The St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA) will be meeting with the Central Committee of Parliament on Wednesday. Efforts are underway by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to create liaisons with representative marine community organization in Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barths and Sint Maarten.
Efforts are also underway by Caribbean countries to collaborate in exploring ways of unlocking the economic benefits of yachting to the region and to jointly market the sector while remaining aware of the environment which is the major source of income to most OECS countries.
The discussions that will take place on Wednesday between SMMTA and Members of Parliament (MPs) one can say is perfect timing.
Representatives from the Caribbean Marine Association (CMA) last month met with the Yachting Committee of the OECS. The meeting took place in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
High among the objectives of the countries and territories that were represented at the meeting was easing of movements between the various Caribbean islands. The Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council in cooperation with the OECS and with the support of CMA is working toward the introduction of an almost seamless online process which will come on stream some time in 2013.
The law enforcement council and the OECS will be releasing more information in the future and has been tasked to get the word out to yachting community at the right time. The CMA was also tasked with investigating reasons behind the penal rates of yacht insurance prevalent in the Caribbean which seems to be unrelated to risk when compared with the East Coast of the United States. The opinion was that these rates are having a deleterious effect on the summer season in the Caribbean.
In attendance were private sector and government representatives from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the BVI.
Another essential point that came out of the CMA meeting was that all OECS member countries establish a marine association and become members of the CMA. CMA was further tasked to assist Anguilla, Montserrat and St. Kitts & Nevis with setting up their own marine associations and to encourage the new association of Dominica to be a part of the CMA.
Our country already has an established marine association, so we are basically ahead in this respect; however aforementioned competitors are on our doorstep. Our marine sector is also well established and MPs as well as the community who tune in on Wednesday to the parliamentary session will learn more about the current status of our marine industry.
Sint Maarten's marine sector is responsible for 12.5 per cent of the national economy according to a 2008 study that was commissioned by SMMTA and carried out by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) of the former Netherlands Antilles.
Back in 2008, there were over 80 companies providing services to the marine sector and over the year 2007, the country's marine sector produced over US$200 million (Naf.399 million), and representing 16.3 per cent of the overall production of the businesses on Sint Maarten. In terms of wages and the number of employees, 2,794 employees, 17.2 per cent of the total work force earned Naf.106.5 million.
The figures alone at that time spoke for themselves the importance of the industry to the economy. Sint Maarten now has to look at the many islands in the Caribbean Basin who are collaborating to further build their marine sectors. The approach of the region via the CMA is to reach out to the other islands that are not connected where this specific area is concerned from that level, and this should be welcomed and embraced.