
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May 12. Exor has increased its offer for PartnerRe Ltd to about $6.8 billion, as it tries to derail the Bermuda reinsurer’s planned merger with Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. Exor, the investment vehicle of Italy’s billionaire Agnelli family, now plans to pay $137.50 a share in cash for PartnerRe, a 5.8 per cent increase from the $130 per share bid that was rejected by the reinsurer’s board. The Milan-listed firm also revealed that it has bought up about 9.3 per cent of PartnerRe’s shares at a cost of about $572 million, making Exor PartnerRe’s largest shareholder. In an effort to secure the deal, Exor has offered PartnerRe a signed merger agreement that can be executed upon termination of the agreement with Axis. The Italian company has also filed proxy materials that allow investors to vote against the rival offer at an upcoming shareholders meeting. Exor’s chairman and chief executive officer John Elkann made it clear this morning that the bid was a final offer. ““Our offer is superior,” Mr Elkann told Bloomberg News. “Going higher would be irresponsible for our shareholders. This is our final and last offer.” Earlier this month, Axis, a Bermuda insurer and reinsurer, sweetened its “merger of equals” offer for PartnerRe with an $11.50 per share special dividend for PartnerRe shareholders. The revised offer came after Exor made its initial bid on April 14. An Axis-PartnerRe deal would leave PartnerRe shareholders owning about 51.5 per cent of the combined company. Based on Axis’s May 1 closing share price of $52.33, the offer is worth between $125 and $126 per share. PartnerRe’s board favored the revised Axis bid, which would create the world’s fifth-largest property and casualty reinsurer. The companies have said their amalgamation would allow cost savings of around $200 million per year. This would likely include redundancies in Bermuda, where the two companies are based in neighboring buildings on Hamilton’s waterfront. In a statement, Exor’s Mr Elkann said: “Exor’s binding offer clearly delivers superior and certain value for PartnerRe shareholders, and provides a more attractive outcome for the company’s employees and clients. “We hope the PartnerRe Board agrees and does the right thing. In any event, we believe PartnerRe shareholders deserve the opportunity to choose our offer and, in order to do so, we urge them to vote against the inferior Axis transaction.” An industry analyst, Charles Sebaski, of BMO Capital Markets, said Exor’s revised offer “seems to be at a level that will be very hard for Axis to get close enough to keep Exor from winning”. But if Exor does succeed in pushing Axis aside, there will be an added $280 million cost. That is the “break fee” built into the merger agreement, that must be paid by the company that opts out of the deal. The fee has been described as “excessive” by Exor. Exor, which controls Fiat Chrysler and Italian football club Juventus, among its investments, has a market capitalization of about $19 billion. The Italian firm is set to boost to its cash reserves after it agreed on Monday to sell one of its holdings, commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield Inc, for about $2 billion.
May 12. By Glenn Jones, Bermuda Tourism Authority. "At the latter, we listen very closely to our stakeholders, including those in the Legislature who tend to have bigger megaphones than most. We believe strongly that active listening is a pillar of collaboration. We do it every day; it’s literally our policy. And even when there are differing opinions, we are respectful, reflective and non-confrontational. However, when in their public statements our stakeholders misstate, misinform or mischaracterize information, we must counter it as often as we can. In an opinion piece over the weekend Shadow Minister of Tourism Zane DeSilva mischaracterized the BTA’s position on marketing Bermuda’s Caribbean influences. For example, he admonished Mr Bill Hanbury, BTA CEO, for “pouring cold water over [Bermuda’s] Caribbean link”. In The Royal Gazette, he suggested the BTA is heart-set against denying “that Bermuda has a very strong Caribbean cultural influence.” Not true! In fact, much of MP DeSilva’s written objectives come from the same hymn book as Mr Hanbury, who is quoted as saying this in January: “We wouldn’t dream of distancing Bermuda from its Caribbean influences. It’s what makes us special and it’s what visitors tell us they love about the island.” We are actually encouraging entrepreneurs to create tourism business opportunities that highlight island culture,” Mr Hanbury said. “This year alone, we plan a six-figure investment in tourism experiences that highlight Bermuda’s Caribbean roots. Bermuda’s Heroes Weekend is a celebration of Caribbean carnival. On De Rock is an open air culinary experience that will absolutely rock this Island. It is an extraordinary opportunity for us to show our heritage and our connection.” Those words don’t measure up to “cold water”. They’re more like a warm embrace. On the embrace of Bermuda Heroes Weekend, Mr DeSilva says the BTA needs to “stop talking out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to marketing Bermuda.” This, too, is an unfortunate, and hopefully not intentional, mi-characterization. Bermuda’s marketing distinction from the Caribbean is principally about geography. It’s science. Or, as Mr Hanbury said, “it’s a statement of fact that we are in the Atlantic and we emphasize those facts when selling Bermuda. Geography is an extraordinary marketing advantage for us, so we are going to take full advantage.” In a super-competitive landscape, Bermuda can sure use a few marketing advantages. While MP DeSilva correctly identifies the tough pitch selling Bermuda’s beautiful beaches between November and March when our climate is 30 degrees cooler than the Caribbean, he missed an opportunity to let everyone know the BTA created a marketing strategy to match this reality. The BTA positions Bermuda as a destination for sports, culture, culinary, the arts and eco-tourism in the winter and spring. To summarise: Bermuda is not geographically in the Caribbean AND Bermuda enjoys a wealth of beautiful Caribbean influences. Both can be true without talking out of both sides of the mouth. And both facts are marketing assets in our effort to grow Bermuda tourism. I’m doubly convinced of this upon reflecting on MP DeSilva’s words because after reading between the lines, I can see there’s broad agreement between his views and the BTA’s on this subject. Even an ounce of consensus on this is a celebration for me — not just professionally, but personally as well because if the BTA was trying to deny Bermuda’s rich Caribbean cultural influences, it would make things tough at my house during the holidays. My 96-year-old great-grandma Myrtle has roots in Nevis. She talks of her visits there with clarity. She is unapologetically West Indian. If her great-grandson was part of any effort to deny her contribution to Bermuda, she would have me by the scruff of my neck faster than I can say J’Ouvert." (Glenn Jones is the director of public and stakeholder relations at the Bermuda Tourism Authority).
May 12. Belco is preparing to ask energy regulators for permission to raise its electricity prices. The imminent rate filing to the Energy Commission to change basic tariffs comes after Belco’s parent company Ascendant Group Ltd announced a fifth consecutive year of falling electricity sales. This afternoon Ascendant reported full-year earnings of $5.9 million in 2014, up $1 million from 2013. The company said the increase was mainly due to accounting adjustments on certain one-off items occurring in 2013. Ascendant also announced that it will submit plans to Government this year to convert its infrastructure to change Belco’s primary fuel to natural gas instead of fuel oil. The ‘Integrated Resource Plan’ (IRP) also includes proposals for “utility-scale solar renewable energy systems” to help diversify the Island’s energy sources and energy efficiency programmes. Ascendant estimated that implementation of these plans would create 150 jobs for Bermudians. In its earnings statement, Ascendant said Belco’s return on equity was “unacceptably low” because revenues had slumped with declining electricity demand, while cash flows were strained under increasing operating costs and capital outlays needed to maintain its aging generators. “Belco will shortly be submitting a rate filing to Bermuda’s Energy Commission to adjust tariffs in order to achieve an acceptable rate of return that will allow it to continue to provide reliable service and attract investment for needed electricity infrastructure,” Ascendant stated in its earnings commentary. For many electricity bills have fallen in recent months, thanks to a slump in the global price of crude oil which has reduced the cost of the fuel used to power Belco’s generators. This has translated into a sharp fall in the fuel adjustment charge, which this month was cut to 11.5 cents per kWh, 26 per cent lower than it was in January 2014. Ascendant’s 2014 annual report shows that Belco’s electricity sales totaled 577.4 kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2014, after demand fell from residential and commercial customers alike. This marks an 11.25 per cent drop since 2010 when Belco sold 650.6 million kWh. Ascendant Group chief executive officer Walter Higgins said: “Ascendant Group continues to grapple with the effects of Bermuda’s prolonged economic recession, rising health care costs, aging electricity infrastructure and increased competition across all lines of business. “With the exception of the slight increase in net earnings in 2014, due mostly to accounting adjustments, Ascendant Group has experienced eight years of generally declining net earnings since 2005 when the Company reported $28.5 million, compared to the current 2014 net earnings of $5.9 million. “The weakened economy and a declining local population have negatively impacted electricity sales, as well as revenues from the sale of goods and services provided by the company’s other operations during the year.” Ascendant said the decline in electricity consumption was driven primarily by “the departure of both Bermudians and the non-Bermuda workforce as international companies consolidated operations outside of Bermuda or reduced the level of staffing on the Island. “In addition, many customers are voluntarily conserving and reducing their electric energy consumption, adding to the downward pressure on sales.” Last June Ascendant slashed the quarterly dividend it pays to shareholders by more than half to 35 cents per share in order to save capital. The Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed company’s share price fell by almost half last year to close 2014 at $5.40 — less than a fifth of its book value, which was calculated as $30.59 per share. The company was also tested by the visit of hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in the space of a week last October. Ascendant said it spent $2.9 million restoring the network after the storms. Belco replaced 80 transformers, 228 poles and 4.25 miles of cables as a result of the hurricanes. Ascendant Group’s total operating expenses decreased $4.6 million in 2014 to $238.9 million, thanks to the fall in fuel costs — 49 per cent of the company’s total expenses — and a $1.2 million decrease in the cost of its defined benefit pension plan. Ascendant added: “The company is reviewing a number of options to reduce overall compensation and benefits costs while ensuring an optimal number of skilled, competent staff to meet operational requirements and maximize productivity in a safe, secure working environment.”
May 12. With the Conservatives firmly in power in Britain after last week’s General Election, the issue of beneficial ownership registers will not be as topical as in the lead-up to the poll, Premier Michael Dunkley has predicted. The initiative had been trumpeted by Prime Minister David Cameron as a method to battle tax avoidance. The Financial Times had reported on March 27 that Mr Cameron had been adamant on the subject, telling the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands to have central registers, or similar systems, in place by November, and in Bermuda’s case to make the information more accessible to law enforcement agencies. The newspaper also reported that Labour leader Ed Miliband had gone farther and warned offshore centres in February that they would face sanctions unless they produced a public register revealing the identities of the ultimate owners of companies within six months of a change in government. However, after a damaging defeat at the polls, Mr Miliband resigned — and took his threats with him. “Beneficial ownership issue has been topical, but it won’t be quite as topical at this point in time,” Mr Dunkley said yesterday. “The current Prime Minister has acknowledged our leading position on it. We’ve always been one of the forerunners of beneficial ownership regulation.” The Premier called Bermuda’s position “open and transparent” (but see below) and said that the Bermuda Government has been open to discussions with Britain and other Overseas Territories on the subject. With Mr Cameron returning to power, it means the Government will be working with an established Prime Minister. “Obviously, in the initial stages, it is easier to work with a Government you’ve been working with,” Mr Dunkley said. “We will continue to work together on issues of mutual importance and make sure the UK is always aware of our concerns and interests on any matter, and seek their support on these matters.” The surprise election outcome put pundits and pollsters, who predicted no clear majority, on the back foot. “Obviously they had a drastic misread of the election results,” Mr Dunkley said. “The UK has been hard to read, but we try to stay out of the politics of it, whether it is the UK or the US. Whatever the result, we are willing to work with anybody. “We’ve made relationships with both the UK Government, and the Opposition. We will continue on developing those relationships.” Mr Dunkley said he does have an agenda of items on which he wants to work with the new British Government, but he was not ready to reveal what was on his list. “I plan to go to the UK during the summer, and I want to talk to the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues when I am there,” he said. The Government is also preparing for the Overseas Territories’ Joint Ministerial Council conference at the end of July, in preparation for the conference sessions in November. (Note: Bermuda's real status re beneficial ownership is that the relevant agency of the government needs to know but this is neither publicly stated on the Registrar of Companies website nor made available to the public).
May 12. Minister of Finance Bob Richards has vigorously denied any suggestion of impropriety with regard to the initiation of discussions for the redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport. It was alleged last night on local television that the Bermuda Government had been engaged with Canadian construction company Aecon Concessions from the start about the building of the new airport terminal, and not the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). The report, based on documents allegedly obtained by ZBM, suggested that it was Aecon that contacted the CCC about a substantial project in Bermuda and that Aecon had contacted Mr Richards indirectly about the redevelopment to put things into motion so that it would be awarded the contract. The report further alleged that Mr Richards indicated to Aecon’s intermediaries that he had the power to disregard the typical competitive procurement process in favour of an approach that would benefit the country and that he wanted to see a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the project. According to the report, Steve Nackan, the president of Aecon, was then requested to provide the Finance Minister with a list of expected questions about the signing of the MOU, and that Mr Nackan wrote to the CCC to inform it that Aecon had committed to doing so. The report also suggested that Mr Nackan then requested the use of the CCC logo as a front for a trip to Bermuda to discuss the project. However, Mr Richards, who returns to Bermuda this week, said that the alleged “news story” has twisted the facts in an attempt to throw into disrepute the process by which the discussions for this project began. “If ZBM had simply asked us about this before they put this innuendo on the air, there would be no concern,” he said. Mr Richards said that his statement to the House of Parliament that the CCC selected Aecon is 100 per cent accurate. He said the errors of ZBM’s stories include the chronology of events. The Finance Minister made it clear that he first met Mr Nackan on June 4 last year in Toronto, as head of a government delegation that included the Attorney-General, the financial secretary and the airport general manager. “Everything that we have done with regard to CCC and Aecon has been above board and by the book,” Mr Richards said. “Once you know the chronology of events, all the other things in the documents make more sense and become totally harmless.” It was announced in November last year that the Government had entered into a public-private partnership with the CCC to redevelop the airport. The Progressive Labour Party raised concerns in March about the deal because of the position on the board of Aecon of Michael Butt, a prominent figure on a local construction firm. At that time, Mr Richards responded to accusations that the Government had acted inappropriately in awarding the project to Aecon by saying that it was the CCC that made the decision. “They chose Aecon because they’re one of the biggest developers in Canada and they’ve got experience in doing this kind of thing,” he said. “Throwing some kind of mud to see what sticks is not the kind of behavior that a group of people who say they support our project in principle would do. They don’t support the project and they’re trying to trash it wherever they can.”
May 12. A legal dispute over an $18 million loan has taken another turn, with one defendant launching a cross claim against two others. Last year, it was revealed that the New York-based Carlton Group — hired to secure an $18 million loan for Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd (PLV) — had launched a claim over allegations that PLV had failed to pay a $900,000 commission. In addition to PLV, developer Michael MacLean, Johann Oosthuizen, Wakefield Quin Ltd and Theodore Adams III were all listed as defendants in the matter. According to new legal documents, filed in New York on May 5, Mr Adams has now launched a cross claim against both PLV and Mr MacLean over a breach of contract. In the documents, Mr Adams claims that he had owned all issued and outstanding shares in PLV in July 2012, when Mr MacLean entered into a stock purchase agreement to buy 80 per cent of the shares. Under the agreement, Mr MacLean would also be given a proxy from Mr Adams, giving him the right to the vote associated with Mr Adams’s shares. The documents claim that Mr MacLean was supposed to pay Mr Adams in installments timed to coincide with PLV receiving advances of loan proceeds from Mexico Infrastructure Finance LLC, with all payments to be completed by February 1, 2013. The deadline was subsequently set back until July 1, 2015, with the purchase price of the shares increasing from $10 million to $14.8 million and MacLean paying extension fees to Mr Adams. The legal documents then allege that while Mr Adams had fulfilled his obligations under the contract, Mr MacLean has yet to pay him the full purchase price. The document called for a judgment against Mr MacLean and PLV, jointly and severally, in the amount of $11.8 million plus interest. The documents claim that as part of the purchase agreement, PLV would indemnify and hold Mr Adams harmless of any liability arising from his former status as shareholder and officer of PLV, requesting that the courts find that Mr MacLean and PLV are liable to reimburse Mr Adams for any judgments against him in favour of the Carlton Group, along with associated attorney fees. The lawsuit is one of several surrounding the loan, which reportedly defaulted this year. Mexico Infrastructure Finance subsequently launched legal action against both PLV and the Corporation of Hamilton, which guaranteed the loan, using the Par-la-Ville Car Park as collateral. As a result of the default, Mexico Infrastructure Finance exercised its rights to appoint joint receivers for the property. Home Affairs Minister Sen Michael Fahy, who assumed stewardship of the corporation in January, has said that he and other parties are working to retrieve the funds and have the property released from receivership.
May 12. Leader of the Opposition Marc Bean has been summoned to court this month to face two charges of using offensive words in a case that relates to a heated exchange last year with Toni Daniels, the former One Bermuda Alliance senator. Mr Bean, who was served with his court papers yesterday, is facing a third charge that cannot be reported because of legal reasons. However, he is alleged to have had words with Ms Daniels at a polling station last November before the Sandys South by-election that ultimately returned Jamahl Simmons to Parliament. Mr Bean is alleged to have called Ms Daniels “a ten cent political whore who is shared by best friends” during the exchange at a polling station last year. He is due to appear in court to make his plea on May 28. The Progressive Labour Party leader became the focus of attention in the House of Assembly when Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, then the Minister of Public Works, read out a text message allegedly sent by Mr Bean to his party colleagues telling them what he had said. Mr Bean went on to say in the House: “I will say this — to the men of the OBA, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That behavior is a cancer and it’s unbecoming of womanhood and it’s being cultivated by the men in the OBA.” In the same month at the reconvening of Parliament, the OBA staged a mass walkout during the start of the Opposition leader’s Reply to the Throne Speech. After the walkout, the OBA released a statement accusing Mr Bean of “vile comments” during the November 6 encounter with Ms Daniels. The statement, attributed to chairwoman Lynne Woolridge, said the OBA opted to quit the floor of the House to show that “such behavior cannot go unchallenged. The decision to exit the Chambers during the Reply to the Throne Speech is not one that was made lightly and we call on the Opposition to take action to address the situation. Their continued silence, otherwise, can only be seen as condoning behavior that shows categorical disrespect for women.” Mr Bean declined to comment when contacted by The Royal Gazette.
May 11. Progress at the Pink Beach Club site was inspected today by Premier Michael Dunkley and Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. “I was pleased to see the progress happening at the Pink Beach site,” Mr Dunkley said. “It was very encouraging. It is incredible to witness first-hand the evolution of the site through these regular visits. We learnt today that they are already preparing to put the roof on the first building, which houses the kitchen, dining room, entrance hall and 12 guest units. All the walls are up and it is really beginning to take shape. Additionally, the beach club foundations are in and construction is beginning on the second block which contains 33 units; meanwhile excavation work has already been completed for the spa and back of house. This is an important development aimed at enhancing our tourism product. This is tangible progress which translates into real jobs for Bermudians.” Sen Fahy, who has responsibility for the Department of Planning and serves as a member of the Economic Development Committee, added: “The redevelopment of Pink Beach is an exciting event for Bermuda. As the Premier noted, this will result in employment opportunities for Bermudians and will be a dynamic new boost for tourism. “We will continue to work with those entities who are committed to, and supportive of Bermuda, and I wish to thank Sardis Development Ltd and Mr King for their continued dedication to this project.” Mr Dunkley and Mr Fahy toured the site, which is being developed by Sardis Developments Ltd, accompanied by developer Gilbert Lopes, company representative Stephen King, Junior Minister of Home Affairs Sylvan Richards and Senator Vic Ball, who has responsibility for tourism development and transport in the Senate.
May 11. Thousands turned out yesterday to celebrate Portuguese tradition at the annual Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. The centuries old tradition which originated in 17 century Azores began with a service and a parade through Hamilton with participants walking along a carpet of flowers holding a statue of Santo Cristo. Revelers later moved to the Bermuda Athletics Association car park where traditional Portuguese fare was served including polvo, an octopus stew; bifana, a seasoned pork chop in a bun; and the sweet malassadas, a Portuguese doughnut.
May 11. A former lecturer has come out in defence of Bermuda College president Duranda Greene in the wake of a vote of no confidence by faculty. While a statement from the Faculty Association made a number of allegations against Dr Greene, the former lecturer said the real issue is that she wanted faculty to teach one additional class one semester a year. “It looks to me like this is just a personal attack on her because she was making an effort to make the faculty a bit more responsible,” he said. “She has more integrity than everyone I have ever known. She does everything based on facts and logic.” On Friday, the Faculty Association — made up of professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and faculty tutors at the institution — listed a host of complaints against Dr Greene including a lack of leadership, diversion of resources away from the mission of the institution, a sense of entitlement, lack of awareness of the realities of the classroom, failure to engage in meaningful communication and failure to take responsibility for the “dismal institutional climate.” Both Dr Greene and the Chairwoman of the school’s board, Jill Husbands, said they were surprised by the statement. Speaking out yesterday a former lecturer, who asked not to be identified, said faculty at the institution spend around 15 hours a week working directly with students but can earn more than $100,000 a year. He said they can also increase their pay by getting further qualifications. He said that Dr Greene had attempted to have the faculty teach one additional class, one semester a year, but the faculty had balked and the matter was taken to arbitration. The lecturer said he believed the vote came about because the faculty had lost that arbitration. “I have heard complaints against her before, but the complaints have no merit,” he said. “This is just a very unfortunate attack on her with no specifics and no substance. Some of the faculty just don’t want to be held accountable. Bermuda College is a fine institution, and Dr Greene has done much to move it forward during her administration like getting the college accredited.” He also said that lecturers at the school are outnumbered by staff, and it’s difficult to say how many members of the faculty actually took part in the secret ballot. The original statement from the Faculty Association stated that the “overwhelming majority” of the members — 93.75 per cent — had been in favour of the vote of no confidence. Efforts to contact the Faculty Association about the former lecturer’s comments were unsuccessful as of press time last night, however a faculty member said last night that the meeting was “very well attended.” She also denied the suggestion that the addition of an extra class had been the cause of the dispute, saying that matter had been resolved.
May 11. Artemis Racing observed the memory of the late Andrew Simpson during an emotional wreath-laying ceremony in the Great Sound on Saturday. Team members as well as members of Oracle Team USA, the America’s Cup defender, attended the private ceremony, which also included a minute of silence to mark the second anniversary of Mr Simpson’s death. After the ceremony, Artemis team members lectured youth sailors from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s Sailing Academy to carry on where Mr Simpson left off. Mr Simpson, who won the 2008 Argo Group Gold Cup sailing with Sir Ben Ainslie shortly after winning Olympic gold in the Star class at the Beijing Games, lost his life in a accident in the lead-up to the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco Bay in 2013 while training with Artemis in the wing-sail foiling AC72 catamaran. The 72ft catamaran capsized, trapping Mr Simpson under the hull, and attempts to resuscitate him proved unsuccessful. After the accident, Artemis forfeited their round-robin matches in the 2013 challenger series but returned for the semi-final, where they were soundly defeated by Luna Rossa, the Italian challenger. Mr Simpson, affably known as “Bart” from the popular Simpsons sitcom, is survived by a wife and two sons, and was someone whom many turned to for guidance. Supporting the next generation of sailors was what he is said to be extremely passionate about. It is this legacy that continues via the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, which was founded in 2013. Money raised from the Bart’s Bash go to the foundation whose mandate is to transform the lives of young people through sailing. Billed as the largest sailing event in the world, last year’s Bart’s Bash involved more than 30,000 participants, who helped to raise in excess of $550,000 for the foundation. This year’s Bart’s Bash will be held on September 20 at 195 venues in 26 countries, including Bermuda.
May 11. Getting around to see the sights and beaches of the East End just got easier, thanks to a new minibus enterprise in St George’s. The hop on, hop off bus service allows visitors and locals to comfortably reach places such as Tobacco Bay, Fort St Catherine and Clearwater Beach if they purchase an all-day $6 ticket. There has been a need for such a service for a long time, explained Faith Bridges, one of the partners in the new business. She is a co-owner of the Olde towne water sports business Just Add Water and also runs some short-term house rentals. The idea of introducing a half-hourly bus service looping around key locations on the fringe of the town came about from listening to the views of visitors, and from picking up tourists struggling in the heat as they walk along roads radiating out from the town. “The tourists wanted to see the sights. There are quite a few hills leading out of town, and when it is hot in the summer it can be a struggle for some people, especially if they have kids and push carriages,” she said. “We decided to contract out the service. It is something we have been talking about for a while.” The hop on, hop off St George’s Beach Bus is a joint initiative between Just Add Water and the Tobacco Bay management team. The partners are Ms Bridges, Neil Moncrieff, Raymond Walker and Belcario Thomas. “It’s picking up and the tourists are loving it. We have pamphlets at the VICs (Visitor Information Centres) and hotels,” said Ms Bridges. There are two minibuses, with one doing a constant half-hour loop starting at Penno’s Wharf, where it can collect visitors arriving by ferry. The bus then stops at the town square before looping around to Tobacco Bay, Fort St Catherine, Alexandra Battery, Gates Fort, and the joint location of St George’s Dinghy Club and Just Add Water. Passengers buy a $6 ticket and are then free to hop on and off the bus as many times are they like during the day. A second bus helps out when needed. There is an afternoon tour of the forts, and also a single run excursion to Clearwater Beach at 11am, with a return shuttle at 3pm. It is hoped the Clearwater service might expand. “We have a proposal to the BTA (Bermuda Tourism Authority) asking if they will support us so there can be a third bus to do the loop to Clearwater,” said Ms Bridges. Although it is still early days for the bus shuttle service, which launched at the beginning of the month, the signs are looking good. Speaking to The Royal Gazette on Friday, Ms Bridges said the service had just had its busiest day since launching. The beach bus service can be reached on phone number 707-5000.
May 11. The Department of Planning is encouraging all residents, property owners and business owners in North East Hamilton to take part in an upcoming two-month consultation and collaboration exercise intended to bring out thoughts and ideas about the future of the neighborhood. The aim is to use the input to create a “Local Plan for North East Hamilton that is developed and supported by the community. This will complete the process started some years ago by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, working with community representatives. The Department of Planning has organized a series of events over this month and next, including hands-on workshops, presentations, and meetings with a view to reaching as many area stakeholders as possible. “The Department of Planning seeks to create a plan that is developed with and supported by the community that it is intended to serve,” Aideen Ratteray Prysse, the director of planning, said. “The intent of the plan will be to manage and facilitate development in accordance with the community’s vision.” Topics to be addressed during the consultation period include issues relating to building heights, land uses, streetscapes, parking and transportation. All events will be held at Magnolia Place, 45 Victoria Street, which is located at the corner of Victoria Street and Parliament Street. The kick-off event will take place on Thursday from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. Attendees will be given an overview of the process for developing a “Local Plan for North East Hamilton” and the various opportunities to participate. Workshop No 1 will be held on May 19 from 6pm to 8pm. This workshop will focus on what participants like and dislike about North East Hamilton and explore opportunities for development. Workshop No 2 will be held on June 2 from 6pm until 8pm, focusing on building types, heights and uses, and where they should be located. Workshop No 3 will be held on June 16 from 6pm to 8pm. Street and sidewalk improvements, parking strategies and transportation options will be the topics. Meetings will be facilitated by Department of Planning representatives with support from the Corporation of Hamilton and the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation. There will also be additional feedback opportunities in the late summer when the Department of Planning will present a progress report on the plan itself, and, again, during the legislated consultation period after the release of the draft plan release — expected between late this year and early next. The City of Hamilton Plan 2015, to be released in draft form soon and finalized in the autumn, will be the “umbrella” plan for the “Local Plan of North East Hamilton”. For more information, contact Tania Tavares at 295-5151 ext 1245, or the planning team via e-mail planNEH@gov.bm.
May 11. Members of the farming community have supported Government’s decision to ban the importation of the weed spray Roundup amid fears that it can cause cancer in humans. Both Tom Wadson and Carlos Amaral agreed that banning the spray, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, would not have a significant effect on Bermudian agriculture as alternatives can easily be used. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, asked a group of experts to spend a year examining the data from peer-reviewed studies about glyphosate. The research found that the herbicide, along with two other insecticides, was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” — a description used when there is limited evidence of cancer-causing effects on humans, yet sufficient evidence of it in animals. Mr Wadson of Wadson’s Farm told The Royal Gazette: “I think it is a great thing and Government should be commended for it. Nobody seems to know how much of this stuff is getting sprayed along the roadsides in Bermuda and where it all goes. “There are other ways to do this — my main concern has always been with what this is doing to animals. Clearly it ties up heavy metals in the soil and it is having massive implications with reproduction in animals and now they have discovered that it may be carcinogenic. We use very limited amounts — I have about of a gallon of it around here — I used it in the past but now it’s something we use for special things like poisoned ivy and stuff that nothing else seems to touch. There are alternatives that use less toxic substances — there are organic herbicides now — we use one called Axxe. It works. All the road side weeds could be killed with hot salt water or fire.” Owner and manager of Amaral Farms, Mr Amaral said: “From a farming perspective a lot of people have the misconception that it is used here in Bermuda like it is in the States where they use genetically modified crops. We as farmers here in Bermuda do not grow any genetically modified crops or any round-up ready crops so it is not a concern for us from that standpoint.” Mr AmaraI said the landscaping outfits and golf-courses might be more affected. Kevin Horsefield of Horsefield Landscaping described Roundup as “an essential evil” but added that he would be happy to see it banned. He told us: “We use it for localized weed killing and paving primarily. We try to avoid using it but we do very occasionally use it I have to say. The active ingredient is two per cent — it is very minimal but it is very effective. We use it very carefully and our staff are fully qualified. We could do without it. I noticed the Parks Department use it along the edge of the road quite often. It kills everything. It is not very selective. One thing we have used is a blow torch which actually works and it is more environmentally friendly but not as easy. I would be very happy to see it banned.” In light of the study, Bermuda will suspend all importation of glyphosate products pending the continuing assessment of the research. Orders placed before yesterday will be honored and there will be a grace period until May 25 during which importers can apply to the Department of Environmental Protection to bring in small quantities of Roundup in low concentration. A toxicologist in the Department of Health will also collaborate with the Bermuda Government’s hydrogeologist to conduct a study to determine whether any breakdown products of glyphosate are found in the ground and inshore waters. Members of the public wishing to dispose of Roundup may contact the Department of Works and Engineering. For more information regarding alternative herbicides, the Plant Protection Laboratory in the Department of Environmental Protection may be contacted on 239-2321.
May 11. Police this weekend followed through on a promised traffic crack down, with officers a visible presence on the roadways. Despite Police announcing publicly that they would be out in force, officers outside TN Tatem School in Warwick pulled over a number of motorists for traffic offences yesterday afternoon. In the matter of twenty minutes, the officers had pulled over around half a dozen vehicles as part of the traffic stop. One officer remarked that it had been fairly slow in part because of motorists notifying each other about the presence of officers. At the same time, another group of officers were hard at work in the Shelly Bay area of Hamilton Parish, stopping speeders and keeping an eye out for dangerous driving behavior. Chief Inspector Nicholas Pedro announced on Friday that the Police Service would be actively targeting five “hot spots” where the majority of serious and fatal traffic collisions have taken place since 2013. He said: “These are: Middle Road, Warwick, between junctions of Morgan Road (Lindo’s) and as far west as Burnt House Hill, Middle Road, Southampton, between junctions of Lighthouse Road to the vicinity of Five Star Island, North Shore Road, Hamilton Parish, from the junction of Studio Lane (Shelly Bay stretch) to Coney Island Road, South Road, Paget, junctions of Southcote Road (Horizons) to Harvey Road, Somerset Road, Sandys, junctions of Scotts Hill Road to Cambridge Road and East Broadway in Hamilton is also identified as a frequent fatal and serious injury collision spot. To this end, members of the motoring public can expect to see our officers in these and other locations raising awareness about the risk of serious injury or death from driving or riding at excessive speed, without due care and attention, or driving or riding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Officers will be exercising professional judgment.”
May 11. Six insurance-related registrations and one intermediary were confirmed by the Bermuda Monetary Authority during April. Among them were Parex Bermuda (Insurance) Ltd, a Class 1 insurer, Quantum Insurance Company Ltd, a Class 2 insurer, and Novae Bermuda Ltd and Palomar Specialty Reinsurance Company Bermuda Ltd, both Class 3A insurers. Also confirmed were special purpose insurers Cranberry Re Ltd and Everglades Re II Ltd, and agent London American Managers Ltd. A total of 20 insurers have had their registrations confirmed by the Authority since the start of the year, along with six intermediaries.
May 9. Staff at the Bermuda College have issued a “vote of no confidence” against sitting College president Duranda Greene according to a statement issued yesterday. The statement by the Bermuda College Faculty Association — which includes professors, lecturers and faculty tutors at the school — stated that members recently took part in a secret ballot. “An overwhelming majority of the membership approved the vote with 93.75 per cent of those voting in favour of the no confidence vote. The reasons supporting the decision include, but are not limited to, lack of leadership, diversion of resources away from the mission of the institution, a sense of entitlement of the president, lack of awareness of the realities of the classroom, failure to engage in meaningful communication, and failure to take responsibility for the dismal institutional climate. These results quantify faculty’s grave concern regarding the leadership of the current president to meet the mission of the College. This is the first time in the history of the college that the faculty has undertaken such a vote of no confidence in a sitting president. The faculty hope that the results of the vote will send a clear message to the Board of Governors and the Ministry of Education that dialogue is required in order to ensure that the mission of Bermuda College is fulfilled.” A spokeswoman for the college said that Dr Greene, along with the Chair of the Bermuda College Board of Governors Jill Husbands, have been made aware of the concerns, but were surprised by the grievances. Dr Greene said she had met with the Faculty Association Executive as recently as April 28, along with every faculty member throughout the week, but there were no mentions of the complaints listed in the statement. Meanwhile Ms Husbands said: “Dr Greene has always put the interests of the college first.” The spokeswoman said the college remains committed to its core values — including a commitment to all employees. “In that regard, opportunities for full and frank dialogue will continue to be sought to address the stated grievances with those disaffected,” the spokeswoman said. “However, the core mission of Bermuda College is and always will be its students, who have just recently finished writing final exams, with the college now focused on preparing for its Commencement exercises next Thursday. The college commends faculty for having correctly prioritized our students and their success, despite their disenchantment. The Board of Governors, which includes a Faculty Association representative, is fully committed to ensuring that the college fulfills its mission and assures the parties concerned that every effort will be made to effect a resolution.” The Ministry of Education was contacted regarding the issue yesterday afternoon, but no official comment had been made as of press time last night. Dr Greene took over the post of president in 2007 after teaching at the institution as a lecturer for more than 20 years and serving as the Dean of the Faculty of Hotel and Business Administration. She is also the first female president of the school.
May 9. A medical seminar aims to render the Island’s health system more effective by “unifying us around the philosophy and practice of evidence based medicine”, according to chief medical officer Cheryl Peek-Ball. The symposium for healthcare professionals, to be held on Saturday, was called by a round table of the Island’s leading healthcare organizations, and has been a year in the making. “It was clear that among the things we would need in place for a quality healthcare system would be a system of clinical guidelines, particularly for chronic disease, to ensure best practices,” Dr Peek-Ball said. Guidelines used by the United States Preventive Service Taskforce have been widely agreed upon as “reasonable for the Island”, she said, although they are not to be imposed as law. “Enforcement is not something I can envisage,” she said. “This is for the encouragement and education of practitioners as well as the public.” Asked if the guidelines had any link to the contentious move to introduce medical pre-certification — aimed at cutting down on excessive diagnostic testing — Dr Peek-Ball said: “No, this isn’t related to that or any other particular policy. It’s about improving medical practices and quality of care.” Overseas speakers Michael Lefevre and Gilbert Welch will address Saturday’s seminar, which convenes at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Dr Lefevre, medical director at the University of Missouri’s department of family medicine, is the immediate past chairman of the US Preventive Service Taskforce. Explaining the guidelines, Dr Lefevre said: “I think that first and foremost it’s about changing the culture — it is about accepting that screening can be good but that it is not always good; it can always do harm, and we should screen when we have evidence that says, across the population we screen, that we can do more good than harm.” He will speak on screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, as well as vitamin D deficiency, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, abdominal aortic aneurysm, HIV and Hepatitis C. “Screening is when you take somebody who has no symptoms or signs of disease, and you go looking for it,” Dr Lefevre explained. “Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a good example; there is a recommendation of screening and to not screen.” Men aged 65 to 75 who have been smokers constitute the highest risk group and are recommended for screening. Women who have never smoked are at low risk. “The limited data we have does not show benefit for them,” he said. “Screening would do more harm than good.” Turning to diabetes, a chronic disease rampant in Bermuda, Dr Lefevre said: “The Task Force does have draft recommendations on the table that support screening for diabetes, but interestingly enough the evidence we have found really more strongly supports finding people who are at risk and getting some behavioral change that would prevent the development of diabetes — as opposed to finding evidence that if we detect it early that may change outcomes.” Screening for chronic illness is a question of “who and how often”, he said. Overuse of screening arises from “a strong belief in technology — that doing more can only do more good”. There is also a profit motive in the US for companies supplying services, and a fear of litigation on the part of physicians. Evidence-based guidelines focus on “reviewing the literature to see what the science tells us about the benefits and harms”, Dr Lefevre explained. The other speaker coming to the Island, Dr Welch, is a general internist at White River Junction, Vermont, and professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Research. Over-diagnosis refers to “making diagnoses in people never destined to develop symptoms”, Dr Welch said — identifying diseases that don’t matter to the patient. “South Korea, in the last 15 years, has experienced a 15-fold increase in thyroid cancer diagnoses,” Dr Welch said. “It’s not an epidemic of the disease but an epidemic of diagnosis.” While all technically have the disease, the death rate from thyroid cancer “has not budged”, he said: not all types of thyroid cancer represent a serious threat to the patient. Citing another example, he said: “Most men die with prostate cancer, but not from it — which is not to say there aren’t aggressive forms.” “There’s an idea that earlier is always better, and a failure to understand that we all harbour abnormalities,” said Dr Welch. He added: “Physicians also feel we are punished for under-diagnosis and never punished for over-diagnosis.” The symposium, which runs from 8am to 1pm, is for healthcare guests only.
May 9. Digicel’s attempt to buy Bermuda Telephone Company has been granted approval by the Island’s regulatory watchdog. The announcement paves the way for the deal to progress if conditions attached to the written approval, which are yet to be made public, are accepted by the companies. Robert Watson, the chief executive of the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda (RAB), has acknowledged that some people may have concerns about the emergence of joint dominant players in the telecoms marketplace, particularly as it relates to pricing, but he offered assurance that the authority will keep a close eye on things. “There will be two dominant players. However, we weighed that with the energy and experience of Digicel,” Mr Watson told The Royal Gazette. He feels Digicel’s experience and track record for innovation is further reason to believe the sector will see competitor companies staying on their toes to provide the best services and pricing. “We will keep a close eye on it to see there is no predatory pricing,” he said, adding that the RAB will also undertake a market review in due course. When asked about concerns regarding smaller companies being squeezed out of the market, Mr Watson said: “Any market goes through phases where there is consolidation, but there is always room for smaller players with individual products and services that are viable.” It has been a lengthy period of deliberation for the authority, starting on February 20 when it received formal notification of the proposed buy-up. We went to work on it and did a lot of analysis and diligence. We went through the process and used outside experts and advisers,” Mr Watson said. There was also a period of public consultation, when feedback was invited from within the industry and from residents. Mr Watson described the level of feedback as “good”, and noted that one concern residents had was that BTC be preserved. Digicel set up the deal in January, only a few months after Canadian-led Barrie Holdings bought BTC from KeyTech for $30 million. Mr Watson said: “We believe that the new, merged company will provide more robust competition in the electronic communications sector, to the benefit of the Bermuda consumer.” In a statement yesterday, the RAB said: “After a thorough, nearly three-month-long investigation, which included a request for public comment, the merger was approved subject to certain conditions designed to promote innovation and competition in the Bermuda electronic communications market.” Digicel Bermuda said in a statement that it had noted and is now reviewing the RAB’s decision and its conditions, and would issue a more comprehensive response once this assessment has been completed. “In the meantime, Digicel would like to thank the RAB and the people of Bermuda for providing their opinions on the purchase of BTC during the consultation process,” the company said. The Royal Gazette also contacted BTC for comment on the announcement, and was awaiting a response at press time. The full decision details and conditions are expected to be made available on the RAB’s website early next week at www.rab.bm.
May 8. Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown has congratulated the new mayors of Hamilton and St George. Charles Gosling was elected as Mayor of Hamilton last night, while Quinell Francis was voted in to take over the St George mayoral reins from Garth Rothwell. “Putting oneself into the political spotlight takes courage and we salute these two for offering themselves for these positions,” Mr Brown said. “We also congratulate those others that were successful in obtaining other positions within the corporations. “In Hamilton, we hope that the outstanding issues that have affected the corporation’s ability to deliver for the people will be sorted out as soon as practicable so that we can see tangible evidence of a corporation working for the people. In St George we hope that under Mayor Francis, we will see a renewed momentum for growth and development in the Old Towne which will spur an economic rebirth. The Progressive Labour Party wishes both corporations success, as success for the municipalities inevitably means success for many Bermudians. To that end, though, we will continue to hold the corporations accountable for their actions and, by extension, the governing OBA, who continue to hold stewardship over the Corporation of Hamilton.”
May 8. Charles Gosling was last night resoundingly returned as Mayor of Hamilton over rival contender Carlton Simmons. Mr Gosling — who has previously served a term as Mayor — won 409 votes, over 158 for Mr Simmons, an alderman under the outgoing “Team Hamilton” administration. Thanking his opponent, Mr Gosling said his first order of business would be to meet with his new team today. “I was successful not only in being reelected as mayor but also being able to bring two members as residents’ councillors,” he said. Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy congratulated Mr Gosling, saying: “The Ministry remains committed to working with our municipalities and we look forward to fruitful dialogue with the new administration going forward. "I am looking forward to meeting with the new Council and hearing of their plans once they are settled as we work together for the betterment of all residents.” Prior to the election, Mr Gosling said he hoped to restore credibility to the municipality and bring it “back from the brink”, tackling issues of parking and the homeless, which he said needed to be resolved. Mr Simmons meanwhile said he wanted to implement a “complete review of city expenditure” and promised to bring fresh ideas and modern approach to business. The election was the first to be held under the new hybrid voting system, which allowed both residents and business ratepayers to have their voices heard. Mr Simmons called it a good contest but said the new system meant that the business vote would inevitably overwhelm the say of residents. “The list has to be seriously revised,” he said, suggesting the real figure of residential voters was probably closer to 260. Business voters were astute to their candidate,” added Mr Simmons. “In the end, I am grateful for the way it went down. Mr Gosling was a champ.” In addition to the post of mayor, seven candidates put their names forward to represent the city’s four residential councilor seats. The successful councillors last night were RoseAnn Edwards, at 155 votes; Carlton Johnson, 110 votes; Henry Ming, 100 votes, and George Scott, at 120 votes — who will serve as municipal residents’ councillors. Mr Johnson and Mr Ming were part of Mr Gosling’s electoral team. Unsuccessful were John Holdipp III, who got 79 votes, Aaron Scott at 91, and Derrick Phipps, who received 58 votes. The new councillors will join Nicholas Swan, Lawrence Scott, John Harvey and Dennis Tucker, who won their seats automatically as the only candidates nominated for the business ratepayer’s seats. The election follows a level of dissension within its Corporation that has been so heated that incumbent Mayor Graeme Outerbridge publicly welcomed the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to take over stewardship of City affairs for a second time. Mr Outerbridge — who did not run for re-election — took over from Mr Gosling in 2012 after an election in which he garnered 109 votes (55.3 per cent), compared with his opponent’s 88 (44.6 per cent). His “Team Hamilton” included aldermen Gwyneth Rawlins, Donal Smith and Mr Simmons, and along with common councillors RoseAnn Edwards, lawyer Larry Scott, former Progressive Labour Party MP George Scott and Anthony Davis. Their controversial term has been marked by two periods of stewardship, the refusal of the Government to allow a 262 year lease of the City’s Waterfront property to developer Michael MacLean to stand, the on-again, off-again Black Mayors’ Conference and a second debacle when a deal with the same developer allowed the Par-la-Ville car park to be used as collateral for an $18 million loan — which subsequently defaulted.
May 8. Quinell Francis was last night named the new Mayor of St George’s after soundly winning a three-way race for the seat. Ms Francis won 58 per cent of the vote (278 votes), toppling incumbent Mayor Garth Rothwell, who won 37 per cent (177 votes), and Alfonso Harris, who won five per cent (23 votes). Ms Francis, who had served as deputy mayor in the build-up to the election, stepped forward as a candidate for the mayorship because she wanted the residential and business community singing from the same page. She also said she wanted to build on the work of the Corporation over the last few years, moving St George’s forward as a community. Speaking after the announcement, surrounded by supporters and well wishers, she said she was overwhelmed by the victory. “I’m excited, I’m happy and I’m glad that the voters felt confident enough to make me the next mayor. I’m going to hit the ground running. I’m going to sit with my team, who have already been selected, and we are going to strategise so we can move forward. I want to get this marina going. That’s our number one thing. We are going to have an agreement soon, we are going to have a town-hall meeting very soon, we are going to have decisions made and we will be ready to go.” Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said he was eager to begin working with Ms Francis, congratulating her on her election. “There are many exciting upcoming projects in St George’s for which the mayor will be at the helm including a new marina for the town, which will attract new yachts to the area, as well as provide additional facilities for the America’s Cup which should help to stimulate the economy in the east. I have no doubt that the Mayor and the new council will continue to ensure the beautification of St George’s in keeping with UNESCO heritage site standards.” Mr Rothwell, a resident of Smith’s Island, had hoped to build on the “positive strides” he said had already made during his time as mayor, and had said he wanted to focus on the town’s infrastructure as well as promoting cultural tourism in the East End. Mr Harris meanwhile had pledged to bring more business to the town and would have backed proposed modifications to Town Cut to allow larger cruise ships. No elections for the town’s councillors were required in St George’s because only eight people put their name forward for the eight positions. The business ratepayers councillors will be Philip John Seaman and Faith Meri-Eve Bridges, while the municipal residents councillors will be Anthony Richardson, Calvin Bean, Phillip Anderson, Eakin McLaughlin, Elizabeth Christopher and Jamie Sapsford.
May 8. Some 50 per cent of Bermuda’s residents are against a change in law allowing for gay marriage according to a survey released by the Global Research Strategy Group. Some 400 residents aged 18 and above were questioned in the survey with results weighted to be representative of Bermuda’s population with an error margin of +/- 5 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level. Of those who answered the question, 36 per cent were for legislative change while 13 per cent said they did not know. The youngest respondents, 18 to 34-year-olds, were the most supportive of a change in law with 47 per cent in favour. The age bracket least in favour was 55 to 65 with 71 per cent of respondents selecting no. From a racial perspective, 54 per cent of black people were against a law change while 54 per cent of the white people surveyed were in favour. Respondents were also asked whether they would be accepting if their child told them that they were gay to which 61 per cent of all residents answered yes and only 16 per cent answered no. Those aged 45 to 54 were most accepting with 72 per cent of respondents answering yes. The black community were more in favour of accepting their child is gay than they were of a change in law allowing same sex marriage with 59 per cent answering yes. Some 67 per cent of white people replied they would be accepting. A final, seemingly unrelated survey question, asked whether economic hardship had prevented residents from meeting financial obligations to which 43 per cent responded that it had. Those respondents aged 18 to 34 were the most impacted according to the results with 60 per cent saying that hardship had caused them to miss financial obligations. Black respondents were more likely to be unable to meet financial obligations at 49 per cent compared to 23 per cent of white respondents. Nosheen Syed, CEO of Global Research & Strategy Group told The Royal Gazette: “Global Research regularly conducts research on current topics to understand societal opinion. It is very important for policymakers to engage the public vs. assume that they understand how people think and feel about a certain topic. “The results from this particular survey show that the public is divided (50 per cent oppose) changing the law to allow gay marriage in Bermuda for visitors or locals. As researchers we understand the complexity of this issue. Those that support legalizing same-sex marriage tend to believe that same-sex couples deserve the same legal privileges, including shared assets, benefits and citizenship as heterosexual couples. Those that oppose same-sex marriage tend to view it as debasing religious beliefs and the laws of nature, and at odds with the primary marriage function of procreation and raising children. More in depth research is required as policymakers continue to debate new legislation and the next steps for Bermuda.”
May 8. Four Bermudian charities stand to benefit from some deep-pocketed philanthropists, as the investment management organization Hedge Connection chose local groups to reap benefits from an asset allocation competition. “It was important for us to select and support charities that serve specific causes I had identified, including poverty prevention, women’s empowerment, children affected by substance abuse, and arts education,” said Lisa Vioni, CEO of Hedge Connection. Along with investors, Hedge Connection itself will give to the charities Family Centre, PRIDE, Women’s Resource Centre and the Bermuda National Gallery. TechnoServe, based in Washington, DC, will also benefit. Hedge Connection has organized a Global Fund Forum to be held on the Island from June 22 to 24. The event will include a competition in which each competing investment manager will donate to one of the five charities. The company will also give to the helping organizations through a May 15 to June 21 stock-picking contest, the GFF Bermuda Challenge, organized with the group Portfolios with Purpose.
May 8. Public Accounts Committee members heard that while the board of trustees in charge of the Port Royal Golf Course redevelopment adhered to its own financial instructions during the project, it was determined that those financial instructions were not robust enough. The PAC met yesterday afternoon in the Senate Chamber to discuss Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews's damning report, issued in October 2014, which criticised the $24.5 million project whose budget was increased by more than $10 million. The report said the project was flawed because of lack of oversight, cost overruns and inadequate accounting. Members of the PAC questioned Curtis Stovell, the former controller for the Department of Tourism, and Cherie Whitter, tourism's former permanent secretary, over the financial instructions process. It was made clear that a quango such as the board can choose to amend the Bermuda Governments set financial instructions but must provide any amended procedures to the Accountant General's department. During the audit process, it was pointed out to the auditor that the board as a quango operated in accordance with the instructions, Ms Whitter said. However, the audit department was of the view that those instructions were not robust enough. Asked by PAC member Lovitta Foggo whether the Government had placed all of its responsibility to the people of Bermuda into the hands of some volunteers, Ms Whitter said: "They were professionals who work for the golf course and, in accordance with the Golf Course Consolidation Act, the minister can assign whatever policy and/or whatever projects that he saw fit. This was a project that he saw fit to assign to the board." Ms Whitter added that the ministry was responsible for ensuring financial instructions were followed as it relates to disbursement and payment to the board, but clarified that it was the board's responsibility to ensure that its financial instructions were followed in accordance to tendering and payments etc. She added: "Therefore, as it relates to their tendering, maybe there were some gaps in the financial instructions and the quango determined that they were not required to make certain submissions to the Government. Perhaps that is a gap which is one of the issues and recognized as one of the findings in the audit. Financial instructions require detailed monitoring of all projects with an annual estimate greater than $1 million, however it is not clear what detailed monitoring should encompass. I would say there was detailed monitoring of the expenses and payments associated with payment to the golf course." Mr Stovell said: "I agree that the ministry had all sorts of responsibility and I believe it executed those responsibilities to the best of its capability." Ms Foggo raised the question of whether a template could be devised to ensure that financial instructions for any entity that receives public funds are more aligned with Government's. Ms Whitter responded: "I can't speak for finance but I can tell you that steps have been taken since this time to ensure that financial instructions for all quangos have been upgraded and are in accordance with, or are as closely aligned to Governments as they possibly can be that has happened." At the end of the meeting on Port Royal, David Burt, the committee chairman and Shadow Minister of Finance, asked Mr Stovell if the Ministry of Finance had moved ahead with the airport redevelopment. "There have been no final decisions have been made as to whether to go forward with that project as of this time," Mr Stovell said.
May 8. Premier Michael Dunkley has extended congratulations to David Cameron after the Conservative Party’s majority win in yesterday’s General Election. Mr Dunkley formally wrote to the British Prime Minister this morning offering his well wishes on behalf of the Government and the people of Bermuda. In an excerpt from the letter, the Premier wrote: “I wish to extend congratulations on your victory. On behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda, we are keen to continue our longstanding relationship with the UK Government and engaging in our work on mutual priority interests. “During your tenure as prime minister, we have achieved great measures in upholding international corporate responsibility and have supported the UK’s efforts in achieving a global standard of tax and transparency. We look forward to continuing our work and commitment in upholding international obligations of British principles.” The Premier will have an opportunity to discuss the UK election outcome, as well as other matters of mutual interest, when he meets with fellow leaders from British Overseas Territories at the next Joint Ministerial Council meeting in July.
May 8. Bermuda-based municipal bond insurer Assured Guaranty posted net income of $201 million for the first quarter and topped Wall Street estimates. The company’s board also authorized a new $400 million share repurchase programme, as its adjusted book value reached a record high. “Our first quarter provided an excellent start for 2015,” Assured’s chief executive officer Dominic Frederico said. “Adjusted book value per share, our key measure of the company’s intrinsic value, reached an all-time high. In US public finance, where we saw the highest municipal bond insurance penetration in years, Assured Guaranty led the industry in terms of par and the number of transactions insured, and we outpaced our competitors by an even wider margin in PVP. We also saw the benefit of our diversified business strategy, with solid PVP production in structured finance.” During the quarter, the company completed the acquisition of Radian Asset and spent $152 million buying back its own shares. “Additionally, as of May 4, 2015, we completed substantially all of the $400 million of share repurchases authorized in August 2014,” Mr Frederico added. “This week our board authorized an additional $400 million of share repurchases.” Operating income was $140 million, or 89 cents per share, for first quarter, trouncing the 60 cents per share consensus forecast of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance. The earnings statement briefly mentioned a loss relating to the company’s insuring of Puerto Rico debt. “Economic loss development in first quarter 2015 was a benefit of $3 million, which was driven primarily by improvements in student loan and trust preferred securities transactions, offset in part by loss development in certain Puerto Rico exposures,” the statement read. Assured ended the quarter with shareholders’ equity of $5.79 billion.
May 8. A new $300 million catastrophe bond has been admitted for listing on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. Bermuda-based special purpose insurer Everglades Re II Ltd has issued the Series 2015-1 notes, which have a due date of May 3, 2018. The issuance will provide reinsurance for Florida’s state-created property insurer Florida Citizens.
May 7. The outgoing Mayor of Hamilton was yesterday inducted into a prestigious American Society whose members are required to be descendants of men who helped establish, defend and grow the American Colonies. Then-Mayor Outerbridge, whose family can be traced back generations in Bermuda, was accepted into the General Society of Colonial Wars’ fold as part of its annual meeting, which is being held outside of the United States for the first time in more than a century. And Mayor Outerbridge “may very well be the first Bermudian” to become a member, Charles A Poekel Jr, the Lieutenant Governor of the Colonial Wars of New Jersey, said, noting that Mayor Outerbridge was well qualified to join the society because of his ancestry. Mr Poekel explained that the society has long been interested in Bermuda, with some members even calling it “the 14th colony”, and that they were eager to explore the maritime connection between Bermuda and the US. The Society of Colonial Wars was founded in New York in 1892 to study America’s colonial history from the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, to the Battle of Lexington in 1775. A General Society was established to accommodate a national one in 1893. According to their website, the society collects and preserves old manuscripts and records, erects memorials, hosts commemorations, and supports academic research “for the purpose of inspiring in the community respect and reverence for those whose public service made our freedom and unity possible”. The society members are all male descendants of those in “military, naval and civil positions of high trust and responsibility whose acts and counsel assisted in the establishment, defence and growth of the American Colonies”. The majority of the society members arrived aboard the Norwegian Breakaway yesterday morning and their first stop was City Hall, where they were welcomed by Mayor Graeme Outerbridge. A tree planting in Queen Elizabeth Park, formerly known as Par-la-Ville Park, was scheduled to take place in the early afternoon, before the members attended a lunch with Premier Michael Dunkley at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. A reception with Governor George Fergusson was planned at Government House. Today, the members will spend the day exploring St George’s before attending a dinner dance at Fourways Inn. Tomorrow will be filled with sporting activities, including a golf tournament, a tennis tournament and a croquet tournament, and the delegation will depart aboard the Breakaway at 5pm.
May 7. Bermuda and countries with similar economic structures are in the spotlight as the British electorate prepares to go to the polls. Headlines that have included “Politicians not tough enough on tax avoidance, say voters” from The Guardian has Bermudian-based commentators considering the Island’s economic position and defending the role of international business in the British economy. Another headline in the London daily inspired Walton Brown, of the Progressive Labour Party, to comment that Bermuda must find ways to adjust. The story under “Pre-election debate sees parties united in tackling tax avoidance” in The Guardian reflects recent polls that show 58 per cent of voters feel promises made by the main political parties in Britain — Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats — do not go far enough on the issue. An economist and political scientist, Mr Brown believes another coalition government will be formed after tomorrow. “There are two aspects to this UK election and the issue of tax havens,” he said. “One, the political parties in the UK are without question posturing for the elections, so a range of issues will have strong emotional impact on the electorate at a time when most governments are having a fiscal crisis. It is part and parcel of the electioneering in the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen to what extent the winning party will enact those policies. And, two, the whole issue of labeling countries as tax havens — I personally don’t see Bermuda as a tax haven — but the whole international labeling is a battle we can’t win We have to find ways to tackle this onslaught, particularly from the country that we answer to politically. We don’t have the wherewithal to effectively challenge these matters when they’re raised by the UK or any other large country. We have to try and find ways to adjust what we have in place in Bermuda; to maintain the structure that has led to our success.” He said Bermuda must find ways to ameliorate the hostility that the Island faces from Britain and other countries. Mr Brown said we face the label, even though Bermuda has signed up to numerous international tax agreements. Bradley Kading, president and executive director of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, stated that Bermuda has tax co-operation and enforcement agreements with all the G20 nations and more than 80 jurisdictions. “Bermuda’s regulator is committed to meeting regional and international solvency standards as illustrated by Bermuda being found a ‘qualified jurisdiction’ by the US National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and by its application for full equivalence under Solvency 2 with the European Commission,” Mr Kading said in defending Bermuda’s position. “As the Minister of Finance [Bob Richards] has said, if you want to evade your home jurisdictional taxes, you won’t be able to do it in Bermuda. If you want to establish a shell corporation, Bermuda isn’t your desired home, either. By the summer, Bermuda will have a ‘head office’ requirement for commercial insurers that makes it doubly clear that economic substance must take place in Bermuda insurance operations. Other Caribbean domiciles have 30 times the number of corporations that Bermuda has — establishment of corporate shell companies has never been Bermuda’s focus and international trends make it clear it won’t be in the future, either.” Mr Kading indicated that the Bermuda economy positively affects Britain. “ABIR members have more than 5,500 employees in the UK,” he said. “According to the London Market Group, Bermuda is one of the three largest reinsurance centres in the world and one of the eight largest commercial insurance centres. “But the jurisdiction’s success is also tied to the reputation of the Bermuda Monetary Authority as a robust insurance regulator and the Government’s reputation as being a co-operative jurisdiction on tax law enforcement.” Ross Webber, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency supported that view. “Bermuda supports the G20 in its efforts to tackle corruption, tax evasion, terrorism financing and money laundering,” he said. “Once UK electioneering is concluded, it will be important for British policymakers and business leaders trading in all of its territories to work together to build on the progress to date in curbing financial crime, and safeguarding the economic success of Great Britain. For UK and British territory relations, a good starting point would be to distinguish between those jurisdictions that comply with global standards — such as Bermuda — and those that do not.”
May 7. A passenger died aboard the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship, which arrived in Bermuda yesterday, and four passengers were reported sick upon arrival in what appear to be unrelated incidents. At about 10am yesterday, The Royal Gazette was alerted to passengers not being allowed off the ship and that first responders had attended Heritage Wharf in Dockyard. Although passengers began disembarking shortly after 10am, a crew member confirmed that there had been a medical issue and that the ship had not been cleared until about 9.40am. A local resident, who asked not to be named, added that passengers usually start leaving the ship, which arrived at 7.30am, shortly after 8am and that she had heard unofficial reports that someone had died. By 11am, a Bulley-Graham-Rawlins Funeral Home van had arrived and tour guides began informing passengers who were upset over delays that someone had passed away aboard the ship. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed that four passengers had been taken ill. “Health officers immediately arrived to assess the situation. Upon attending, they quickly realized that there was no cause for concern and passengers were allowed to disembark straight away. There were 5,200 people on-board and the number of ill people was well within normal levels expected for such a large group of people.” Joe Beck, from Scranton, Pennsylvania, said he saw a passenger “on a stretcher, all covered in blankets” being taken away in an ambulance at about 9am. Other passengers reported that there had been a drill in the morning, which caused the delays, while some suggested that there had been a clearance issue. The delay affected the festivities of the Society of Colonial Wars, the majority of whose members arrived aboard the Norwegian Breakaway and who were scheduled to attend a welcome at City Hall at 10am. The Norwegian Breakaway is one of the largest cruise ships in the world and is expected to call on Bermuda another 24 times this year. At 1,068ft in length, with 1,994 staterooms, she can accommodate 3,988 passengers at double occupancy. The ship arrives on Wednesday mornings at 7.30am and departs at 5pm on Fridays.
May 7. Internet users in Bermuda are concerned about what they perceive as slow connection speeds and high costs, and most would prefer to have a single provider for both internet access and service. Those are the findings of a survey conducted on behalf of the Bermuda Regulatory Authority. The survey was limited to a sampling of 403 residents, but within that group it revealed that Logic, the dominant player in the domestic internet service provider (ISP) market, lost 10 per cent of its market share in 2014, while new entrant CableVision acquired a 12 per cent market share. Among residents, the number one issue with internet service is cost, with just over a third of all survey respondents, some 36 per cent, citing internet service as being too expensive. This was down from 43 per cent in 2013. A further result showed seven out of 10 residents continue to believe internet costs in Bermuda to be expensive. On average, residents spend $117 a month on internet services, including access and service. Responding to the survey’s findings, Logic’s CEO Vicki Coelho said: “Logic has reduced its prices dramatically in the last two years. For example, 10MB ISP service was priced at $130 per month in May 2013. Logic is now charging $70 for that service. Additional savings on overall telecom expenditures are available to customers who choose one of our Unity Bundles. Despite this over 50 per cent reduction in pricing, we note that the survey reflects a continuing perception that internet services are expensive.” Ms Coelho said the company was looking at ways to further reduce the costs faced by customers. Bermuda CableVision’s CEO Terry Roberson said: “We will continue to review our costs associated with providing the service so that we can lower pricing in the future. We want to ensure we remain competitive in the marketplace and appreciate the feedback from the Bermuda public.” There was a five-point drop in the number of residents happy with the speed of their internet connection, with 61 per cent indicating they were satisfied, down from 66 per cent in 2013. Mr Roberson said he was pleased to see that 63 per cent of survey respondents indicated they were likely to upgrade to higher speeds in the future. He said: “We currently offer speeds up to 25MB, which we have found to be popular with our customers. People looking for higher speeds can upgrade to this option, which enables users to do everything they want to do online — from playing games to streaming video. Furthermore, we have tested 50 and 100 MB and hope to launch these options in the not too distant future.” The internet’s almost omnipresence in people’s daily lives was underlined by the fact that more than eight out of ten residents (88 per cent) said it was so important that they could not go without an internet connection for more than a few days. That was three points higher than in 2013. Overall satisfaction with internet service providers declined by eight points from 72 per cent in 2013 to 64 per cent last year. Customers were less satisfied with technical support, service quality, reliability, customer service and download speeds than they had been in the previous year. When asked if they would switch service provider if it meant they could decrease their bill payment by 20 per cent, some 62 per cent of those surveyed indicated they “definitely or probably” would switch. Some 85 per cent of respondents said they would prefer having one provider for both internet access and service, up slightly from a year ago. Logic had a year-on-year 10 per cent drop in market share within the limited scope of the 403-respondent survey, while there were new appearances by CableVision and CellOne in the ISP market place, taking 12 per cent and four per cent market share respectively. Logic boss Ms Coelho said: “We think this highlights the competitive dynamic that has been building since the dramatic changes to the licensing regime in 2013. This is a highly competitive market. No provider, Logic included, can afford to stand still. The survey highlights customers’ preference for a single bill, a unified internet service, and lower prices. The market share shifts confirm these preferences. To meet the competitive dynamic head on, Logic’s service offerings have evolved into the Unity Bundle — one bill, from one provider, that provides the customer with internet access and ISP service, and home phone and long distance services, at pricing that provides customers significant savings.” Mr Roberson, of Bermuda CableVision, said the company was delighted to have made an impact as a new ISP. He added: “This is just the beginning as consumers become more aware that CableVision is now an ISP. Given that 85 per cent of residents say they prefer one provider for internet access and service, we hope this number continues to grow as residents find us to be very dependable.” Some 65 per cent of survey respondents said Logic was their ISP, the others listed were CableVision at 12 per cent, Digicel at 9 per cent, TBI at 8 per cent, CellOne at 4 per cent, LinkBermuda at 1 per cent and don’t knows accounting for the remaining 1 per cent. It should be noted these results are from a limited survey and may not reflect the actual overall market share of the companies. The survey was conducted by Global Research between December and January, and sampled 403 Bermuda residents aged 18 or older. The margin of error in the study was +/- 4.9 per cent.
May 7. Zane DeSilva, the Shadow Minister of Tourism, has criticised the efforts of the Bermuda Tourism Authority under Bill Hanbury. “After the worst air arrivals in 48 years in 2014, tourism numbers continue to decline under the OBA in Q1 2015,” Mr DeSilva said in a press statement this afternoon. “These declining numbers come as no surprise as taxi drivers have been telling us for months that business was slow and the impact it was having on their families. These plummeting tourism figures are bad news not just for the taxi industry but also for the countless Bermudians out of work and hoping that a revival in tourism will mean more jobs and opportunities. Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Bill Hanbury has said that he and the BTA would own the 2015 numbers after previously pledging a six-month turnaround. With numbers continuing to trend downwards, clearly the BTA approach under the current leadership isn’t working. The OBA sold the BTA as an entity that would “run tourism like a business”. Yet in the business world, individuals are held accountable for not meeting deliverables. In this case, we see all of the people who should be held accountable and taking responsibility for these numbers, running for cover. From the BTA CEO to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell, no one is taking responsibility and no one is being held accountable. This is clearly not a recipe for success. In 2014, The PLP called for increased investment in tourism. That call was ignored and these dismal numbers are the result. The PLP’s believes that Bermuda’s position as a tourism destination has been marginalized in the global market by an underfunded tourism marketing budget. We have to invest in tourism and the current budget simply isn’t competitive when we look at the millions being spent by our more successful competitors. This is evidenced by almost every single one of our competitors in the Caribbean seeing an increase in air arrivals over the past 18 months. We further believe that marketing alone will not turn tourism around. Our product must modernize, encouraging greater Bermudian entrepreneurship and inventiveness while continuing to elevate service standards and amenities available to our guests.
May 7. It’s crunch time for Hamilton and St George as voters go to the polls today in their first election under a hybrid voting system allowing representation for rate-paying businesses as well as residents. In Hamilton, former mayor Charles Gosling, deposed in the 2012 victory of Graeme Outerbridge, is up against alderman Carlton Simmons. In St George, incumbent Garth Rothwell vies for the job against Quinell Francis, his deputy mayor. Alongside the mayoral race, the Corporations will elect councillors for businesses and for residents, while the position of alderman has been phased out. It will test a voting arrangement staunchly opposed by the Progressive Labour Party, which as the governing party in 2010 brought the Municipalities Reform Act to abolish the old property vote and usher in universal adult franchise based on registered parliamentary voters. While the removal of multiple property votes was supported, many argued that businesses ought to retain a voice. The vote for ratepayers was restored by the One Bermuda Alliance but decried by the Opposition, which called the move undemocratic. However, during that parliamentary debate, Finance Minister Bob Richards contended that Hamilton in particular, as the Island’s business centre, had been “crippled” by the 2010 reforms. Bermuda’s capital was at the epicentre of another contentious piece of legislation in 2013, when the Municipalities Amendment Act gave Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy stewardship of Corporation affairs and required Parliamentary approval for sales of land held by the municipalities and leases exceeding 21 years. Those moves were undertaken by Government in response to decisions made by the Outerbridge administration — in particular, the waterfront development deal made quietly with Allied Trust and Allied Partners Limited that was deemed contrary to national interests. After the dust settles today, an early test for Hamilton’s winning team will be the extent to which it complies with Government’s control. Mr Simmons, of the outgoing “Team Hamilton” administration, openly denounced the 2013 legislation — and Mr Gosling was no fan, telling The Royal Gazette the reforms threatened the existence of the Corporations. Meanwhile, in the contest for councillors, the eight for St George have already been decided, as only eight put their names forward. Representing business ratepayers in the Olde Towne are Philip John Seaman and Faith Meri-Eve Bridges. The municipal residents councillors will be Anthony Richardson, Calvin Bean, Phillip Anderson, Eakin McLaughlin, Elizabeth Christopher and Jamie Sapsford. For Hamilton, Mr Gosling’s team comprises Nicholas Swan, Lawrence Scott, John Harvey and Dennis Tucker representing ratepayers, and Henry Ming, Carlton Johnson and RoseAnn Edwards running as councillors for residents. Another candidate for councilor is Derrick Phipps of the Committee on Homelessness, who has vowed to stand as a voice for the people — particularly North Hamilton. Here are details on when, where and how to cast votes in Hamilton and St George:
•Polling stations for Hamilton and St George open today from 8am to 8pm as voters at both Corporations cast ballots.
•For Hamilton, voting is set for the Seventh-day Adventist Church Hall, while voters in St George should head to the Penno’s Wharf Cruise ship terminal.
•Bring along valid photo identification, and be aware that the use of electronic devices is prohibited inside the polling station.
•The Parliamentary Registration office on the third floor of Craig Appin House will also stay open from 8am to 8pm to help voters.
May 6. Bermuda could host a second Transcontinental Trusts forum next year after the success of last month’s event at the Fairmont Southampton, which marked the first time the Transcontinental Trusts franchise has held a forum outside Europe. “The passion and commitment from the Bermuda trust industry as a whole made establishing the Transcontinental Trusts event in Bermuda an easy choice,” said Paul Barford, conference director, head of private client events for IBC Global Conferences. The two-day Bermuda forum had 240 attendees, including 150 overseas delegates and experts from local trust and law firms. The Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) was the lead sponsor for the event. Organizers hope the forum will become an annual event, and have set tentative dates of May 8-10 for its possible return to Bermuda next year. “The backing of the BDA and the co-ordinated effort across the trust industry made this inaugural event a huge success,” said Mr Barford. “The attendance and feedback were unanimously positive and marks this event as IBC’s most successful launch event for many a year. We look forward to further co-operation with the Bermuda trust industry in bringing the event back to Bermuda in 2016.” Premier Michael Dunkley opened the conference, which was held between April 26-28. Among overseas guest speakers were conference co-chairs Jon Conder and Basil Zirinis, Partners at Macfarlanes and Sullivan & Cromwell, respectively, Mykolas Rambus, CEO of Wealth-X, Justice David Hayton of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and Chief Justice Anthony Smellie of the Cayman Islands. “By all accounts, it was very successful,” said BDA business development manager Sean Moran. “The list of attendees and speakers was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the trust and private client world and the two-day programme was full of interesting and relevant topics that kept the audience engaged. The sessions were focused on the complex legal, tax and human issues that shape how personal wealth is protected and properly passed on to future generations — and the importance of international financial centres like Bermuda in this process.” Round-table and panel discussions dealt with trending industry issues such as balancing client privacy with the global shift towards transparency; legislative advantages of some jurisdictions over others; Latin American opportunities; and the challenges of doing trust business in regions such as the Middle East. “I know many of the out-of-town guests are already looking forward to coming back next year,” said Mr Moran. “I was delighted to learn that many planned to stay on the Island for a few days after last week’s conference, to hold additional meetings and, hopefully, to see a bit more of Bermuda.”
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May 6. Visitor arrivals fell in the first quarter as a result of lost air routes, according the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA). However BTA CEO Bill Hanbury said the quarterly figures still had positive signs, particularly noting a $6.1 million increase in visitor spending during the period. “We are moving in the right direction,” he said. “We are kind of in an awkward position where we are changing strategies. PR firms, social media, advertising agencies and websites have all been changed or are being changed. Some of these technical components have not fully hit the ground yet, so we are waiting on that.” He said that the average per person expenditure by visitors arriving by air increased by $278, and the length of stay for visitors had increased. However Mr Hanbury acknowledged that the visitor arrival numbers were less impressive, with total arrivals falling 5.3 per cent, which he said was driven by a 14.5 per cent drop in air lift to the Island. “Air arrivals were down 6.7 per cent,” he said. “This decline can be attributed to a whole bunch of things. It can be the fact that we have been in decline for 30 years and we are still turning it around, but I believe more importantly then that was reduced service from multiple carriers — 16,000 fewer seats flew to Bermuda in the first quarter.” More than 85 per cent of the eliminated airline seats were on flights that had been emanating from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The number of visitors from New Jersey fell by 20 per cent, while the number of visitors from Pennsylvania dropped 22 per cent. Mr Hanbury also noted that hotel occupancy had fallen year-on-year, attributing part of the figure to the fact that more beds are available. He said: “Two hotels were out of service in the first quarter of last year, so even if we performed at exactly the same level occupancy was going to go down.” Advanced bookings meanwhile are slightly down overall, but he noted that the bookings for individual travelers as opposed to groups have increased by more than ten per cent. “That’s a gigantic number in this business,” he said. “Our big problem is group bookings, and I’m sorry to say we can’t solve that for this year. We have got to keep chugging away at the individual side. The groups side of the business left the chamber years ago. It should have been dealt with then, it hasn’t been dealt with, and we have a lot to do in that area. I’m not going to tell you that we are going to have a slam dunk season, but I think we are going to have a good year and at the end of the day I think you will be pleased with the progress being made economically.” Mr Hanbury announced that the BTA will be hosting an event today to bring stakeholders together with the goal of working to improve air service to the Island. “This is not a BTA exclusive issue. This issue also relates back to residents and international business, and I firmly believe that everybody should own this issue. Everybody on the Island ought to care about air lift. We are going to aggressively deal with the air lift issue. I think we are now in a better position to do that knowing that we believe the numbers are going to go north again. We have to be aggressive with the airline and we have to be in their face with them about providing capacity and not stepping away from us. We are going to deliver that message loud and clear to the airlines. The airlines are astute business people, and they are not going to respond until we can prove to them that the numbers are going up, and we believe that we have a compelling case to show them that in the future demand is going up.” Chairman of the BTA board David Dodwell also briefly spoke, stressing the amount of hard work being done by the BTA. “Our biggest problem is air lift,” he said. “It’s a chicken and egg situation where the plans won’t come until the business comes, the new investors won’t come until the airlines come. The meeting we are having I think is critical because it brings the whole community in. The BTA is blamed for air lift, but we actually don’t control it. The airlines are commercial, and they will take a flight out of here if they think they can fly somewhere else and get another dollar. We have to work with them, we have to build relationships, but that takes the entire community.”
May 5. The cruise ship Veendam provided Hamilton retailers with a welcome boost yesterday as the liner returned to Bermuda for the first time in three years. The ship and her 1,400 passengers arrived in Hamilton at just after midday on the first of six trips between Boston and the Island scheduled for this year. Chamber of Commerce president Kristi Grayston told The Royal Gazette she was thrilled to see the ship back in the city. “She is a great ship and brings in a high-end clientele to the Island. Her presence on Front Street again is a huge boost to Hamilton and we have certainly missed her over the last few years. The critical mass and simple numbers she brings in have a big effect on retailers, restaurants and most businesses in Hamilton. I could not be more thrilled to see her back in Hamilton and I hope that we will be able to attract her back again next year.” Cruise line Holland America pulled the Veendam out of Bermuda at the end of 2012. The ship had been a regular caller between 2010 and 2012 and was the only regular caller to dock in Hamilton. She was initially supposed to call in St George’s but the liner was deemed too big to transit Town Cut. In 2012 the Veendam made a total of 19 trips to the Island from New York. This year the Veendam will visit Bermuda a total of six times staying in Hamilton for three nights on each occasion. After leaving the Island on Thursday she will be back in the harbour on May 11.
May 5. If you were wondering about the ribbons spiraling up the poles of Hamilton’s street lights — think back to your old school tie. The school colors adorning some 130 poles point to a series of newspapers celebrating each of the Island’s eight senior schools, starting tomorrow with Mount St Agnes. Since the start of the school year, The Royal Gazette’s youth and education correspondent Sarah Fellows has liaised with each private and public school, meeting with students and teachers, to pull together the National School Salute. As a show of support for the Island’s students and the institutions that educate them, members of the community are asked to wear school colors on each day that a newspaper comes out, as a part of The Royal Gazette. Different schools are marking the occasion with their own unique angles in their coverage, as well as other events for school pride. “Each school came up with their own themes,” explained Jane Vickers at Warwick Academy, taking a break from checking the last proofs for the school paper. “Our theme is our Warwick Academy family.” In Warwick Academy’s case, alumni are being asked to wear their old school ties, or dress in blue on Wednesday, May 13, as well as sending in pictures of themselves around the world with dolls of the school mascot bear. The school’s bear will join with Johnny Barnes at Crow Lane to greet the morning drivers, while students will wave from Middle Road and Harbour Road. Alumnus Marico Thomas, who runs the Glaze bakery, will offer his own Warwick Academy doughnuts for the day, which students will sell at school. Each school will steer its own course in exploring its role, its history and the latest news on their students. Somersfield Academy and the Bermuda Institute will offer their newspapers on Thursday and Friday respectively, while Saltus and CedarBridge Academy will publish next Monday and Tuesday. The Berkeley Institute’s newspaper will accompany this newspaper on Thursday, May 14, and the Bermuda High School will finish the campaign on Friday the 15th. The campaign is designed to last, according to Jonathan Howes, chief executive officer of Bermuda Press (Holdings) Ltd, the parent company of The Royal Gazette. “It’s about believing in our educational system, believing in our schools, and giving back,” Mr Howes said. “YouthNews used to come out monthly. What we talked about with this concept was to bring out newspapers for students, reporting on the positive things that our schools do and getting the community to celebrate it, which is going to be very powerful. We were looking at how we would inform the community about what’s going on in our schools. I’m 100 per cent behind it — I want it to grow. We intend to do more and are currently working on what next year will look like. It’s not just putting a paper together — it’s coordinating with the schools and the students, getting the content, the graphics, the layout, everything done.” The Royal Gazette is the main sponsor of the National School Salute but several other companies have provided much-welcomed backing. In conjunction with the campaign, Ms Fellows has hosted five-day camps for groups of Berkeley and CedarBridge students, covering life skills from work and finance to health. Education Minister Wayne Scott yesterday praised the initiative, saying: “The Bermuda School Salute and the newspaper supplement created by our senior school students is an excellent opportunity to showcase the writing talents of our students. “Empowering a community of young people with the opportunity to share about the many programmes and initiatives that are taking place every day in our schools not only creates another path by which parents and the general public are informed about what is taking place in our schools; but also provides for enhancing involvement and collaboration towards strengthening the Bermuda education system on the whole. “We recognise this and commend The Royal Gazette for launching this initiative to promote our students and our schools.”
May 5. Oracle Team USA could have a sparring partner in the very near future. Nathan Outteridge, helmsman of America’s Cup challenger Artemis Racing, revealed yesterday that the team’s turbo-charged AC45 catamaran is scheduled to be on Island this week and could soon join Oracle in the Great Sound. The teams are quite familiar with each other, having conducted trials in their catamarans in San Francisco Bay this year before moving their operations to Bermuda in preparation for the 35th America’s Cup. “We’re hoping to be up and running next week and we’ll just see how it goes,” said Outteridge, who won the gold medal in the 49er skiff at the 2012 London Olympics. “It’s due to arrive this week and it takes a fair bit of time to put together. As long as there’s been no damage in transport, we are hoping to be out there next week.” The Australian skipper, a 2008 world champion in the 49ers, observed Oracle’s AC45S blitz around the Great Sound yesterday while training in one of the Swedish team’s A Class catamarans. “We saw Oracle take their first day of sailing, so we are keen to get out there and start sailing with them as soon as we can,” Outteridge said. “They have been here for nearly a month and we have been here for just over a week, so it would be good to get out on the water as soon as we can.” At one stage, Outteridge managed to get up close to Oracle’s catamaran. “I was out in my A Cat, so I thought here’s a good chance to get close to them,” he said. “But before I could even say anything, they took off and were gone and I had three chase boats trying to keep between me and them. We have some good mates on Oracle. We are good mates with Tom [Slingsby] and Kyle [Langford] who were on there and it’s just good to see them out sailing.” Outteridge and his Artemis team-mates have traveled to the Island for a two-week training exercise in smaller, foiling catamarans. “The sailing team got here last week and it was pretty windy, so we did not get a whole lot of sailing in,” Outteridge said. “We have some Phantoms, A Cats and Moths here, and we are just learning the racecourse until our 45 is ready to go. The racecourse is small but it looks pretty good. Goobs [Iain Jensen] and I got out in two A Cats and did from the Channel all the way to the bottom of Morgan’s Point to get an understanding of where all the shallow bits are. It is pretty important because you don’t want any disasters out there hitting rocks. We were also just seeing how shifty it is and the conditions were beautiful. It was 15 to 18 knots and very enjoyable.”
May 5. Ambitious plans to create new land for the America’s Cup have caught the eyes of local and international contractors, after tenders were invited for land reclamation in Dockyard’s South Basin. “We’re being quite aggressive with this project — we want to get this done,” said Wedco general manager Andrew Dias, who said inquiries were already coming in. “Obviously it’s all subject to change, based on the tenders we do or don’t receive. There are “definitely” local contenders for the job, which involved bulkheads and retaining walls to contain the materials for the site — sediment that could come from the local sea floor, or get imported from abroad. Like everything in life, it all ends up being price driven,” Mr Dias said. “The schedule is that tenders are due back by the end of this month. From there we have about two weeks to review — there’s a lot of detail to go over, but we look to award the contract in the coming week or so after that. We hope to start in July and hopefully have it completed by the first quarter of 2016.” Tender documents can be collected from Wedco’s office in the Clock Tower Mall. The project will provide a base for the America’s Cup Village for the event, set to go ahead in 2017.
May 5. The huge grin on Jimmy Spithill’s face pretty much summed up the mood among Oracle Team USA after the launch of the team’s turbo-charged AC45S catamaran went off without a hitch in the Great Sound yesterday. After having its towering wing sail mounted, Oracle’s foiling catamaran gracefully slipped away from its base at the Royal Naval Dockyard and made its way towards open seas. Once there, hearts began racing as Oracle’s boat hopped up on its foils and flew around at speeds approaching 40 knots, leaving observers on pleasure boats and those dotting the shoreline awestruck. “It was fantastic,” Mr Spithill, the skipper, told The Royal Gazette. “It was just a perfect day in Bermuda: 15 knots the first sail and pretty much from the get-go, we were foil-gybing and had a crack at a couple of foil tacks. So big credit to the shore team, the designers and obviously the local contractors for allowing us to do that.” Oracle are the first team in the 35th America’s Cup to launch a 45ft foiler in local waters, while yesterday also marked the return of Mr Spithill at the helm of the team’s AC45S since undergoing elbow surgery in February. Helmsman and sailing team manager Tom Slingsby and Sam Newton took to the Great Sound in Bermuda Saturday for some Flying Phantom training. And yes, they were flying!! “It’s a real statement,” said Mr Spithill, the 2014 ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year. “We’ve got a feel for the racecourse and I think it’s going to give us a competitive advantage.” Oracle’s AC45S also gave participants in the Bermuda International Invitational Regatta a real treat as it flew past the International One Design fleet. “The IOD fleet was out having a race and we were sort of absolutely tearing past them and getting a few hoots and hollers, so they were loving it,” Mr Spithill said. “It was quite a shock and I think people are really blown away when they see this thing.” Paul Doughty, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club sailing coach, echoed Mr Spithill’s sentiments. He said: “What a phenomenal and spectacular thing to witness the first AC45 to sail in Bermuda immediately foil towards the East End of Bermuda, turn around and sail down the Great Sound in three minutes. Nobody has ever covered that amount of ground in a sailboat in the Great Sound before; that thing just tore it up.” Stevie Dickinson, the veteran local sailor, added: “It’s really, really amazing to see that Oracle boat go so fast. The chase boats were behind it for a while, a puff of breeze came and that thing just left the chase boats behind. It was unbelievable; she was doing at least 35 knots easy and I know my heart wouldn’t be able to take that.” Local sailing enthusiasts will get a first taste of America’s Cup action when Bermuda hosts the third World Series leg from October 16 to 18.
May 5. Regular RG Column by James Paul Sabo. "As the 2014 USA tax filing season progresses we are finding that clients are confused as to what information must appear on FinCEN Form 114 Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts and what information must appear on Form 8938 Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. FinCEN Form 114 Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. The Bank Secrecy Act requires a US person to report foreign bank and financial accounts yearly to the Department of Treasury by electronically filing a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). United States persons are required to file an FBAR if: the United States person had a financial interest in or signature authority over at least one financial account located outside of the US; and the aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year reported. Some individuals interpret this to mean that only accounts with more than $10,000 have to be reported and others interpret this to mean that if they have three accounts, each with $5,000, that no reporting is required. Both interpretations are incorrect. The one most notable error we find is that many individuals are unaware that their Bermuda pension plan must be included on Form 114. This alone will require most individuals to list all their accounts and file Form 114. Many individual also forget to include their brokerage account on Form 114. Other accounts frequently left off are ones where individuals have signature authority over an employer’s account or more frequently over a non-profit account such as a children’s football league, cricket league, etc. All these accounts must be reported as your not having a financial interest in the account, but signatory authority only denoting your position within the organization. Lastly, we are finding that Bermuda nationals who are not US citizens and have no US filing requirement have added their children’s names to their Bermuda accounts and if the children live in the US the children are now required to file FinCEN Form 114. We have had discussions with US based children who view their name on the parent’s Bermuda account as being for emergency reasons only. That can very well be but the fact that they can access the account gives them a financial interest in the account and requires that they file FinCEN Form 114. For children who have not previously filed Form 114 and now do so, they will likely be subject to a 5% penalty on the highest amount in the cumulative accounts in the years they have not filed. Form 8938 Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. The primary difference between the forms is the reporting threshold. Form 8938 is required to be filed if there is $50,000 in one or more accounts on the last day of the tax year or $75,000 in one or more accounts at any time during the tax year with higher threshold amounts for married individuals living abroad filing jointly ($400,000/$600,000) and single individuals living abroad ($200,000/$300,000). The second difference is that Form 114 reports the highest amount that is in the account at any time during the year. Form 8938, using a single individual living abroad as an example, must be filed if there is more than $300,000 in the account at any time during the year or more than $200,000 in the account at year end. A secondary difference is what else is reported on Form 8938 versus Form 114. The list includes foreign stock or securities not held in a financial account and foreign partnership interests. For executives working for foreign entities they also need to report their unvested/unexercised restricted stock units, stock options, performance retention plans, employee stock purchase plan and potential payments upon termination or change in control of the company. Form 8938 also must report any income, gains, losses, deductions, credits, gross proceeds, or distributions from holding or disposing of the account or asset that would be required to be reported, included, or otherwise reflected on your income tax return Form 8938 also requires disclosure as to whether the account was opened or closed during the tax year, whether the account was jointly owned with your spouse, the currency in the account, the exchange rate used to convert the foreign currency to US currency and the source of the exchange rate being used. Given that there is a $10,000 penalty for failure to File Form 8938 and up to a 40% penalty for failure to report ownership of shares in a foreign corporation on Form 8938 and you received taxable distributions from that company that you did not report on your income tax return, our advice is that if you are in doubt, file the Form. FinCEN Form 114 and Form 8938. Why both? A good question. Form TD F 90-22.1, the predecessor to Form 114, had been around since 1976 or 1986. But in the 30 to 40 years of its existence we never heard of anyone having an audit or being questioned after the Form was filed with the US Treasury Department in Detroit, Michigan. It was as if the Form went into a black hole and was never seen again. In a recent conversation with an Internal Revenue Service retiree my suspicions were well founded. They explained that the IRS comes under Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code and that the Bank Secrecy Act is under a separate Title. Thus, the IRS never had jurisdiction to audit the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. Hence, the appearance 3 years ago of the new Form 8938. In part, this was also attributable to FATCA as the financial information regarding accounts that US citizens have with over 80,000 foreign entities that is currently being sent to the US Treasury will now be cross checked against the information on Form 8938 by the Internal Revenue Service. Any tax advice in this communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (I) avoiding penalties imposed under the United States Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any tax related manner. The tax advice given by this column is, by necessity, general in nature. You should, of course, check with your own US tax consultant as to how specific transactions affect you since tax advice varies with individual circumstances. James Paul Sabo, CPA, is the president of ETS Ltd., PO Box HM 1574, Hamilton HM GX, Bermuda. Questions should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 5. The Hamilton Waterfront complex was promised to developer Michael MacLean while the corporation was in talks with former mayor Charles Gosling and his administration about the property’s release from the Democracy Trust, it can be revealed. Documents seen by The Royal Gazette show that the Corporation of Hamilton, under Mayor Graeme Outerbridge, and Mr MacLean’s development company, Allied Development Partners Ltd (ADPL), entered into a co-operation agreement in which the developer was granted an exclusive partnership. At that time, the trustees were the members of the corporation of the previous administration. The Democracy Trust was formed as a public trust for the benefit of residents and taxpayers in the city. Outerbridge and his corporation members wanted that trust disbanded and the City properties that were leased to it released. Correspondence shows that the trustees, which included Mr Gosling, had given those instructions to the law firm Marshall Diel & Myers. Documents also show that only one day after the corporation properties were released from the trust, on December 13, 2012, the Corporation and the ADPL agreed a 262-year ground lease and development deal for the 20 acres that compose the waterfront property, from Barr’s Bay Park and including the cargo docks, along with the City Hall car park. Mr MacLean gave the affidavit in a lawsuit against the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General for losses that he has claimed as a result of losing the rights to the City Waterfront and its development. The minutes from the Corporation of Hamilton board meeting for July 4, 2012 show the subject of the trust was discussed while Carlton Simmons was present. The minutes state that corporation secretary Ed Benevides said that the previous board had agreed to see what the new board wanted to do with the trust, “although obviously that discussion has not taken place yet”. The minutes say that meetings between the trustees and the board members, and then between the board and Marshall Diel & Myers, were to be arranged. “The board members agreed that the existence of the trust should remain confidential to the board,” the minutes read. That meeting took place on July 17, 2012. Now, Mr Gosling, who was Mayor of Hamilton at the time the Democracy Trust was set up — and who is running again for the position in Thursday’s municipal elections — has been subjected to public criticism from Mr Simmons, his rival for the mayoral seat. Mr Simmons has claimed that the existing corporation was kept in the dark about the trust, which protects the corporation’s assets and leaseholds, and a $1 million legal defence fund. Mr Gosling, who has already publicly defended the trust, explained it was formed by a unanimous decision of the Corporation of Hamilton board, which followed revelations regarding the Progressive Labour Party Government’s declared policy to wind up Bermuda’s two corporations and take their operations into Government. “It was also a time when Government was refusing to enter into, or even discuss, a new lease for the rental of the Bermuda fire brigade’s station on King Street — a property on an expired peppercorn rent and the corporation, and its taxpayers, having to pay for the City’s fire service. There was a great worry that Government was failing to live up to its commitments and responsibilities as set out in the Bermuda Constitution regarding property rights: the right to own property and to receive proper benefit of that ownership.” He said at that time the Municipalities Act empowered the corporation to form the trust. That Act has since been amended. “The Democracy Trust was formed as a public trust, held in benefit for the residents and taxpayers of the City of Hamilton. “Members of the Corporation of Hamilton board served as trustees — no member of the board could, or would, have benefited from the trust. There was no transfer of property to the trust; the trust simply received a renewable 20-year lease on all the properties — except Par-la-Ville car park — which were then re-leased back to the corporation. The Trust had the first right of refusal on any sale of corporation property, thus preventing any ‘fire sale’ or below market sale.” He said outgoing members could resign their trusteeship, which could then be taken on by the newly elected members. “During the 2½ years that the trust was in operation, its existence was stated in the audited financial statements of the corporation, and was mentioned in the auditor’s notes. “During that time the full audited set of statements were received by both of the ministers responsible for municipalities, the Minister of Finance and latterly the Premier, as well as their permanent secretaries, through the minister. Each year, as was the established practice then, a summary of the statements was published in the local papers.” Mr Gosling explained that after losing the previous municipal election to Mr Outerbridge, he arranged a meeting with his successor the next morning. “A meeting was held that afternoon, well within 24 hours of the election, with both of us, the City secretary and the Democracy Trust lawyer who gave an explanation as to the history leading up to the formation of the Trust, the way in which the Trust was formed and the manner in which it was run. The newly elected mayor was advised that the Democracy Trust and the trustees would respond to his instructions as to whether the new Corporation of Hamilton board would all be appointed as trustees, allowing the current ones to resign, some mix of both boards, or to disband the trust. The mayor requested time to consider how he wanted to move forward and how he could release this information to the board members. After a council meeting in the first week of July, an invitation was made for the prior council to meet with the current board to discuss the trust. On July 17, the ex-mayor and several members of the prior board met with the new members and mayor. A full discussion was engaged and it was apparent at that time there was no consensus, as many around the table believed that Government was still committed to winding up the Corporation of Hamilton, while others were confident in their relationship.” Mr Gosling said: “In September, the mayor advised the trustees that he wanted the trust dissolved, which is what has happened — with the lawyers being instructed the same day. In November, the council was informed that the trust was dissolved. All the leases have been released and monies returned.” Mr Gosling said the Waterfront properties were almost immediately leased to Mr MacLean’s development entity. “The City received no compensation for this transaction, just the promise of some future revenue,” he said. “The resolution approving this lease is unrecorded.” Mr MacLean had confirmed this in his affidavit. “Allied Trust has or had a long leasehold interest from the CoH in the Waterfront of Hamilton,” he said. “The ground lease was granted by the CoH to allow the development of the Waterfront.” Mr MacLean explained in that same affidavit that he settled and is the main beneficiary of the Allied Trust, which was established on December 10, 2012.
May 4. Government House in Bermuda has announced that the Queen’s Birthday Party there, a traditional feature of the annual calendar, will be opened up to a far wider range of the community than in recent years. “This is an occasion which is marked not just in Bermuda but right across the realm of the United Kingdom and in many countries around the world,” Governor George Fergusson said. “I hope that anyone who would like to attend the Queen’s Birthday Party at Government House will consider applying to come. Sadly, the numbers can’t be unlimited but we shall make a good proportion of invitations available to those applying. By tradition, a number of senior public officers and members of the Houses of the Legislature and Judiciary are invited. This will be an occasion to enjoy the gardens of Government House, and the Band of the Bermuda Regiment.” The Garden Party for the Queen’s official birthday will be held at Government House on June 12 between 6pm and 8pm. Government House has confirmed that anyone interested in attending should visit its website on goo.gl/Uqklst to download the relevant application form. Otherwise, forms can be requested by post from: the Social Secretary, Government House, 11 Langton Hill, Pembroke HM13. The completed application form should be returned to Government House, either by post or by e-mail to email@example.com by May 15. Names will be selected by random draw from the applications received by the cut-off date. Successful applicants will be notified during the week beginning May 18. Traditionally, probably into the 1960s, invitations were given to, among others, residents and visitors, who left business cards at Government House and signed its visitors’ book. This did not necessarily produce a representative group of attendees. In recent decades, a wider group has been invited, including people who are prominent in many fields. People who have attended in past years, as well as those who have never attended, will be very welcome to apply. Those who are selected and then find that they cannot attend, will not be permitted to transfer their invitations. Please note that applicants must be 18 years or older. For more information, contact Crystal Swan at 292-3600.
May 4. Insurance and reinsurance companies in Bermuda recorded gross written premiums of $163 billion in 2013, an increase of 35.3 per cent year-on-year. That performance underlines the strength of the Island in the marketplace, according to the Bermuda Monetary Authority’s (BMA) Craig Swan. The figures from 2013 were the latest complete yearly market statistics available to the BMA through its statutory financial returns. “These statistics demonstrate the continued significance of the Bermuda insurance and reinsurance marketplace and underline its major role in the world’s risk transfer industry,” said Mr Swan, managing director, supervision, at the BMA. “Aggregate net premiums written were $138.7 billion, up 41.4 per cent from the $98.1 billion written the previous year. Overall, the market recorded aggregate total assets of $607.6 billion and held aggregate capital and surplus of $191.6 billion.” Looking specifically at Bermuda’s commercial insurers and reinsurers, gross premiums written were $130.1 billion, total assets were $482.2 billion and capital and surplus was $138.3 billion. Bermuda’s captives wrote $32.9 billion in gross premiums and reported total assets of $125.4 billion. Reported capital and surplus for Bermuda’s captives was $53.3 billion. In terms registrations during the first quarter of this year, the BMA registered 14 new insurers and five insurance intermediaries during the first three months of 2015. This compares to 12 new insurers and four new intermediaries recorded during the same period in 2014. “These statistics clearly demonstrate the market’s continued resilience in the face of increased competition and a prevailing soft market,” said Mr Swan.
May 4. Bermuda is listed as 14th in a survey of the world’s biggest tax havens, by a US activist non-profit organization. The Global Citizen organization placed the Island just ahead of Guernsey in the Channel Islands to round its 15-strong list — well behind the US, UK and number one spot Switzerland, as well as Jersey and the Cayman Islands. The report said of Bermuda: “Located a couple of hours off the east coast of the USA, Bermuda is another piece of UK territory that has long been known as a tax haven. “The unlikely home of tennis stars and actors, Bermuda’s tax system puts taxes on staff payrolls, but not on corporate earnings or investment income. Its largest customer for offshore transactions is the United States.” The list put Switzerland at the top of the list at number one — but added that the UK, if its “satellite secrecy jurisdictions” were added in, would have been first “by an absolute mile.” The Global Citizen report said of Switzerland: “The secrecy laws have been chipped away at a little bit by international lawmakers in recent years, but the sheer scale of what’s going on in Switzerland makes it the grand champion of this list. Countless highly wealthy people and companies have money hidden here and because Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it makes the country better able to resist international pressure to change its laws.” But the survey added: “While you might hear politicians in London crying foul about how other countries are acting as tax havens, the lion’s share of them sit under the British crown. Nobody likes to be called a tax haven, partly because that scrutiny might make it harder for a tax haven to do business. Many so-called tax havens have gone to great lengths to cooperate with international efforts to stamp out gigantic tax avoidance, but only in ways that mean they can continue to host gigantic tax avoidance.” The index was drawn up using 15 different “secrecy indicators” to determine which countries “make it easiest to hide money and avoid tax.” Global Citizen added: “Then it factors in how big the country’s financial services industry is. The second step is important because a tiny country with a small number of shady financial transactions isn’t as much of an overall problem as a large country with millions of secret foreign transactions per day.” Jersey, also a UK Overseas Territory, in ninth place, while Cayman takes fourth spot. Global Citizen — an advocacy organization — is supported by several UN bodies, including UNICEF, the UK Department of International Development and charities, including Oxfam and Save the Children, as well by major corporations like Google, which has come under fire in the past for its tax-minimizing arrangements using a series of countries, with billions of dollars ending up in Bermuda. The Global Citizen organization ranking. 1 - Switzerland. 2 - Luxembourg. 3 - Hong Kong. 4 - Cayman Islands. 5 - Singapore. 6 - USA. 7 - Lebanon. 8 - Germany. 9 - Jersey. 10 - Japan. 11 - Panama. 12 - Labuan, Malaysia. 13 - Bahrain. 14 - Bermuda. 15 - Guernsey.
May 4. Bermuda-based insurer Ironshore has agreed to be acquired by Chinese investment firm Fosun International Ltd. In a statement released late yesterday, Ironshore said it had reached an agreement to sell to Fosun the four-fifths of the company that the Shanghai-based firm does not already own. Fosun completed its acquisition of a 20 per cent stake in privately held Ironshore only in February this year. Ironshore, which is based at 141 Front Street, started out in late 2006 and has built out a global specialty insurance platform. Last year, it applied to hold an initial public offering (IPO) of shares, but the plans to go public were put on hold after Fosun came in to buy a one-fifth stake. As of last year, Ironshore had total net assets of $1.84 billion. Fosun Group is backed by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, its chairman, who expressed great confidence in Ironshore’s management team. In a statement released through the Hong Kong Stock Exchange yesterday, Fosun said its Mettlesome Investment 2 unit will combine with Ironshore to expand its presence in the insurance business. Ironshore said in a statement released last night: “The acquisition of the remaining interest in Ironshore will be effected by the merger of an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Fosun International Ltd with and into Ironshore, with Ironshore as the surviving company. “After giving effect to the merger, Ironshore will be an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Fosun International Ltd.” Ironshore chief executive officer Kevin Kelley said: “The transition of ownership from private equity to a strategic permanent capital provider with Fosun is a positive milestone for Ironshore. Management is very supportive of the Fosun ownership model as it provides a long term strategic partner who will continue to invest in and develop the unique Ironshore brand. Fosun provides Ironshore with further access to global markets and positions Ironshore to take advantage of continued profitable growth opportunities. We look forward to working together with chairman Guo and his dynamic management team.” As well as its property insurance business and its Iron-Starr Excess Agency joint venture with Starr Insurance & Reinsurance and Hamilton Re in Bermuda, Ironshore has multiple operations in North America, Asia and Europe, and underwrites through the Pembroke Syndicate 4000 on the Lloyd’s of London market. Fosun, founded in 1992 and listed in Hong Kong since 2007, is a massive conglomerate with substantial interests in steel, property development and pharmaceuticals, as well as insurance, which provides around 13 per cent of its revenue, according to Bloomberg figures. Fosun has more than one third of its total assets invested in insurance businesses. Mr Guangchang said: “Ironshore’s excellent team has outstanding managing and underwriting insurance capabilities which are widely recognized in the insurance industry. Fosun is fully confident about the existing management team and believes that the long-term and stable cooperation with Ironshore is the key and essential foundation to achieve a win-win situation in further exploiting synergies for both parties. The acquisition of the remaining interest in Ironshore will further expand Fosun’s insurance business and strengthen the group’s capability to access long-term high-quality capital.” The Fosun chairman added that “through efforts of both parties and synergies derived from shared resources in various aspects, Fosun hopes to develop higher quality products and services and is committed to supporting the stable and long-term development of Ironshore.” In its Hong Kong announcement, Fosun added: “The group has been endeavoring determined efforts in establishing insurance as its core business. This acquisition will bring synergies for both parties in prevention of currency risks, expansion of assets allocation and cooperation in reinsurance business.” Fosun owns Peak Re, a Hong Kong-based reinsurer launched in late 2012, which focuses on Asia-Pacific region business. In December last year, Fosun entered into a deal to acquire Michigan-based Meadowbrook Insurance Group for $433 million. It was also reported to be in the bidding for Montpelier Re, before the reinsurer agreed to be bought out by Bermuda rival Endurance Specialty Holdings in a $1.8 billion deal. Mr Kelley paid tribute to Ironshore’s long-term investors, including Calera Capital, Corporate Partners, GCP Capital, GTCR, Irving Place Capital, Tara Partners and TowerBrook Capital. Citigroup and Bank of America were Ironshore’s bankers on the deal, and the company got legal advice from Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Kirkland & Ellis, the insurer said in its statement. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young worked with Fosun, which got legal advice from DLA Piper, according to the statement.
May 4. PartnerRe Ltd's board of directors has rejected the buyout bid from Italian investment company Exor and offered a sweetened deal for shareholders to complete its proposed merger with Bermuda rival Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. In a statement released this morning, PartnerRe said it had renegotiated the Axis merger terms in order to pay out an $11.50 per share special dividend to PartnerRe shareholders on the closing of the deal. The statement added that the PartnerRe board had held “extensive discussions” with Exor, the investment arm of the Agnelli family, whose business empire includes a large stake in Chrysler Fiat. Exor's $130 per share cash bid, which amounts to $6.4 billion, “significantly undervalues” PartnerRe, according to the statement. During the negotiations, said the Bermuda reinsurer, Exor had made it clear that it would not budge on price. PartnerRe Chairman Jean-Paul Montupet said: “Over the course of the past three weeks, the board, as well as our advisers, engaged extensively with Exor and conducted a very careful and thorough evaluation of the many aspects of their proposal, including price. “Throughout these discussions, Exor made it abundantly clear that it was not willing to adjust its price. The Board concluded that Exor's proposal significantly undervalued PartnerRe and that there was no prospect of the offer leading to a superior proposal. “Consequently, we determined that further discussion would not be productive and we have rejected their proposal.” The $11.50 per share special dividend added to the Axis merger terms will “appropriately recognise for our shareholders the significant value of our company”, PartnerRe said. The dividend will be paid to former PartnerRe shareholders on completion of the merger. Mr. Montupet added: “We continue to be very excited by the prospects of our amalgamation with Axis Capital, which we firmly believe will create value well in excess of the proposal made by Exor, and will give shareholders the opportunity to be a part of a world-class specialty insurance and reinsurance franchise and to share in the value such a combination will generate well into the future.” The companies aim to achieve $200 million a year cost savings through their combination.
May 2. The America’s Cup will provide sustainable community programmes that will benefit all sections of the community long after the final race has been run. This was the message from Peter Durhager yesterday as the ACBDA chairman presented the Chamber of Commerce with an update on preparations for the sailing spectacle. Mr Durhager outlined a string of developments that had already taken place in the West End as teams prepare for the World Series later this year as well as the main event in 2017. But he also highlighted several initiatives, including the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths programme (STEM), the community sailing programme and community outreach classrooms that are designed to benefit young Bermudians and wider society. “We want to get these children and the community experiencing something much bigger than a sail boat race. The race is going to be an amazing spectacle but this is about so much more; it’s a renaissance for our community. This is about creating transactions, and our economy requires transactions to thrive. If taxi drivers are driving more people that is good, if people are renting more homes then that is good. We want to have this touch as many people in the community as we can.” Mr Durhager said that 38 Bermudian firms and 189 Bermudian workers had been involved in the $4.7 million project to establish the Team Oracle camp in Dockyard. He also revealed that organizers were looking at the possibility of holding a superyacht regatta in Bermuda to coincide with the America’s Cup in 2017. “Things are really starting to happen,” said Mr Durhager. “Artemis are putting up their camp now; by the end of this year they will have a full-time permanent base with about 80 to 100 people living, spending, having children in school in Bermuda. Ben Ainslie is looking to construct a winter training base later this year and Japan is going to be here in the next few months. This should all produce a big upside to Bermuda and we need to get that right.” Mr Durhager acknowledged that the construction of the America’s Cup village in the South Basin could prove the biggest challenge in the coming months. He said “We are looking at a few options when it comes to finding the reclaimed land and trying to figure out what is the optimal infrastructure to build. We are looking at various alternatives from dredging the south and north channels to bringing in granite from Nova Scotia.”
May 2. Opinion, by Glen Smith, OBA MP. "If any doubt lingered about whether the Bermuda community would wholeheartedly accept the America’s Cup as an event that would have a positive and healing effect on the Island’s economic ills, it must have been dispelled by two events held during the last few days. First, a large and enthusiastic audience at a Town Hall meeting at the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton on April 22 heard an upbeat assessment of Bermuda’s efforts to get ready for the event. A few days later, a Potential Economic Impact Assessment prepared by the America’s Cup Bid Committee was released, confirming that the country should benefit by some $242 million in direct spending as a result of the event. The Progressive Labour Party’s latest attempt to sow doubt about the event by questioning projected America’s Cup spending did not attract much public attention/concern. That’s not surprising. Judging by the town hall audience, most Bermudians by this stage have either already launched themselves into efforts to get involved, or are thinking about how to launch themselves into efforts to get involved! There’s not a lot of room left for political mischief-making. Team Oracle set an aggressive deadline for Bermuda’s efforts to get ready, by announcing they wanted to get their vessel in the water by May 1. That meant that their headquarters in Dockyard, complete with hangar-like accommodation for the boat and its support crew, would have to be built in less than six months. It has happened. If you haven’t been to Dockyard recently, I suggest you pay a visit. It doesn’t look as it used to, that’s for sure. It’s an ongoing process. It is expected that ten or 11 more acres of land are going to be reclaimed during the course of this year to create the Event Village. The chief executive officer of the America’s Cup Bermuda (ACBDA) organizers, Mike Winfield, has paid tribute to Bermuda’s can-do attitude. “I’m happy to say we’re seeing that collaborative spirit in Dockyard. A huge amount of progress has been made thanks to the commitment and abilities of the Bermudian contractors on the site. There has been excellent teamwork between the various companies and it is gratifying to see these companies working together so well to get the job done. The list of contractors and service providers working on the Oracle base is extensive and reflects ACBDA’s commitment to ensure wide access to opportunities from America’s Cup-related work.” At the Town Hall meeting, he mentioned Bermuda Stevedoring Services as typical of the will to get things done for the America’s Cup event, saying the firm had taken a request to sail the mv Oleander to Dockyard to offload containers in its stride. It had never been done before, he said, but “they made it happen”. Inside the Oleander’s 40-foot containers, which were brought to Bermuda from San Francisco, was the infrastructure of the new Team Oracle racing base, including a gymnasium, kitchen facilities, a mechanical workshop and high-speed support boats. As a result, Team Oracle has been able to put its boat together and get it on the water early. Artemis Racing, which represents Kundliga Svenska Segel Sällskapet, the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, is now expected to be the second team in Bermuda, arriving some time in May. Responding to questions at the Town Hall meeting, Peter Durhager, the chairman of the ACBDA group, spoke of getting Bermuda onto the road to economic recovery. Among other unmeasurable benefits of the America’s Cup, he said, was the fact that Bermuda would receive “thousands of hours of television coverage over the next two years… both through the World Series event, the promotion of the Bermuda event and then a month of televised coverage globally, with something like a billion people watching around the world. “That’s huge in terms of the relaunch and reinvigoration of our tourism sector. If we do those things, we feel entrepreneurs and business owners and investors will do the things that they do, which is to take risk, invest capital and put it to work in the community and rebuild that infrastructure, that tourism product and supporting services. If we do that, we think that rising tide will lift all boats.” Who in Bermuda doesn’t want that to happen?"
May 2. It’s usually our first taste of summer, and this year’s Catlin End-to-End has not disappointed: bright skies came with a welcome breeze as thousands turned out for the 28th annual event. Singly, in families or in teams — and with many in costumes — they walked, cycled and ran to cover the length of the Island for charity. Asked what had brought him out for the third year running, cyclist Van Dyke Bean was initially at a loss for words. “Man, I don’t know how to explain — it’s a week of just anticipating the excitement of going out on the road for the End-to-End,” he told The Royal Gazette. “For me it’s just about being with friends. We’re all busy people, we work a lot, and this is just a good time to get together and do something nice for charity. I’m big on philanthropy.” Mr Bean was out as part of a seven-member team dubbed “The Rum and the Restless” — now in their fifth year taking part. Stopping for a water break on his bicycle, Peter Smith of the 15-strong Team Lunch remarked appreciatively: “The wind’s in our faces this year.” Team Lunch prides itself on a leisurely approach to the End-to-End: accompanied by their support car, the Lunch Wagon, they planned to stop at the Swizzle Inn in Warwick — not surprisingly, for lunch. “Some walkers beat us,” Mr Smith said, unfazed. “The youngest person on the team is eight years old; the oldest is 60. We’ve got a good range.” There is always good senior representation for the End-to-End: stalwart Joan Dismont, 85, vowed to set off as usual from St George’s, with her daughter Michelle to help her over the hills. The route comes with challenges: asked how she was faring, fifth-time participant Treavina Davis laughed: “I’m dying. I’m not up to those hills. But every year, I suffer. I like it for the community — it’s something nice to do, something different.” Her boyfriend “King Size” had been enrolled to accompany her for his first time on the End-to-End. “It’s liberating!” he said, wiping the sweat from his face. Tutus, ponchos and masks make the End-to-End as much a festive as an endurance event, and the Angry Birds were sweating it out as well — though Michael Veale, taking part for the eighth year, declared himself comfortable in his costume, although others in the entourage fanned their faces. “It’s wonderful, a true community event; everybody gets in on it,” Mr Veale said. “We used to race, but our team decided to go slower this year.” Pulling up along South Road for a break, cyclist Ben was part of a convoy that included the Catlin team, and towing his son Oslo in a buggy while his daughter Indigo cycled along. “I do it every year; this is my fourth time,” he said. “Always by bike, always with the kids. It’s great for the community spirit — there are no chicken outfits, but we have the Angry Birds, and the best thing about this year so far is the buggy didn’t break down.” Bermuda’s Emerging Professionals teamed up with Bermuda Ocean Explorers and Shore Savers to hand out cold sliced oranges, water and encouragement at the rest stop as participants streamed past. “This is my third year doing this,” said Bermuda Ocean Explorers founder Weldon Wade. “Every year’s really good. We seem to be blessed with phenomenal weather.” It’s a leave-no-traces event this year, and the team were taking care not to hand out cups. Most participants brought their own bottles to keep the route clean. Close to the finish at Boaz Island, Platinum End-to-End sponsor The Royal Gazette has kept a Hawaiian theme barbecue with a DJ going throughout the day. The End-to-End is a major event in the charity calendar: last year more than 3,000 official entrants mustered a total of $307,000 for 13 charities. Family-based charities were chosen as the beneficiaries this year: Friends of Hospice, Family Centre, The Eliza DoLittle Society and YouthNet. All funds raised remain on the Island.
May 2. The Ministry of Public Works contacted the Bermuda Police Service to “ask for advice and guidance” on how to proceed after Bermuda stone was removed from Black Watch Pass without formal authorization. Public Works Minister Craig Cannonier said that he had received a formal request on the evening of April 10 for permission to take the stone from the Black Watch Pass construction site. He said that because it was a Friday evening, he had planned to deal with the matter after the weekend. However, by the time the weekend was over, on April 13, Mr Cannonier said that the stone had already been removed from the site. Attorney Mark Pettingill confirmed yesterday that his client Thomas Gleeson took the stone after apparently being informed by a Works and Engineering employee that he could take the rubble, as it would soon be heading to the dump. According to the ministry, Mr Gleeson has now been advised to return the stone. Mr Cannonier denied unconfirmed “reports” heard this week by Walton Brown, a Member of Parliament for the area, and since which circulated in the media, claiming that Mr Gleeson told the employee that he had been authorized by the minister to take the property. Mr Cannonier called such an assertion “a complete falsehood”. He added: “At no point have I, the Minister of Public Works, given authority for that stone to be removed.” David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, issued a statement yesterday morning pointing out that there are “strict laws in place to prevent the theft of government assets and the public deserve answers about what has happened to their property”. According to financial instructions, only the permanent secretary can authorize permission for government property to be sold or passed on. Mr Cannonier confirmed that Mr Gleeson turned up to the site on Saturday — and not on Sunday as previously suggested. At this time, an employee “misinformed” him with regards to him being allowed to take the property. Mr Cannonier admits that proper procedures were not followed within the ministry with regards to financial instructions. Financial instructions are required to be carried out only for property worth more than $1,000, but the value of the stone has not been ascertained. He said that the issue is being dealt with internally to ensure that it does not happen again. “Unfortunately, it appears that one of our workers gave misinformation, which led to the removal of the stone on Saturday morning. We are now walking through that process. “My understanding is that what was said is that the stone essentially was rubble; it was not good to be reused, as it was structurally unsound and that we as public works were going to dump it. It is worth nothing, we are talking about a waste product. Our team contacted the Police and asked for advice on how to proceed. What I have learnt from this situation is that all staff must be aware of what the policies and procedures are. Unfortunately, some of us in the ministry may not be entirely aware of what those procedures are and that is what has led to this miscommunication. I want to make sure everyone is aware. It was my idea to get Police involved. It was I to say, ‘Team, this is the procedure and this situation was unacceptable’.” The Police have advised the ministry that the matter with Mr Gleeson should be dealt with internally. Asked whether he agreed with the requirement to follow financial instructions for every piece of material removed from a Government construction site, Mr Cannonier added: “We have to go through all that; even for trash. There is a policy in place and it’s a good policy. It is in place to avoid certain things like right now — this has all come as a result of not following procedure, even though it was worth nothing to us and we were going to dump it.” Mr Pettingill defended his client by saying that he was told “face-to-face” by an employee that he should take the material quickly because it was intended for the dump. “He was good enough to get it carted away,” Mr Pettingill said. “In order to be careful, he contacted me and I sent an e-mail to the ministry to let them know what had happened. It was my understanding it was rubble. My immediate question [after Mr Gleeson removed the material] was how do we regularize the position if you have a concern? I thought that was the end of it. Mr Gleeson agreed to hold on to it and keep it safe at his own expense until they decided what needed to be done.” Keith Masser, the principal highway engineer, responded by saying: “Can you please advise that your client will retain the materials undamaged and in a secure facility until the outcome has been reached.” The stone is in the Paget backyard of the Bermuda Feline Assistance.
May 2. Two holidaymakers had to be guided back into Somerset Bridge after they got lost in their rented Boston Whaler in the West End. Bermuda Radio received a 911 call at 5pm on Thursday from the visitors, who said they were unable to find their way back to the Somerset Bridge Watersports headquarters. Watch officers contacted the watersport centre who then met the two visitors off Coco Reefs Resort and helped them back to Somerset Bridge. A statement by Bermuda Radio said: “The two visitors reported that they had become disoriented off the west end of the Island and were unable to find their way back to Somerset Bridge Watersports. “Having ascertained the route taken by the rental boat, Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre called the operators who dispatched a jet ski to liaise with their guests. The rental boat made its way to the beach at Coco Reefs Resort where the operator met and guided them back to Somerset Bridge.”
May 2. The legacy of unions in the defence of workers was recognized at a rally outside City Hall, as May Day or International Workers Day was observed. "The struggle for a better world continues", said Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert, after greetings from all the member presidents of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress. The traditional red flags of May Day decorated the lawns and a band from Dellwood Middle School provided music. In a nod to the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr whose daughter Dr Bernice King will address the Electricity Supply Trade Unions 50th anniversary banquet tonight, Mr Furbert closed with a quote from the elder Dr King: "In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as right to work, he said. It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labour unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote." Switching Bermudas Labour Day observance from the first Monday in September to May 1 has been called for on several occasions over recent years. Unions took up the annual commemoration of May 1 in 2007. International Workers Day commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago a peaceful workers demonstration that erupted into violence but the month of May also resonates in Bermuda with the 1981 general strike, while began in April but culminated in early May.
May 1. Bermuda is seeing the largest number of nesting pairs of cahows for more than 400 years. While the numbers of chicks are down this year owing to adverse nesting conditions affected by Hurricane Fay and Hurricane Gonzalo, the number of pairs, or bird couples, has risen to 112, from 108 in 2014. That is a 600 per cent increase from the time of the species’ rediscovery in the early 1960s, when there were just 17 or 18 pairs. Although the chicks numbers are down, the 57 or 58 are being successfully reared, according to Jeremy Madeiros, senior terrestrial conservation officer at the Department of Conservation Services. However, in giving warning, he said: “Although this sounds like a large increase, it is still a dangerously tiny number, as it is the entire population of the species on Earth.” For a species to move from the “critically endangered” category to “threatened”, the number of pairs must be at 1,000. Mr Madeiros explained the breeding season is now in its final phase and nearly five dozen chicks will be ready to fledge between late May and late June. The conservation officer explained the cahow remains one of the rarest seabirds on the planet and that there are still multiple threats to its survival. “One of the biggest of these threats is the impact of powerful hurricanes on the tiny nesting islands, some of which are mere rocks only a half-acre in size,” he wrote in the Nonsuch Island blog. These islands are so small and low that the huge waves and storm surge experienced in hurricanes can completely submerge these islands, tearing off huge sections of rock, causing massive erosion and damaging or destroying even the solidly built, artificial concrete nest burrows.” Mr Madeiros explained that last October’s hurricanes, which made direct hits on Bermuda five days apart, caused widespread damage, with Gonzalo’s winds reaching 145mph as the eye tracked over Bermuda. “Unfortunately, this hurricane was late enough in the year that some of the male cahows had already returned to claim and clean out their nest burrows. Cahow pairs mate for life, returning every year to the same nest burrow, and the males consistently return seven to ten days before the female birds. After checking and repairing all active nest burrows after the hurricane, I was able to confirm that at least four to five males had disappeared during the hurricane, and had evidently been drowned and washed out of their burrows as huge waves submerged two of the nesting islands. The female cahows, returning and finding no males at the nests, then abandoned the sites, causing a net loss of at least four to five nesting pairs. Other threats are rats, which kill and eat the cahow chicks or eggs if they get on to an island, along with longtails, which can occasionally compete with cahows for nesting sites. The cahow chicks are defenseless against the more aggressive longtails, as their parents are usually out to sea during the day to gather food to feed their chicks. This problem has been largely managed for many years by fitting the entrances of nest burrows with wood ‘baffles’ with a precisely shaped entrance hole, which allow the cahows to enter and leave, but normally prevent the longtails from doing so because they have a different shape and slightly larger body. However, in early April, I unfortunately recorded the first death of a cahow chick by a longtail in many years, as an evidently smaller than normal Tropicbird managed to squeeze through a baffle and kill the chick. I immediately built and installed a smaller baffle, but this demonstrates the fact that if management of the cahow population was reduced, that the population would immediately plunge again, possibly to the point of extinction.”
May 1. A damning independent report on the restoration of the Port Royal Golf Course was criticised by former members of its board of trustees, who defended the project going more than $10 million over budget. "We built a course that Bermuda could be proud of," Wendell Brown, the former chairman of the board, told a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC met to examine a special report by Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews, issued in October 2014, that faulted the $24.5 million project for lack of oversight, cost overruns and inadequate accounting. "OK, we went over budget, but it's a PGA course and that was the mandate," Mr Brown said. "I make no apologies that we blew the budget. I think we delivered this so Bermuda could benefit from the PGA [Grand Slam of Golf]." The PAC heard that management for the Government-owned course was under considerable pressure to have Port Royal ready for the 2009 tournament, which went ahead under the auspices of Dr Ewart Brown, the Premier at the time with responsibility for tourism. Overall renovations took place between 2007 and 2011, but the board of trustees had to scramble to deliver a PGA-quality golf course in time for October 2009. "There were problems with grass, which had to be grown in a special nursery," according to Bob Wilson, a Port Royal trustee and former chairman of the finance committee. We were supposed to finish in a year it was a very, very pressing timeline," Mr Wilson told the PAC. "Frankly, I was worried. The board had been caught between trying to reduce the financial impact and at the same time getting the course open." Both men told the PAC they felt very disappointed by Ms Jacobs Matthews's report. "When you come to do an audit, you want to have information that was in the recent past, not going back several years, " Mr Wilson said. "No one likes to find incomplete documentation. Go several years after the event and I suspect that probably happens." Ms Jacobs Matthews's report also criticised the awarding of contracts worth $1.6 million and $1.2 million to one company without being put out to tender pointing out that a board member, who was also a Member of Parliament at the time, had owned the company. Yesterday, the PAC heard that the excavation contract went to Island Construction, owned by Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva, which was the only company that submitted a bid. Contracts were handled by a project manager who had been strongly recommended for the job after handling a similar project in Barbados. Island Construction also got the contract for irrigation and importing sand for the golf course, but both Mr Brown and Mr Wilson defended the choice based on the company's equipment and prior experience at Tucker's Point. Mr Brown dismissed suggestions by PAC member Susan Jackson, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, that it represented a conflict of interest. "There are nearly always conflicts of interest in Bermuda," he said. Questioned by OBA MP Glen Smith, Mr Brown told the PAC: "We felt comfortable with Zane doing it and Island Construction doing it they had the experience ... we felt we were getting value for money. He added that it had been Mr DeSilva's brother, Allan DeSilva, who had represented the company. "We never dealt with Zane," he said. PAC member Wayne Furbert, the Progressive Labour Party MP, also criticised the initial presentation of the report, which implied that a Government minister had been on Port Royal's board at the time instead of an MP. Assistants to the Auditor General acknowledged that had been an inaccuracy. OBA MP Jeff Sousa questioned why his own business, which specialized in irrigation systems, had never been contacted. Mr Brown repeated that it had been handled by the general manager in conjunction with their project manager. Both Mr Brown and Mr Wilson agreed that while the Government initially approved $13.6 million for Port Royal, the designs underwent changes during the renovations. All financial transactions that took place were signed off by the Minister of Finance, and Mr Brown said the board never contacted any one company to suggest that they apply for a contract. One board member was awarded a commission of $10,000 for finding a vendor to supply steel, and the project manager received an unspecified bonus despite the job taking extra time and money. Reactions to the Auditor General's report have been fiercely divided along party lines, and those divisions continued at the PAC. PLP MP Lovitta Foggo told the committee that she was satisfied that the project had been worth it, while Mr Furbert pointed out that the PGA Grand Slam of Golf alone had brought in some $30 million to the Island. The events relationship with Bermuda ended after last year's tournament. "It at least makes me feel confident that we have indeed got value for money," Ms Foggo said. However, Mr Sousa disagreed, telling the PAC: "With the fact that many phases of the project did not go out to tender the excavation, the irrigation, the supply of sand, the people of Bermuda did not get value for money." Closing the meeting, PAC chairman David Burt emphasized that "the public needed to understand that the PAC does not deal with policy; we deal with process." Mr Burt pointed out that the PAC had heard last week that financial instructions had been bypassed for the tight deadline of bringing in the 35th America's Cup and that the committee should examine the waiving of financial procedures.
May 1. XL Group plc and Bermuda-based Catlin Group have completed their merger, the companies announced today. Catlin delisted from the London Stock Exchange and ceased to be traded as of 8am London time. The $4.1 billion deal to combine the two companies is likely to cause some job losses in Bermuda, where both firms have offices, as XL has said it will strive to achieve $200 million in annual savings. Starting from Monday, the new combined company will be marketed as XL Catlin and a global advertising campaign and new public website will be launched in time with the market introduction of the new XL Catlin name and brand on May 5, 2015. As previously announced, Mike McGavick will continue as chief executive officer, while Stephen Catlin, the founder and CEO of Catlin, has joined XL as executive deputy chairman, also serving on the company’s board of directors. The parent company will continue to be known as XL Group plc. “After nearly two years of discussions, and several months of intense planning, we are extremely pleased to officially be one company,” Mr McGavick said. “Starting today, we are a larger, stronger, more capable firm, with a leading presence in the global specialty insurance and reinsurance markets. Most importantly, with our combined talent and expertise we are now in an incredible position to better assist clients in solving the world’s most complex risks.” Mr Catlin added: “After 30 years as CEO of Catlin, I’m excited to be taking this next step with XL. Without doubt, today is an exciting day for our new company, XL Catlin. With greater scale, capacity and an expanded platform of products and services, we look forward to creating increased value for our shareholders, clients, brokers, employees and partners.” Another senior post in the new company will be taken by Greg Hendrick, previously chief executive of insurance operations at XL, who is now chief executive of reinsurance. Paul Brand, formerly Catlin’s chief underwriting officer, is chief underwriting officer for insurance and serves as chair of the Insurance Leadership Team.
May 1. A four-strong team of American students who won an international design competition for Hamilton’s waterfront have visited Bermuda for the first time. The team from the University of North Carolina (UNC) beat 20 MBA Real Estate teams from the US and UK to win the top prize — with three of the international judging panel being recruited from Bermuda. And last night they unveiled their vision for a new-look waterfront at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute after real estate firm Rego Sotheby’s International Realty sponsored their trip to the Island. Competition organizers selected Bermuda because of the scale of the site and because it is one of the few undeveloped harbour areas left. UNC team member Adam Coleman said: “It’s definitely interesting seeing it in person as opposed to not visiting Bermuda before the presentation. It’s a great opportunity to see Hamilton Harbour and all the things we saw in aerial photographs. I think the coolest thing is the unique architecture, the white roofs — it was what we expected but seeing it in person was just great.” Team mate Brannen Blazer said that planning included walking round the real estate, but that was not possible in Bermuda. “We were using pictures and maps, which is definitely a challenge.” Colleague Justin Trowbridge said: “It allows you to be very creative when you haven’t seen the site and you’re just looking at aerials and the competition is about promoting creativity and design concepts.” Team member Mason Ellerbe added: “Our main goal was to keep the Hamilton Harbour open to all of Bermuda, so we focused on a lot of green space, public space, something that will cater not only to visitors but the people who live here as well.” The winning submission includes a mix of shops, offices, homes and a hotel and casino. Mr Blazer said that a balance had to be struck between the city and its people and the desire of investors to see a return. He added: “When you’re thinking of that, you don’t want to go on the investors return — that’s going to anger the citizens. We knew going into this we didn’t want to maximize density.” He said the team had deliberately left the centre of the site relatively open, with buildings more concentrated at the eastern and western ends of the harbour. Mr Coleman added that the team had learned of approval for casinos on the Island to help boost tourism, so incorporated one in their plan, which was placed around where Hamilton docks stand now. Mr Ellerbe said the team were surprised at first that the site had never been fully developed. But he added: “We read a lot about the history of other proposed developments and complications in getting approvals from the local government.” Mr Blazer added: “When you think about what goes into it, it’s not too shabby that it’s taken this long.” Mr Ellerbe said: “That led us towards our decision not to build high density on that site, not to overdevelop it, which is a temptation when something is as beautiful as it is.” Rego Sotheby’s International Realty partner Penny MacIntyre, who was one of the judges, along with director of planning Aideen Ratteray-Pryse and David Swift, a graduate of UNC and owner of Pembroke Paint, said she had also supplied information on the retail component. She added: “It was a wonderful experience — what I thought was really interesting in the whole process, and fortunate for us three judges from Bermuda, was that we were among 24 judges and everyone was top of their professions around the world.” And Ms MacIntyre said: “We thought it would be great to have the team here and see how the rest of the world sees Bermuda and look at best principles from elsewhere.”
May 1. Excitement is mounting in the run-up to tomorrow’s 28th annual Catlin End-to-End with record levels of entrants expected. Organizers and volunteers have been working diligently towards the Island-wide, multi-category event expected to attract more than 3,000 participants and thousands of spectators. Whether you participate or not, it’s always an entertaining day with many dressing up in wacky costumes — keep your eyes peeled for a gaggle of Angry Birds on this year’s route. The Royal Gazette is proud to be a Platinum End-to-End sponsor for the second year running and will be hosting not only a water stop for participants but also a Hawaiian-themed barbecue with a live DJ at Gray’s Bay — across from the Sea Cadet headquarters on Boaz Island — from 10am to 3pm. There will be close to 20 other sponsored water stops from St George’s to Sandys as well as restroom stops along all of the routes. This year there are categories for swimmers, walkers/runners, cyclists, quad rowers and paddle boarders with different start times and locations. Swimmers will head out this evening, while all other participants will take part tomorrow. While it is expected to be another successful event, some questionable weather does appear to be heading our way over the weekend. The majority of participants are likely to be able to take part come rain or shine but doubts have been cast over whether the paddle board category can go ahead because of strong winds. Harbour Radio said it would monitor the conditions and coordinate with organizers. A spokesman said: “Currently the weather for the swimming event on Friday looks okay, however the paddle board event on Saturday is doubtful to proceed judging by the latest forecast.” Glenn Mello of Island Winds water sports is the point of contact for paddle boarders who can keep up to date with announcements on the Facebook page Island Winds Bermuda, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 705-1111. According to the Bermuda Weather Service’s current forecast, Friday’s elite swimmers will experience mainly moderate west-southwesterly winds of 12 to 18 knots, occasionally increasing to moderate to strong (16 to 22 knots) and a water temperature of 71F. Saturday’s participants will experience sunny periods in the morning with a possible shower or two before the likelihood of a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. During the afternoon there will be moderate to strong southwesterly winds (20 to 25 knots) with gusts to gale force (35 knots) and a temperature, again, of 71F. The Catlin End-to-End event has distributed over $4.8 million to Bermuda charities since 1988 and organizers hope to exceed $5 million following this year’s event. Chairwoman of the Catlin End-to-End Charitable Trust Anne Mello said: “Because of the generosity of all of our sponsors and in particular our title sponsor, Catlin, and Platinum sponsors The Royal Gazette and CellOne, we are able to distribute 100 per cent of all of the entry fees and pledges directly to Bermuda charities for Bermuda-only programmes and projects.” Last year there were more than 3,000 official entrants helping to raise a total of $307,000 for 13 charities, including three recipients of the Catlin Marine Grant. Family-based charities were chosen as the beneficiaries this year — Friends of Hospice, The Family Centre, The Eliza DoLittle Society and YouthNet. Ms Mello added: “Our emphasis this year is on families. All funds raised stay in Bermuda and help four charities that are on the front lines of supporting Bermuda’s families in need.”
May 1. RG Editorial. "Most of us are aware that the Bermuda Government debt is a massive burden on the country but it is all too easy to think of it as a Government problem, rather than our problem. While the debt takes centre stage at Budget time, it tends to retreat to the shadows as an uncomfortable reality that few want to discuss for the remainder of the year. And it keeps on growing. We at The Royal Gazette would like to keep this issue front and centre as we believe the national debts continuing upward trajectory constitutes a threat to our quality of life, our children's future and the very viability of this country. With this in mind, we intend to keep track of what the debt is costing every Bermudian man, woman and child as the fiscal year that started on April 1 progresses. The total debt outstanding, which stood at $2.185 billion at the end of March is expected to rise to $2.31 billion by the end of March 2016, as Government will be going to the capital markets to borrow a further $125 million at some point this year. The cost of servicing the debt during that time will be $169.9 million, $117.6 million in interest payments, as well as a $52.3 million contribution to the Sinking Fund, which will go towards paying off principal. The graphic spells out what that means every Bermudian man, woman and child's share of the debt servicing cost was about $280 during April, the first month of the fiscal year. After each month, we will insert a graphic in the Business section as a reminder of what the debt is costing us. The downgrade of Bermudas sovereign credit rating by Standard & Poors this week means Bermuda will have to pay our creditors a higher rate of interest when we borrow more money or roll over our existing debt. Its an unsustainable trend that has to be reversed. So we make no apology for trying to keep it in the spotlight and encouraging the whole community to apply pressure for a solution to be sought and to understand that sacrifices will have to be made to deal with the debt scourge."
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