The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility informed Parliament back in February that the country could not afford to take its cruise product for granted and that we need to be innovative and redevelop the product.
Members of Parliament (MPs) were told that there were competition and threats facing the country's cruise infrastructure and we needed to be on the ball where this is concerned. MPs were informed that the extension of Pier Two had to do in large part with cruise developments on neighbouring islands. The extension of the aforementioned pier would create flexibility and less stress when it came to itinerary bookings. The extension of Pier Two is approximately US$30 million to be financed through strategic agreements with the cruise lines.
Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean who both financed Pier Two have preferential berths whereby they guarantee passenger numbers.
The same concept that the Port of Sint Maarten has used to finance the construction of Pier Two will be used by the Cayman Islands.
The Cayman Islands have been working to construct cruise piers since 2003, but to date without success. Today, cruise passengers are transported to shore on board tender boats. The Cayman Islands receive 1.5 million cruise passengers per year.
Carnival brings approximately 900,000 tourists a year to Grand Cayman and Royal Caribbean 250,000, accounting for almost three quarters of cruise passengers. Both cruise lines are expected to be vying to build the two cruise piers that would be able to berth a total of four ships at one time. According to media reports, four cruise lines have expressed interests in building the piers.
Priority berthing rights and a waiver on docking surcharges may be part of the mix for cruise lines to provide the funding to construct the piers. A bidding process is expected to take place in the coming months and would be open not only to cruise lines but to other interested parties as well, however cruise lines are seen to have the advantage since they can guarantee cruise passengers annually.
One media report says that the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands would be in control of the piers. Cruise lines with preferential berthing rights would get the first chance to reserve space at the pier as long as they book 18-months in advance. If the 18-month deadline passes, other cruise lines would have the option to book the space.
Sint Maarten's efforts to continue to secure and maintain its position in the cruise industry must remain a top priority and the CEO and his team are well aware of this and are planning ahead. This alone is very re-assuring to the business community.