PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Solidifying his commitment to economic revitalization, Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Transportation Minister Stuart Johnson announced Sunday, he plans to have a “formal sit-down” with Port St. Maarten’s Supervisory Board and Management within the next few weeks concerning the sustainability of the cruise industry, the entity’s legal structure, and in particular its procurement processes and compliance functions.
The announcement came one week after Minister Johnson toured the A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities. In a press statement issued by the Ministry of TEATT Minister Johnson said he was “happy to learn that the Cruise and Cargo facilities were getting back to pre-Irma levels of operation because we know after any storm those visitor segments that return the fastest are the cruise and timeshare guests.”
According to the release Johnson said, “I am especially pleased to see the cruise lines, including those from the European market returned.” He said, “The European market has been very good to St. Maarten in diversifying the market especially during the recovery and economically challenging period.
Johnson said it was important that the work at the A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities get the attention needed as their success is part of a broader economic model for the revitalization of the economy and the Tourism Industry as pointed out in the Governing Program.
He said, the cruise ship visitors are the best marketing tool for St. Maarten as they are on a familiarization visit for the first time, they fall in love and provide a credible word of mouth advertising to their family and friends. The Ministry of TEATT is committed “building a sustainable St. Maarten” for the people and visitors of St. Maarten.
Johnson also mentioned the return of homeporting for smaller ships, “The restart of this service is excellent news, especially considering the work being done to rebuild the terminal building and the proposed introduction of US Preclearance program for St. Maarten shortly.”
During his first official visit to the Harbour as Minister, Johnson received a brief update on the Cruise passenger forecast for 2018 and potential to increase the homeporting market for the Island. According to the Harbour’s Management team, Cruise Arrivals through June 2018 were at 735,000 passengers.
The Cargo facility sustained hurricane damage in 2017, but its operation is said to be restored to 95% with some repaving projects still ongoing. Some of the other repair work to be carried out by Port St. Maarten include upgrading Cruise Pier number one to be able to withstand up to category five hurricanes, and the Cargo Interisland Quay Repairs as well as the creation of a Port base system interlinking customs and immigration to the Port platform GLS
The Harbour’s Management team told Minister Johnson that they had seen double-digit growth in cargo movement with positive transhipment numbers.