Great Bay:— Minister of TEATT, the Honorable Cornelius de Weever, toured the Dr. A. C. Wathey Cruise Facility on Monday, June 22nd, accompanied by members of his cabinet. The aim of the Minister’s visit was to get a close-up view of the damage that Hurricanes Irma and Maria inflicted on the Harbor, the effects of this on business and the island’s economy, and the recovery plans of the Harbor.
Tom Van Kooten, CFO of St. Maarten Harbour, welcomed Minister de Weever and his team and gave them a tour of the facility. The first stop was Pier 1, the damage to which has resulted in a loss of two berths. According to Van Kooten, this has been identified as the Port’s biggest headache to date. However, he said all is on track with the insurance company for the restoration of the Port.
The Cruise Industry has expressed positive and very enthusiastic sentiments about the cruise experience on the entire island, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“This is a good sign, however, moving forward too fast, with an island not fully recovered and still cleaning up, could lead to a negative impact if not carefully supervised,” said Kooten.
However, both the Minister and Kooten agreed that everything will be done to ensure that visitors experience a good, safe and fun-filled stay on the island.
The Home Porting Terminal suffered extensive damage from the hurricanes. While the frame of the structure is intact, safety concerns remain top of the list. The Minister and the Port will seek innovative ways to repair the Home Porting Terminal. This may include the possibility of a solid structure to avoid the Terminal having to be in a similar situation in the future as it is in today.
In the near future, the Minister will visit the Cargo facility, an important revenue generator for the Port.
Minister de Weever indicated that he will be meeting with officials in Marigot on a regular basis to ensure a unified approach to bringing business back to the island.
“We are cognizant of the fact that the Caribbean is a big region for the Cruise Industry, St. Maarten was number one in the past and we will do everything possible to make it number one again in the near future,” stated De Weever.