Minister for Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour, Honourable Stephenson King announced at this Tuesday’s House of Assembly sitting that Saint Lucia is scheduled to welcome its first Mega Cruise Vessel by December of this year.
The announcement was made following a Motion to allow the Minister of Finance to borrow US$15,000,000.00 from the National Insurance Corporation for the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority for the purpose of the extension of the Breasting Dolphin Berth located at Pointe Seraphine in order to facilitate the berthing of mega cruise vessels.
The Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service, Honourable Allen M. Chastanet introduced the Motion while also explaining that this was a project the Government was continuing under a new loan arrangement. The Prime Minister also hoped that this will be a new era for the NIC and called the project “absolutely necessary.”
For his part Honourable Stephenson King traced briefly the history of the development and upgrade of Port Castries. He also stressed that due to the growth projections for the cruise sector “there is a greater need for us to place emphasis on the improvement, development and the enhancement of the cruise facilities and infrastructure on the island.”
“This Government has made a firm commitment not only to improve Port Castries and to consider a new location for the establishment of a new commercial port but also to continue to improve on the cruise ship facilities and by extension to look to the south of the country to establish a major cruise port in the south in Vieux Fort that will compliment a number of the economic initiatives that the Government has committed itself to, including the establishment of the DSH Project.”
Minister King went on: “This is a holistic approach, a Global initiative, on the part of the Government looking beyond the shores, beyond the sand and sea, and looking to the international arena to see how Saint Lucia can maintain its position and be able to offer two world class facilities, one in the north and one in the south, that will attract international business that we as a country seek to adopt and to place Saint Lucia as the number one cruise ship destination in the Caribbean. SLASPA has initiated the project to extend the Pointe Seraphine berth No. 1 which will mean the commencement of that initiative to facilitate the first call of the vessel sometime in December.”
Once the berth is completed Saint Lucia is expected to see an increase of 20 percent in the call of vessels to Port Castries and an increase in passenger arrivals by 19 percent.
“This means that there is need for a level of consciousness in our business community. It means that our people must understand that there are opportunities and possibilities being presented to them and to identify those opportunities and make good use of the opportunities and venture into a world of possibilities,” stated Minister King.
“If that happens and providing that we as a government supported by the people will commit ourselves to improving the quality of service that we provide, it is anticipated that we will have much more than the five calls anticipated by Carnival Cruise lines who have committed themselves to visit Port Castries.”
Minister with responsibility for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting Honourable Dominic Fedee also lent his support to the Motion.
“The cruise industry was in tremendous decline,” explained Minister Fedee reflecting on the state of the industry nine months ago. “In fact the numbers for 2016 had shown that we declined by some 16 percent. This is despite the fact that Saint Lucia had a comparative advantage over a number of our Eastern Caribbean jurisdictions. We realized that something had to be done drastically and we took the decision that we had to engage the cruise lines a lot more and be more aggressive to get Saint Lucia out there.”
Minister Fedee noted that judging by the figures year to date Saint Lucia had already seen an increase of 22 percent in cruise industry growth.