PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Stuart Johnson recently met with St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA) President Christopher Marshall and other marine industry stakeholders to discuss their concerns. Upgrading navigational markings, boat-wreck removal and the need for gathering more data, among other things, were highlighted as potential actions government can put in place to improve this sector of St. Maarten’s economy.
The need for gathering more data on the marine sector and its impact on the environment was an issue brought up during the meeting. An impact study is to be carried out and its results should be useful for investors and government in their planning, Johnson said.
Johnson also said it is important that St. Maarten remains competitive. The bridge fee structure and the revenues it generates are to be compared with other fee structures in the region to determine St. Maarten’s competitiveness across the wider Caribbean.
“We must … look carefully at our pricing structure to determine whether or not it needs to be adjusted based on vessel size, or if we need to reduce the fees to attract more vessels and increase the volume of boats entering our waters,” he said.
Marine business operators said the marking of channels remains insufficient, highlighting that Simpson Bay Lagoon lacks proper navigational lighting both inside and outside.
They also called for the removal of boat wrecks left over from the passage of Hurricane Irma in 2017, as these wrecks present safety risks and detract from the lagoon’s natural beauty.
Visa entry requirements for crew members is a concern that is already being addressed in collaboration with the Justice Ministry, according to Johnson.
Marketing for the marine industry was also discussed during the meeting. Johnson gave a brief overview of TEATT’s marketing strategy and said this strategy would be deployed at trade shows in Monaco to attract more business to the island.
He noted that the marine industry is an essential part of St. Maarten’s tourism product, with a large portion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) during the high season coming from this sector.
“Therefore, we must continue to act aggressively to improve the service offered in this sector for the size of our economy to increase.
“I want to thank those who attended the meeting for their contribution, and especially thank you for your continued commitment to the overall improvement of service we provide in the marine sector in St. Maarten each year,” he concluded.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/90196-johnson-meets-with-marine-industry-representatives