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Atlantis now ‘happy’ to see RCI project proceed

Atlantis President Audrey Oswell said yesterday Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has made the necessary environmental adjustments to its Royal Caribbean International Paradise Island Beach Club project, and the resort is now “happy to see the project go forward”.

Back in March, after it was first announced, Oswell called on the government to put the brakes on the $100 million project, and ensure a “heightened level of scrutiny and discourse” before the cruise line is given any final approval”.

“Let me set the record straight, we did not change our position,” Oswell insisted yesterday.

“Atlantis was never against the Royal Caribbean project. All we did was express environmental concerns to both Royal Caribbean and to the government.

“Once we expressed those environmental concerns, both Royal Caribbean and government gave us their word that they would work to address those concerns, and we’re pleased to say that they have.

“In their plans and presentation, the DEPP (Department of Environmental Protection and Planning) raised additional questions.

“We received the answers to those questions and we are both thankful and we recognize and acknowledge that they’ve made significant changes and alterations to their original plans for the beach day project, responding to the environmental concerns that were addressed by us.

“We are pleased that they addressed them, we’re happy to see the project going forward, and we have not changed our position.

“The original plans called for some work to take place over the ocean and in the rock area, which raised concerns for us about the north shore and what would happen down the road. They took that into consideration and altered the plans.”

In May, the Department of Labour conducted a survey of Atlantis employees to determine if employees were “pressured and intimidated” by a senior executive to take a “particular course of action” in relation to Royal Caribbean International’s proposed project.

Atlantis Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Special Projects Vaughn Roberts said at the time the resort was disheartened by that decision.

“Nothing ever came of that,” Oswell said. “We are very respectful of our employees. There’s no one here that has ever intimidated our employees or asked them to do something inappropriate. So I think that all of that was blown out of proportion by people that just like to have some frenzy in the media.

“We had a great relationship with all previous ministers of labor, including Minister [Keith] Bell. There’s always going to be questions and disagreements when you have 6,000 employees and you have the ministry overseeing so many different employers.

“There’s always going to be questions. We don’t mind questions as long as they’re fair, and the response is fair.”

Bell previously declined to release the details of the survey.

He was recently reassigned by the prime minister and is now minister of housing and urban renewal.